My Favorite Husband

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Lucille Ball and Richard Denning performing an episode of My Favorite Husband

My Favorite Husband is the name of an American radio program and network television series. The original radio show, co-starring Lucille Ball, was the initial basis for what evolved into the groundbreaking TV sitcom I Love Lucy. The series was based on the novels Mr. and Mrs. Cugat, the Record of a Happy Marriage (1940) and Outside Eden (1945) written by Isabel Scott Rorick, which had previously been adapted into the Paramount Pictures feature film Are Husbands Necessary? (1942), co-starring Ray Milland and Betty Field.

Radio[edit]

My Favorite Husband began on CBS Radio with Lucille Ball and Richard Denning as Liz and George Cugat. After at least 20 early episodes, confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat prompted a name change to Liz and George Cooper. The cheerful couple lived at 321 Bundy Drive in the fictitious city of Sheridan Falls and were billed as "two people who live together and like it." The main sponsor was General Foods' Jell-O, and an average of three "plugs" for Jell-O were made in each episode, including Lucille Ball's usual sign-on, "Jell-O, everybody!" The 1948 radio version opened with:

Bob LeMond: It's time for My Favorite Husband starring Lucille Ball!
Lucille Ball: Jell-O, everybody!
Theme music [composed by Marlin Skiles, conducted by Wilbur Hatch]
LeMond: Yes, it's the gay family comedy series starring Lucille Ball with Richard Denning and is brought to you by the Jell-O family of Red-Letter Desserts:
Singers:
J-E-L-L-
O! The big red letters stand for the Jell-O family,
Oh, the big red letters stand for the Jell-O family,
That's Jell-O!
Yum, yum, yum!
Jell-O pudding!
Yum, yum, yum!
Jell-O tapioca pudding, yes sir-ee!
LeMond: Now, let's take a look at the Cooper family, two people who live together and like it.

The program, which aired 124 episodes from July 23, 1948, through March 31, 1951, initially portrayed the couple as a well-to-do banker and his socially prominent wife, but three new writers—Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh, and Jess Oppenheimer—took over the writing, changed the couple's name to Cooper, and remade them into a middle-class couple, which they thought average listeners would find more accessible.

Lucille Ball was asked to do a television version of the show (with Jell-O remaining as sponsor), and CBS insisted on Richard Denning continuing as her co-star. However, Ball refused to do a husband-and-wife TV show without real-life husband Desi Arnaz playing her on-screen husband. The network reluctantly agreed, reworking the concept into I Love Lucy after Ball and Arnaz took a show on the road to convince the network that audiences would respond. When Jell-O dropped out of the show, Philip Morris became the television sponsor.

Carroll, Pugh and Oppenheimer agreed to do the switch to I Love Lucy. They subsequently reworked several My Favorite Husband episodes into I Love Lucy episodes, especially early in the TV show's run. For example, the 1948 radio episode entitled "Giveaway Program" inspired the I Love Lucy episode "Redecorating", with some lines exactly the same. Many actors who had done the My Favorite Husband radio show also appeared on I Love Lucy, sometimes in episodes where they reprised their roles using a reworked My Favorite Husband script.

Characters[edit]

  • Liz Cooper, played by Lucille Ball; happily married housewife
  • George Cooper, played by Richard Denning; Liz's husband, works for Mr. Atterbury
  • Mr. Rudolph Atterbury, played by Gale Gordon; George's boss, friend of the Cooper family, refers to male acquaintances as "boy", as in "George-Boy"
  • Mrs. Iris Atterbury, played by Bea Benaderet; wife of Rudolph and friend of the Cooper family, refers to female acquaintances as "girl", as in "Liz-Girl".
  • Katy, played by Ruth Perrott; the Cooper's maid, presumably enjoys making Jell-O.
  • Mrs. Leticia Cooper, played first by Benaderet and in subsequent episodes by Eleanor Audley; George's aristocratic mother, who typically looks down on Liz.

Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet were both given first consideration for the roles that would become Fred and Ethel Mertz on "I Love Lucy", but both had contract conflicts that forced them to turn down the roles.

Television[edit]

CBS brought My Favorite Husband to television in 1953, starring Joan Caulfield and Barry Nelson as Liz and George Cooper. The couple now resembled their earliest radio version, with George Cooper a well-to-do bank executive and plots dealing with the couple's society life. The television version ran two-and-a-half seasons, from October 1953 through December 1955, and was produced live at CBS Television City for most of its run, until switching to film for a truncated third season (ironically, filmed at Desilu) and recasting Liz Cooper with Vanessa Brown.

Characters[edit]

  • Liz Cooper; the housewife
  • George Cooper; Liz's favorite husband, and bank executive
  • Gilmore Cobb, played by Bob Sweeney; the Coopers' wealthy next-door neighbor (first two seasons)
  • Myra Cobb, played by Alix Talton, Gilmore's social-climbing wife (first two seasons)
  • Oliver Shepard, played by Dan Tobin, the Coopers' neighbor in the third season
  • Myra Shepard, Oliver's wife (third season), played by Alix Talton, the same actress who earlier played Myra Cobb

CD/DVD releases[edit]

Though the radio show was never commercially released on its own CD or DVD collections, at least one episode can be found on each disk from the I Love Lucy DVD releases. In 2003, two episodes were released together on a CD in the UK.

These radio episodes are in the public domain, and CDs containing the entire run of My Favorite Husband in the MP3 format are legally offered by several private vendors through eBay and other sites, such as at the public domain repository, the Internet Archive.[1]

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]