Anne Hummert (January 19, 1905 - July 5, 1996) was the leading creator of daytime radio serials during the 1930s and 1940s, responsible for more than three dozen drama series.
Born Anne Schumacher in Baltimore, she attended Goucher College graduating in 1925. While at Goucher she also worked as a college correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. She then took a job with the Paris precursor of the International Herald Tribune. In France, she married reporter John Ashenhurst. The couple had one son and moved to Chicago. Unable to find a job as a journalist, Anne Ashenhurst became an assistant to an advertising executive E. Frank Hummert. At the Blackett-Sample-Hummert agency, she rose in the ranks and became a full partner in 1933, earning $100,000 a year. Radio historian Jim Cox noted that when the two teamed to create daytime radio serials, they...
- ...intended to seize the housewives’ attention and alter the pattern of their daily existence... Radio as Americans experienced it during its golden age likely would have been vastly different had Frank and Anne Hummert not been on the scene to influence it so pervasively.
After their first major success, Just Plain Bill, they followed with Ma Perkins, Backstage Wife and Young Widder Brown. Her marriage to John Ashenhurst ended in divorce, and Frank Hummert was single after the death of his wife, Adeline Hummert. Following their 1935 marriage, Frank and Anne Hummert moved to New York where they launched their company, Air Features, a radio production house. The Hummerts produced many radio drama series, including Amanda of Honeymoon Hill, Front Page Farrell, John’s Other Wife, Little Orphan Annie, Judy and Jane, Mr. Chameleon, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons and Our Gal Sunday. They soon had as many as 18 separate 15-minute serials airing for a total of 90 episodes a week. They also produced The American Album of Familiar Music.
From their estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, Anne Hummert delivered a large weekly word count, outlining all of the plot twists for all of her programs. The Hummerts farmed out the writing to scripters, known as "dialoguers," who embellished her synopses into complete scripts for Stella Dallas, Young Widder Brown and other soap operas.
Actress Mary Jane Higby observed, “Unquestionably, they had a profound influence on the whole literature of soap opera. They, more than anyone else, determined the shape it took.” According to Jim Cox, by the 1940s, the Hummerts controlled four-and-a-half hours of the national weekday broadcast schedule. Their programs brought in more than five million letters a year. By 1939, the Hummert's programs were responsible for more than half the advertising revenues generated by daytime radio. They also did primetime musical shows, such as Waltz Time.
The Hummerts each had an annual income of $100,000. Frank Hummert died in 1966. Anne Hummert was a multimillionaire when she died July 5, 1996 in her Fifth Avenue apartment at the age of 91.
- Cox, Jim. Frank and Anne Hummert's Radio Factory: The Programs and Personalities of Broadcasting's Most Prolific Producers. McFarland Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-7864-1631-9