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The Brighter Day

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Summaries of eps available for viewing at The Paley Center

Thursday Jan 4th 1961

Ellen Dennis is shocked to learn about the death of her biological father -- since she thought he was already dead for most of her life. Her biological mother, Lois Williams, explains that she had no idea her husband was alive since she could never locate him. Meanwhile, Babby and Peter try to persuade Ellen to leave Lois's home and return to her adoptive parents. They threaten to take the case to court, but Ellen knows a secret about Mr. Dennis that Babby and Peter do not want publicized. And, according to an attorney, Ellen would have to disclose that information to a judge in order to explain her reason for running away to live with her biological mother. In addition, Lois mentions that the adoption may not be binding in a court of law since Ellen's father never signed the adoption papers.

Monday June 9th 1958

Rev. Max Canfield leaves for a job interview in Pittsburgh. On his way out, Max asks a young handyman named Ted to keep an eye on his wife, Lydia, while he is gone. Ted is more than pleased to keep Lydia company since he harbors a secret crush on her, but little does he know that this occasion may be the last time he sees her alone. Meanwhile, Lydia is unhappy that she may have to leave the town that she has grown to love, but she resolves to remain a supportive wife

Edited by Paul Raven

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in 1956 of the Sugar Ray Robinson trophy - got Ray interested in professional acting. Through the club itself, and through John and Ethel Ross, developers of young talent, Ray began to work on TV. Early in his career, he played Art Carney as a boy in a Studio One production of "The World of Horace Ford," followed later by a part as Jackie Gleason's nephew in another Studio One show, "Uncle Ed and Circumstance."

"I began to see how much fun my brother was having," Patty says, "and I asked my mother if I could try acting. She said yes, and then I asked Mr. Ross if he would work with me, too, if I liked it. I did like it, but then I got sort of lazy and thought I would rather play all the time than do acting. So I stopped for a while, until I saw how much fun I was missing and asked to try again. Now I never want to stop."

Patty played Kim Stanley's daughter on TV in "The Glass Wall" and when Kim starred in the movie, "The Goddess," Patty was chosen to play her as a child. She has now done many filmed commercials and some documentaries, notably,, the award-winning "The Deep Well," in which her brother Ray had a featured part. She also appeared with Ray in a TV play called "Four Homes for Danny," in which Ray played Danny. She was the little girl who found the tired, tattered Prince in "The Prince and the Pauper," on TV. She appeared in "Wuthering Heights," "Swiss Family Robinson," with Helen Hayes in the lovely "One Red Rose for Christmas," and was the youngest child, Tootie, in "Meet Me in St. Louis," seen on TV last April.

Ray has appeared in the Ellery Queen series, played the running part of Edward in Search For Tomorrow, and preceded his little sister by about a year in The Brighter Day, when he did the part of Spunky. Both children have been on most of the important nighttime dramas during the past few years.

Their older sister, Carol a young lady just out of her teens, is a secretary in the insurance office. "Carol likes what she does, but she's interested in hearing about what we do," Patty says. "I think she's pleased about us."

"Yes," Ray adds, "but we're just her kid brother and sister and she doesn't want us getting any big ideas."

"How I know Carol is a little proud of us," Patty continues serenely, "is that, one day, when I was doing a running part in another daytime serial - Kitty Foyle, which has since gone off - Carol took a late lunch hour just so she could go to a television exhibition hall near her office and see me on the show. I was playing Kitty as a little girl, in flashbacks, and when I first came on the screen in a scene with another girl, Judy Sanford, Carol got so excited she turned to a woman next to her and said, 'That's my sister.' The woman turned to her and said, 'That's my daughter.' Wasn't that funny that they were both there, standing right next to each other?"

Frances Duke is proud of all three of her children. "They all do their part in the home. If I have to be at the studio with Patty, Carol and Ray take over. We leave notes, saying where we'll be and when we'll get back. When the phone rings and someone says Patty will need certain clothes for a show, I do my best to get the right things. They all need the same regular care all children must have - their clothes have to be taken care of, their meals must be right, they have to be checked now and then if they get a little out of hand. But they're very good and each one does as much as the others. I am happy that Patty and Ray have the opportunity to act, because they love it, and that they are learning respect for older people and always get along well with them. It makes me feel very good. I stay in the background because I just want to be their mother, and not a stage mother."

At the drop of a script, Patty can name any number of reasons why she thinks it's fun to be an actress. "I used to go to a big, big school with big classes. Now, because of my schedule, I go to a smaller school where I know just everybody. They post our homework a whole two weeks in advance, so any children who act have plenty of time to do their homework, too. I usually try to do mine ahead and have all that time left to play. I can go roller skating or visit my girl friends and it's all right, because my homework is done. My favorite study is arithmetic, my next favorite is ancient history, and I like French very much, but to read more than to speak. Reading it is easier.

"Before I started acting, I never went any place much. Sometimes I wished I could get out into the country instead of being in the city all the time. Sometimes I wished I could go up in a plane. After I became an actress, I did both these things. One day, I was told I would get in a plane at the airport, for a commercial. When we got there, I asked why we had to have tickets if we weren't going anywhere, but they said those were just boarding passes to get into the plane, and I should sit next to the window and wave to a camera as we taxied down the runway. I thought how funny I would look, waving like that, and then getting off! But I did it, and suddenly I felt the wheels were off the ground and we were on our way to Massachusetts to do the commercial. Everybody had surprised me, and it was much nicer than just pretending I was going."

One of her first long train rides was the trip to Maryland for location scenes for "The Goddess." They came back by plane and she saw New York lighted up at night in a panorama of earth-bound stars, looking brighter than anything she had ever seen. She saw small towns and, for the first time, visited farms. "A lot of New York children don't ever get a chance to see these things, and I was very happy I could."

Dressing up in what she thinks of as grown-up clothes, fitted exactly to her size, is another thrill. When she played on TV last winter in "Family Happiness," with Gloria Vanderbilt and Jean Pierre Aumont, she wore period costumes. A beautiful bouffant green dress with a great sash of pink ribbon decorated with flowers that hung almost to the floor. And with a ruffled slip and long pantaloons that enchanted her. In another scene, she wore a dashing bonnet and shawl, and carried a very old doll with a china head and leather body. "Where else but in acting would I get to wear such beautiful old-fashioned clothes, but made just for me, and have a doll like that? It all goes with history, and that makes it even better."

Perhaps it was the influence of those costumes, but suddenly a small girl who spent most of her waking hours in jeans has taken to wearing what she calls "sticky-outy" dresses with crinolines. Of course, it's back to the jeans and a shirt, when she's roller-skating or tearing around with the rest of the kids on the block.

Her sense of the ridiculous comes out unexpectedly, now and then. On a trip to Nashville, where she went to make a documentary film, she was asked what she would like most to do, one afternoon when she was free. "Ride horseback," she said, remembering a few pony rides in the park. "If we can find a place," she added practically, not wanting to be too much of a bother to anyone. There was a riding academy at the other end of the city, and this entailed renting a car to get there and back. "Won't everybody laugh when they hear we had to rent a car to go horseback riding?" she says, laughing at it herself.

Boys tease her sometimes about being an actress, but the girls think it's fun that she's on TV and still is just one of the crowd. "Those boys just exaggerate what I say in some of the commercials. But all boys tease and, if they didn't have that, they would find something else. I think it's funny when they do it and I laugh, too.

"Sometimes I have to give up a party, or some special plan the other kids have, because there is a show. But you have to take your disappointments with the good things that come. You give up one thing and you get something else in return. That's the way I think. You can't always have everything perfect."

Moving a little way out of Manhattan, to Long Island, might have imposed more hardships if she were not such a friendly and gregarious little girl. The worst thing that happened was when their cat, "Bubbles," a tawny-striped roamer overstayed his wanderings so completely that they were gone before he got back. "I guess he could never find us again," Patty mourned for a while. But, the first day in the new apartment, there were a lot of girls in the backyard, and one of them was named Patty, too, and this tickled her. Now she has plenty of friends right in the neighborhood.

Ray, at an age where girls begin to be of interest, has a cute sense of humor, teasing blue eyes, a thick crop of dark brown hair, is five-foot-six and still growing. He has already graduated form high school, was good in English, debating and public speaking (his favorite subjects), thinks he'd like to be a prizefighter if he weren't an actor, prevails on girl friends to form a cheering section for his stickball team. Especially, one particular girl whose name he doesn't divulge.

"All my friends want to marry my sister, Patty," Ray teases, "ever since she won $32,00 as a contestant for eight weeks on The $64,000 Challenge." (The category was Popular Music, her opponent was youthful Eddie Hodges, and each of the two kids kept rooting like mad for the other to get the answers right!) To Patty, taking her "deposit bottles" back to the store for extra spending money, tending the tomatoes she has been growing in a window box, baby-sitting for some of the neighbors - just for the love of it and because she delights in pushing the carriages and keeping their tiny occupants happy - are all equally important parts of her daily life.

Having now bridged four whole years as an actress and as a child whose life is filled with dozens of activities that delight her, she believes that all children like to have a schedule of things to do. That it doesn't by any means have to be in show business or in any profession. "When we're little, we don't know what to do outside of school unless someone tells us. I used to try to help in the house, but I was too little to do so much except be in the way. Now I am learning so much and still have time to play a lot.

"It's so interesting to see how things are done on TV, besides the acting. I might read about how the hurricane scene was done in "Swiss Family Robinson," but it wouldn't be the same as seeing all the real things that were used - the animals, plants, the sand and the tropical fruit, real fish in a pond, a real tree-house. And a big airplane propeller, blowing everything around. I think that acting stories is even more fun than reading them, but I like to read, too."

Her work has opened up a wonderful world of friendships. "People are so friendly to me," she says. "Sometimes, they come right up to me and ask if I am the little girl they saw on TV - The Brighter Day, or one of the special nighttime shows I've done. I like to have them talk to me because they are always very nice. They write me letters, too, and I like that.

"Even older people I work with are my friends now. When we did 'Swiss Family Robinson' and there was so much happening on the show all the time, we became like a family, and we didn't want to say goodbye when it was over. Walter Pidgeon was just wonderful, and I could hardly wait to start rehearsals when I heard he was going to be in "Meet Me in St. Louis." It always seems like meeting relatives you like that you haven't seen in a long, long time.

"I make friends with animals I work with on shows, like a monkey I had to rehearse with for a week so he would get used to me and to everyone. He was really doing a lot of monkeyshines! And, on The Brighter Day, I met Murial Williams' dog, 'John,' and the dog named 'Chumley' - at least, I think that's the way to spell it - which belongs to the show's producer, Therese Lewis. I loved them both."

As a matter of fact, Patty thinks that being in a daytime serial such as The Brighter Day is like belonging to another big, happy family in addition to the one she has at home. "Everybody knows everybody, and everybody helps everybody. There's new adventure every day."

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I could write a book called 'I Lead Three Lives' - my own, my mother's and my father's." Mona laughs, and nods agreement. "Don't we all! We lead our own lives to the hilt, but each is vitally interested in what the others do."

Frank Sr. picks up the conversation: "We cover one another's shows. We like to have family opinions about a performance. We enjoy doing things together - going out on our boat, playing bridge. We take many vacations together. Even when Mona and I go off alone, Frankie is apt to turn up for a weekend to take me on for a game of golf."

When they're learning lines for their individual shows, only one Thomas will cue the other. The third member prefers to watch a performance "cold," to get a more objective slant on it. "As soon as we finish a show, we call home to get the reviews," Mona adds. "If neither Frank nor Frankie has covered one of my shows, because of conflicting assignments, I feel lost. They're my barometers. It's good to have honest and expert criticism from those you love."

The Thomases live in the heart of New York now, in a comfortable, homey apartment furnished with things they have enjoyed through the years, plus a few new pieces which don't disturb the lived-in look. Mona is chief cook and bottle-washer. "Frank's a good 'camp cook' and can take over at home when I'm too busy," she says. "Breakfast is anybody's responsibility - mine, Dad's or Frankie's whoever is up first. Usually I'm the one, with Dad right behind me and Frankie a little on the late side."

In a household where someone is constantly studying a script, or racing out to rehearsals and broadcasts, chores have a tendency to become departmentalized. Frank does the shopping, but Mona makes out the list. She writes the checks. "I deposit the money and she spends it," Frank observes. "When we were first married, even though she was very young, I thought she could learn to handle the family funds. She did it so well that I never took the job back."

Frank handles business arrangements, has always been interested in real estate, and has always had good ideas about the development of property. At one time, the family owned three farms and lived on one of them in a lovely white house on a hill, in New Jersey. "We loved it," Mona sighs. "But some big laboratories were built there and our taxes went sky-high within a year, so we decided to give up the farm and now divide our time between the convenience of a New York apartment and the boat we dock in Long Island Sound."

Frankie has been aboard boats since he was a baby, and is an excellent sailor. Frank is an old hand, went down to Nassau last April and sailed a schooner up to New York, is crazy about boats.

Frank became an actor by accident. His grandfather was a judge, and his family lived across from St. Joseph, Missouri's Courthouse Square - on which the theater also faced. "The Square was my playground," Frank recalls. "Whenever a stock company came to town and needed children for incidental parts, we kids in the Square were handy, so they put us on. We didn't have any lines in the beginning, but we did learn our way around in the theater. After a while, a manager of a traveling company offered me a job on tour. I was seventeen and I took it. It was the best experience I could have had."

Mona was born in Belleville, Illinois, became stagestruck at seven, when she was cast as the tragic little daughter in that old stock-company classic, "Ten Nights in a Bar Room." Like Frank's, her theatrical debut was accidental. "The stock-company members boarded in various homes in the community, and I made friends with several who lived next-door. They needed someone my age to play the little girl, and overnight I was an actress!"

At fourteen, she made a Broadway debut in the stage spectacle, "Chin Chin." She spoke one line consisting of three words. By the time she was sixteen, she was a veteran, probably the theater's youngest leading lady, in a national touring company of "Captain Kidd, Jr."

The tall, broad-shouldered Frank Thomas and petite, red-haired Mona Bruns, standing only three-quarters of an inch over five feet and weighing only a hundred pounds (she's still only 104 pounds of tireless energy), met for the first time at the Greenwich Village Theater in New York. She had already been cast as the star of "Hobohemia," the first play by Sinclair Lewis, and the producers were searching for a man to play opposite her.

"I was waiting to audition for the part after a bout with the flu," Frank says. "I had only recently been discharged from the Navy after World War I. The theater had not yet opened and I stood outside, waiting, when a car drove up and Mona stepped out. (She had seen me once in a play, and I had seen her in one play, but we hadn't met.) She looked at me and asked, 'Have you been sick? Because then you shouldn't be standing out here!' She hustled me into the theater and fussed over me, and she has been solicitous about me ever since."

They were married soon afterward, and they made an effort to play the same shows and to stay together as much as possible. Already, each of them was leading two lives. They worked together in stock and in Broadway productions. During the course of the New York production of "Bluebonnet," in 1921, starring Ernest Truex and featuring Mona as an unmarried sixteen-year-old, young Mrs. Thomas found out she was going to have a baby. She worked through the fifth month, then retired until Frankie was born.

"Frankie has napped on many a make-up shelf," she smiles. "He was only nine months old when Dad and I played leads in Jessie Bonstelle's stock company in Buffalo, New York. Miss Bonstelle had told us that she didn't like to take a married couple, especially with a baby. We said we would take a nurse along and keep Frankie under wraps, and no one would know about him.

"We got a house away from the theater, and for a couple of weeks everything went smoothly. After one matinee, some of the girls followed us home ,waited until after we went out again, then rang the bell. The maid came to the door with the baby, and our secret was out. Everybody fell in love with Frankie, so it never made any difference after that. Wherever we went, he went."

It was probably inevitable that a boy who literally was brought up in a trunk, and whose familiar playground was empty stages and echoing theater auditoriums, between shows, should early become an actor.

"Our plans for Frankie included the usual ten or twelve years of grade and high school, and then college," Mona reminisces. "His father went to Butler University in Indianapolis, and he wanted Frankie to have a college education and then choose whatever profession appealed to him. But, when he was nine, the plans changed abruptly.

"The Depression had hit the theater as it had hit other things. Frank and I had been in a number of flops. We had our house in New Jersey and we thought of going out there 'to just weather the hard times out,' but I was afraid we would be buried in the country away from any opportunities that might come up."

At this point, they heard that a friend wanted to sublet her apartment in New York and they decided to take it. Mona used to take Frankie to nearby Central Park to play. On the way to the park one day, they met an actress friend who asked Mona if she and Frank were working. Mona had to admit they were both "at liberty." The friend suggested there might be a part for her in a new play being cast, "Carry Nation," which Blanche Yurka was to direct. (Such present-day greats as James Stewart, Mildred Natwick and Myron McCormick were in it.)

"We'll go there first, and then I'll take you to the park," Mona told Frankie. When the producer saw her, he said: "Why, Mona, this part is not for you. It's for a character woman." He looked at Frankie. "But there's a part in the second act that Frankie could play."

"Oh, no," Mona remonstrated. "Frankie isn't going to be an actor, at least not yet. He has a lot of schooling ahead of him."

"But why not, Mother?" Frankie spoke up.

In the end, although Mona was sure his father would object vigorously, Frankie won out. He had been cueing his parents in their parts ever since he was old enough to read, and there was nothing about the theater which was new or strange to him. It was his natural habitat, and play-acting was just another game. Fun. Exciting.

"After that, we couldn't stop him," says Frank. "He was in the Professional Children's School in New York, which made it possible for him to go on with his school work. On the road ,he had to keep up lessons just like any schoolboy."

Not once have all three Thomases worked in the same play, the same movie, the same radio or television show. Between them, Frank and Frankie have made about two hundred Hollywood movies. Frankie must have registered strongly in at least one film role: Some time afterward, when he was starring on television as Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, and making a personal appearance in Detroit, a boy came up to him and said, "You're a phony. You're not Tom Corbett. I know you're Tim Tyler - because I saw you in the movies!"

Frank and Frankie have been in two plays together, "Remember the Day" and "Goodbye Again." Mona and Frankie were together in the Broadway hit show, "Wednesday's Child," and Mona still says, "It was the most thrilling moment of my career, to be on Broadway with my son. And just as thrilling when we did the same roles for the movie version."

Mother and son were in the very first daytime television serial, A Woman To Remember. "Now the wheel has made a full turn," Frankie says. "The story of A Woman to Remember was set in a radio studio, and I played a sound-effects man. Just recently, I played a TV cameraman in Love Of Life - the one who gave Vanessa her first lessons in studio politics."

Husband and wife appeared together in one of the earliest night-time serials on television, a show called Wesley, produced by Tony Miller and directed by Franklin Schaffner. Wesley was broadcast live from a studio in the East Fifties in New York. At the same time, Mona was also playing the Senator's wife in the Judy Holliday-Paul Douglas hit play, "Born Yesterday," at a theater in the West Forties.

"Every Tuesday, the day Wesley was broadcast, was a nightmare. I'd race to the studio to do Wesley, then I'd race to the theater in time to appear in 'Born Yesterday,'" Mona recalls. "I couldn't have done both shows without Frankie. He had a cab waiting at each end, and he never let even a 'big date' interfere until after he had delivered me to the theater on time."

Frankie - who looks a lot like his dad and is the same height, almost six-feet - is still a bachelor. "We make him too comfortable at home," his mother says. "But, one of these days, it will happen."

"It took quite a while for it to happen to me," says his father. "And it was worth waiting for."

All the Thomases have had long experience in radio and television, in the big night-time dramatic shows, as well as daytime serial dramas. Frank had a long run run in Portia Faces Life on radio, followed it into television until it went off the air. He played the newspaper owner of Love Of Life until the part was written out. He was the judge in the series, The Black Robe, has appeared in The Verdict Is Yours, and a long list of others. His mother recent Broadway role was the General in "End As A Man." Mona has done Studio One, Hallmark Hall Of Fame, and many others. Frankie has been in more dramas than he can count.

At one point in her menfolks' careers, when they were all working and living in California, Mona went into semi-retirement to act as Frankie's agent and to give more time to home and family life. Then, when Frankie got into World War II in 1941, they came back to New York, where for two years she took over the role of Miss Sally in "Chicken Every Sunday." This was followed by her four-year stint in "Born Yesterday."

Television now plays an important part in the lives of all the Thomases, with three careers so closely involved with it. What's more, they like TV and are fans themselves.

"Creating and playing Aunt Emily in The Brighter Day has given me a kind of serenity that I never had before," Mona confides. "Maybe it's because I really like her and want to be like her. Quiet and serene, but with a good sense of humor. I never have to 'reach,' the way one sometimes has to do to understand a character. I never have to analyze. There Emily is, just waiting for me to take over."

"I sometimes don't know where Mona leaves off and Emily begins," Frank says. "it's a wonderfully sensitive part for Mona. We have all been so lucky in the people we work with."

"Yes, I'm very lucky," Mona agreed. "There's a good feeling all the way down, from our agency supervisor, Bob Leadley, producer Terry (Therese) Lewis, director Del Hughes and writer Sam Hall, to the whole cast and crew.

"Between Aunt Emily and her brother, Reverend Dennis, and the other characters, there is a quality of love and understanding that is only possible because we, who have played these parts so long, share personally in some of that feeling."

It's the kind of feeling that has drawn close together the Thomas family - Frank, Frankie and Mona. Even while each has been able to maintain his own freedom as an individual, there has been a linking of careers, an understanding of one another's problems, a strong bond of interest. That's how the Thomases have continued to live at least nine good lives!

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Ruby Holbrook, the then-wife of Hal Holbrook, later played Wilma Marlowe #2 on All My Children.

Mr. Holbrook later married Dixie Carter (The Edge of Night, The Doctors).

Edited by danfling

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Eileen Pollock, who was a writer for The Brighter Day, has passed away. She later wrote for the primetime serial Dynasty and was a co-creator of another primetime serial The Colbys.

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In "The Fan Who Knew Too Much," the author states that Orin Tovrov ("Ma Perkins" and "The Doctors") created "The Brighter Day" and that Irna Phillips later took over the show after several years. The writer of this book, Anthony Heilburt(?), was posting years ago on a radio soap board and mentioned he thought he found mentions of the original location on "Ma Perkins." He didn't mention this in his book, but I was rather surprised to read that he seemed confident that BD was Tovrov's work.

This site features a letter dated May, 1950 where Tovrov writes to Margaret Draper (Liz). It is shortly after he left the series.

http://playingintheworldgame.wordpress.com/tag/brighter-day/

Irna Phillip's script collection in Wisconsin starts with scripts of "The Brighter Day" from December 1950. Heilburt suggests in his book that Phillips took the series away from Tovrov, but I wonder if there was another writer between Tovrov and Phillips.

http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi/f/findaid/findaid-idx?c=wiarchives;view=reslist;subview=standard;didno=uw-whs-us0076an;focusrgn=C01;cc=wiarchives;byte=321238519

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