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, 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 was first broadcast as a one-time special on CBS Radio on July 5, 1948.[1] CBS's new series Our Miss Brooks had been delayed coming to the air, so to fill in the gap that week CBS aired the "audition" program that it had just produced for a proposed My Favorite Husband series. Lucille Ball and Lee Bowman played the characters of Liz and George Cugat, and a positive response to this broadcast (nowadays called a pilot) convinced CBS to launch My Favorite Husband as a series. Bowman was not available to do the series, so when it debuted later that month it starred Lucille Ball and Richard Denning as Liz and George Cugat.[2] 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." Beginning with the 26th episode on January 7, 1949, confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat prompted a name change to Liz and George Cooper.[3] At that same time the show, which was initially unsponsored,[1] (referred to as "sustaining") gained General Foods' Jell-O as its main sponsor.[3] An average of three "plugs" for Jell-O were made in each episode, including Lucille Ball's usual sign-on, "Jell-O, everybody!" The show 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 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, was initially written by Frank Fox and Bill Davenport, who were the writers for radio's Ozzie and Harriet.[2] The show portrayed the Cugats as a well-to-do banker and his socially prominent wife. That fall, after ten episodes had been written, Fox and Davenport departed and three new writers took over—Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh, and head writer/producer Jess Oppenheimer.[1] They changed the couple's name to Cooper, and remade them into a middle-class couple, which they thought average listeners would find more accessible. In March 1949 Gale Gordon took over the role of George's boss, Rudolph Atterbury, and Bea Benederet was added as his wife, Iris Atterbury.[1]

One discovery made during the run of the show was that Lucille Ball performed comedy far better when she played to an audience.[4]

Characters[edit]

  • Liz Cooper, played by Lucille Ball; happily married and slightly zany 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

In 1950 Lucille Ball was asked to do a television version of the show, but CBS and Jell-O both insisted that Richard Denning continue as her co-star.[5] 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, and the concept was reworked into I Love Lucy after Ball and Arnaz took a show on the road to convince the network that audiences would respond. Jell-O dropped out and Philip Morris became the television sponsor. Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet, who played the Atterburys, 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.[6]

Writers Carroll, Pugh and Oppenheimer all agreed to do the switch to I Love Lucy. They subsequently reworked numerous My Favorite Husband episodes into I Love Lucy episodes; especially early in the TV show's run. For example, the March 18, 1949 radio episode entitled "Giveaway Program" inspired the November 24, 1952 I Love Lucy episode "Redecorating." Many of the actors who had earlier done the My Favorite Husband radio show later appeared on I Love Lucy, often in episodes where they reprised their original roles from a reworked My Favorite Husband script. During the first season of I Love Lucy Gale Gordon twice played the role of the boss again, and the May 26, 1952 episode entitled "Lucy's Schedule" was a rewrite of the April 22, 1949 episode "Time Schedule" (also called "Budgeting Time") from My Favorite Husband.[7]

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 September 1953 through December 1955,[8] and was produced live at CBS Television City for most of its run, until switching to film for a truncated third season[9] (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.[10]

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Edwards, Elisabeth (2010). I Love Lucy; Celebrating 50 Years of Love and Laughter. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-7624-3983-6. 
  2. ^ a b Sanders, Coyne; Gilbert, Tom (1993). Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. p. 23. ISBN 0-688-13514-5. 
  3. ^ a b Monush, Barry; Sheridan, James (2011). Lucille Ball FAQ: Everything Left to Know About America's Favorite Redhead. ISBN 978-1-61774-082-4. 
  4. ^ Sanders, Gilbert, p. 40
  5. ^ Andrews, Bart (1985). The "I Love Lucy" Book. p. 1. ISBN 0-385-19033-6. 
  6. ^ Andrews, Bart (1985). The "I Love Lucy" Book. p. 35. ISBN 0-385-19033-6. 
  7. ^ Andrews, Bart (1985). The "I Love Lucy" Book. p. 47. ISBN 0-385-19033-6. 
  8. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows - 1946-Present (9 ed.). pp. 939–940. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4. 
  9. ^ Lance, Steven (1996). Written Out of Television: A TV Lover's Guide to Cast Changes 1945-1994. pp. 303–305. ISBN 1-56833-071-5. 
  10. ^ My Favorite Husband on Internet Archive

External links[edit]