Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pepper Young's Mother: The Way It Was, 14 June

1891---Perhaps the second of the great old-time radio soap opera masterminds (between Frank and Anne Hummert and Irna Phillips) is born Elaine Sterne today, in New York City.

Elaine Carrington . . . had sold many short stories to women's magazines in the nineteen-twenties. They dealt with the frustrations, heartbreaks, kindliness, nastiness, cruelties, and tragedies of the middle class. She created little men, cold women, and thankless children to the taste of various editors. Her dialogue was frequent and facile. She felt that radio might be more profitable than magazine writing in the depression years, and in 1932 she decided to take a crack at it. Her first program, Red Adams, was put on by NBC, as a half-hour nighttime show, once a week. It was broadcast on a sustaining basis; that is, it had no sponsor and the network paid the production costs. Mrs. Carrington got seventy-five dollars a script. At the end of three months, the Beech-Nut Company decided to sponsor Red Adams, as a daytime serial. They agreed to pay Mrs. Carrington a hundred dollars apiece for three scripts a week. They also wanted the title changed. Adams is the name of a Beech-Nut rival celebrated for the singing commercial that begins, "I like Chiclets candy-coated chewing gum." Mrs. Carrington changed the name to Red Davis. In 1936, Procter & Gamble offered Mrs. Carrington twice as much money per script for five scripts a week. She accepted, and the name was changed again, this time to Pepper Young's Family. Under the aegis of Procter & Gamble, Mrs. Carrington prospered and proliferated. Pepper Young's Family is still going, and she is now responsible for Rosemary and When A Girl Marries, too.

Mrs. Carrington's original radio income of seventy-five dollars a week has grown to an estimated forty-five hundred. Unlike the majority of serial authors, who are merely hired to write soap operas and are known disparagingly as "dialoguers," Mrs. Carrington was wise and firm enough to retain the ownership of her literary properties. She leases broadcasting rights to sponsors. Most dialoguers get credit on the air only once a week, but Mrs. Carrington's name is mentioned before and after each of her shows. Today she lives in a penthouse apartment in the West Fifties and a country place in Bridgehampton. Aided only by a few notes on a sheet of memo paper, she dictates her scripts into a dictaphone, usually standing. Her working hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with time out for a long lunch. She never bothers about hearing a playback . . . Mrs. Carrington rarely listens to one of her soap operas---she prefers to call them daytime serials---and has never heard a broadcast of any of her colleagues' serials. She is known as the Member in Mink to the other members of the Radio Writers' Guild, which she helped to found and on whose committees she has frequently served.

---James Thurber, in "Soapland: O Pioneers!", The New Yorker, 1947-48; republished in The Beast in Me and Other Animals: A New Collection of Pieces and Drawings About Human Beings and Less Alarming Creatures. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1948.)

She will marry George Dart Carrington in 1920; the marriage will produce two children, Patricia and Robert, and will end only upon her husband's death in 1945; she will never re-marry.

She had been a short story writer but was interested in theater, so if she saw a young actor on Broadway she liked, she'd write in a part for him . . . Pepper Young's Family wasn't very different from other soaps. You were doing shit day after day, so literature it wasn't, but there were no demands on you and it was interesting work . . . A lot of actors tap-danced their way through, but you couldn't really phone it in. You couldn't have contempt for the material. I really enjoyed it. There was such variety.

---Mason Adams (later the managing editor on television's Lou Grant and the voice of those Smucker's preserves spots), who played the title role in Pepper Young's Family from 1945 until the show ended its run in 1959, to Gerald Nachman, for "The Soap Factory," in Raised on Radio. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998.)

A high-spirited, buxom, silver-haired Jewish woman, [Carrington] had a fondness for risque jokes and liked to sneak double-entendres into her scripts. Carrington had a more sexual approach than the Hummerts. According to historian Jim Harmon: "Hers was a revered, harmless, and no doubt beneficial pornography---the make-believe fantasy of women about how marriage and sex might be and perhaps should be, but seldom is after many years."


If they aren't a highfalutin' form of art, they frequently contain profound wisdom expressed in universal terms.

---Elaine Carrington on the radio soaps, as cited by Nachman.


1923: OH, SAY, CAN YOU HEAR?---His successor will earn a real reputation as a radio-friendly President, but Warren G. Harding isn't exactly oblivious to the new medium himself: today, the President uses radio to bring the message home when a memorial to "The Star Spangled Banner's" author, Francis Scott Key, is dedicated in Baltimore.

It will be one of the few chances Americans actually have to hear the voice of the 29th President, whose reputation for a commanding speaking style may be equaled by a reputation for such verbal and grammatical gaffes that, when he dies just under two months following the Key dedication, e.e. cummings will note, "The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead."

That will be nothing compared to the description of the scandal-plagued Harding from the Sage of Baltimore.

He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.

---H.L. Mencken.


1947: JUNIOR WINS A SOAPBOX DERBY---But Junior (Tommy Cook)---who first seemed more interested in a girl than the race before deciding to go in---wanted to build the racer himself, creating a little rift between himself and Riley (William Bendix) the day before Father's Day, of all times, on tonight's edition of The Life of Riley. (NBC.)

Peg: Paula Winslowe. Babs: Barbara Eiler. Digger O'Dell: John Brown. Writers: Alan Lipscott, Ruben Ship.

1950: THE STOLEN FIRST EDITION---Hall's (Ronald Colman) gratitude runneth over when Victoria (Benita Hume Colman) surprises him with a first edition of John Donne, but their shock runneth over when they learn the hard way just how the rare---and valuable---book became available for fifty cents at the campus book store in the first place, on tonight's edition of The Halls of Ivy. (NBC.)

Merriweather: Willard Waterman. Wellman: Herbert Butterfield. Additional cast: Rolfe Sedan, Sidney Miller, William Tracy. Writers: Don Quinn, Barbara and Milton Merlin.


1893---Joe Forte (actor: Our Miss Brooks; Life with Luigi), U.K.
1895---Cliff (Ukulele Ike) Edwards (singer: Fun and Fancy Free; Cliff Edwards, Ukulele Ike), Hannibal, Missouri.
1908---John Scott Trotter (conductor: Kraft Music Hall; Philco Radio Time), Charlotte, North Carolina.
1909---Burl Ives (singer/actor: Columbia Country Journal; Radio Reader's Digest), Hunt Township, Illinois.
1914---Nat Polen (actor: Indictment; The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), New York City.
1915---Kay Sutton (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Irvington, New Jersey.
1917---Paul Monash (writer: Molle Mystery Theater), New York City.
1918---Dorothy McGuire (actress: Big Sister; Joyce Jordan, M.D.), Omaha.
1919---Gene Barry (actor: Lux Radio Theater), New York City; Sam Wanamaker (actor: Variety Playhouse; Pocket Theater; The Guiding Light; Lone Journey), Chicago.
1929---Cy Coleman (pianist/composer: Cy Coleman at the Piano; Voices of Vista), New York City.


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