Junior Miss is a collection of semi-autobiographical stories by Sally Benson first published in The New Yorker. Between 1929 and the end of 1941, the prolific Benson published 99 stories in The New Yorker, some under her pseudonym of Esther Evarts. She had a bestseller when Doubleday published her Junior Miss collection in 1941.
Benson's stories were adapted by Jerome Chodorov and Joseph Fields into a play, directed by Moss Hart, which had a successful run of 710 performances on Broadway from November 18, 1941, to July 24, 1943. Patricia Peardon had the title role of Judy Graves, a teenager who meddles in people's love lives.
In 1945, a film adaptation of the play starred Peggy Ann Garner as Judy Graves. George Seaton directed. Produced by William Perlberg, the 94-minute feature was released by 20th Century Fox on June 16, 1945.
Junior Miss had different runs as a CBS Radio situation comedy. Sponsored by Procter & Gamble. The series was first heard from March 4 to August 26, 1942, with Shirley Temple as Judy Graves. Priscilla Lyon played her friend, Fuffy Adams, "the odd child from the apartment downstairs." Benson and Doris Gilbert were the credited writers. Broadcast on Wednesday evenings, the program cost $12,000 a week to produce.
In the late 1940s, the Junior Miss radio program starred Barbara Whiting, who had appeared in the 1945 film as Fuffy Adams. This series ran from April 3, 1948, to December 30, 1950, sponsored by Lever Brothers. the music was composed and conducted by Walter Schumann. The 1948-50 cast returned for a series in various formats and timeslots from October 2, 1952, to July 1, 1954.
Junior Miss came to television on December 20, 1957, as a production of CBS Television's DuPont Show of the Month. Carol Lynley had the lead role of Judy Graves with Don Ameche and Joan Bennett as her parents and Susanne Sidney as Fuffy Adams. Others in the cast were Diana Lynn, Paul Ford, Jill St. John and David Wayne.
The curious candy connection
One curiosity is the association of this property with the candy Junior Mints, introduced in 1949 by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based James O. Welch Company. The name of the product is a pun on Sally Benson's Junior Miss. According to one past official company history, when James Welch developed and launched the product in 1949, he named the candy after his favorite Broadway show. Yet the candy came six years after the play had closed on Broadway. The Junior Miss radio series was being broadcast weekly on CBS at the time Junior Mints were first marketed in 1949. Thus, Welch had cleverly created a product sold at movie theater concession stands and identified with a specific movie and then-current radio series and displaying a name that sounded almost exactly like that property—yet different enough that it avoided any fees for licensing and merchandising.