The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.
So today we come to the question “Who loves Lucy?” Of course, we all know the answer is “I Love Lucy“, but just who is that titular “I”? Well, for an answer to that, we actually have to travel back to the show’s origins, which, perhaps surprisingly to most (though obviously, considering that this post comes under the heading of “OTR Thursday”, not to you, faithful and insightful reader), can be found in the Golden Age of Radio.
In 1948, CBS radio decided they wanted to start a comedy radio show based on the Isabel Scott Rorick novels Mr. and Mrs. Cugat, the Record of a Happy Marriage and Outside Eden. The show, titled My Favorite Husband, initially featured Richard Denning as upper-class banker George Cugat and Lucille Ball as his wife Liz and dealt with their life in high society. After twenty or so episodes of this, however, it was decided that some changes needed to be made.
First of all, the name of the couple was changed from Cougat to Cooper. The reason for this was very simple: it was felt that the name Cougat conjured up too many images of then-popular bandleader Xavier Cougat. However, along with the name change came a change in the couple’s situation, as the couple were from that point on portrayed as more middle-class, rather than the upper-crust family they had been.
Interestingly, the couple’s best friends were George’s boss, Mr. Rudolph Atterbury, and his wife Iris. Rudolph was portrayed by Gale Gordon, who would eventually go on to play Lucy’s boss on television, and Iris was played by Bea Benaderet, who would eventually give voice to another wife’s best friend, Wilma Flintstone’s neighbor Betty Rubble.
Anyway, CBS eventually decided they wanted to do a television version of the show, with Lucy in the lead. She, however, reportedly refused to do it unless her real-life husband Dezi Arnaz was also allowed to play her fictional husband. Thus, the show was reworked into what finally became I Love Lucy. And thus was television history made.
Oh, and as for that television version of My Favorite Husband? Well, it did hit the airwaves in 1953, and starred Joan Caulfield and Barry Nelson as Liz and George Cooper. This show, however, went back to the radio shows earlier days. with the Coopers returning to their upper-class status. It lasted for around two and a half seasons.
So there you go. The somewhat odd and circuitous roots of another all-time favorite television show with its beginnings in radio. Now let’s listen to some episodes, shall we?
Until next time, Happy Listening!
- Old Time Radio Thursdays – #001: An Introduction (durnmoosemovies.wordpress.com)
- Classic Radio: “My Favorite Husband” (howsweetitwas.wordpress.com)