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Radio Soap Opera Discussion

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Radio Soap Operas

Radio daytime drama series were broadcast for decades and some expanded to television for even more decades. These dramas were often referred to as soaps, a shortening from the earlier label, soap opera. That term stems from the original dramatic serials broadcast on radio that had soap manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, and Lever Brothers as sponsors and producers. These early radio serials were broadcast in weekday daytime slots when mostly housewives would be available to listen; thus the shows were aimed at and consumed by a predominantly female audience.

For a list for most Radio Soap Opera's, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_radio_soaps

Edited by Amello
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Listening to the radio soaps, like those episodes posted by quartmainefan, make me want to just get all cozy in bed with some hot chocolate, close my eyes and just envision it all.

That second of episode of THE BRIGHTER DAY was awesome. The actress paying Lydia was just so, so compelling. And the actress playing her neighbour/friend ... the way she said "He was right there just buZZing around the wedding gift table ..." just made me smile from ear to ear.

Edited by Amello
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I have all of those on mp3 CDs I bought about 15 years back as a teen--and yes I listened ot them all. And honestly I think they're great--I got really wrapped up (it includes the fantastic murder trial of Meta after she shoots her husband for inadvertently leading to the death of her son). My only complaint is a lot of them are missing organ music--apparently I've been told it was because they were recorded so they could air in Canada and other areas and the organ music would often be done live to them. But it does make the listening experience seem a bit odd--all those silent pauses you really miss the organ. But they were great to listen to on headphones on dreaded days long family car trips.

Back then, pre internet, it was really the only way I could experience any vintage soap opera so it was pretty thrilling to me as a young teen obsessed with the history. A few years before that I got a number of records that I still have at a library sale of vintage radio soaps. One was of Guiding Light a bit earlier (late 40s I believe though they had moved to Selby Flats or whatever that LA suburb and the Bauers were there by then--Irna Phillips often got full writing credit int he announcemnet, something in her contract I believe and the ones soap she stayed with throughout her career on radio), a disc of four episodes of the GL spin off Right to Happiness (from the early forties I believe though Irna Phillips had already stopped writing it by then, I have to admit this was by far the most captivating run of radio soap opera I found--I'd love to hear more Right though I don't think many long runs have been saved), a disc that has an episode of Young Dr Malone, Road of Life, a very different late 30s Guiding Light, Brighter Day (particularly good as well) and Ma Perkins each, and a few Hummert soaps.

I have to admit you really hear the differences between the Irna created soaps and the Hummert "factory" soaps. The Hummert ones were wild fantasy serials--kinda like a version fo the children's radio serial adventures like Lil Orphan Annie but aimed at housewives. Helen Trent always stayed the same age and courted sheiks, the radio version of Stella Dallas (which the author of the original detested) would have her climbing through deserts to rescue her daughter from some horrific kidnapping after another, etc. Of course these kinds of soaps could never make the cross over to TV--plot based soaps instead of character based, which woulda needed fancy sets, etc.

Even the tamer Hummert soaps like Ma Perkins were much wilder.

Irna's soaps on the other hand are very much recognizable tgo any modern soap viewer--and the best are oddly captivating--that run of Guiding Light mentioned above sucks you in after only a couple of episodes--your eally get how they'd hook someone (at least I do) despite their slowness and the cliches.

There are two fantastic books on radio soaps that most decent university libraries (with a media center) should have. The Great Radio Soap Operas (http://www.amazon.com/Great-Radio-Soap-Operas/dp/0786438657/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285824089&sr=1-1#_) which has info on about 20 specific soaps. Even better, by the same author (who has a number of exhaustive radio show books, Jim Cox, and I see has a brand new book about the TV Daytime serials of 1946-1960 which might be interesting) is Historical Dictionary of American Radio Soap Operas. It covers every single title (including rarities like Irna's Masquerade) as well as fascinating entries like on crossovers (The General Mills Hour, when in the forties Irna aired Guiding Light, Today's Children and Women in White one after the other, with the last 15 mins devoted to some non Irna faith based serial Light of the World. But within her three shows characters would move from one to the other, a doctor from Woman in White helping out on Guiding Light, etc). Anyway it's a fascinating, thorough read--and you can read a lot of it at amazon.com if you doa search for what you want like "Crossover" or "Guiding Light", etc http://www.amazon.com/reader/081085323X?_encoding=UTF8&query=guiding%20light#reader_081085323X)

Anyway this is a subject that deeply interests me, and I'd love to discuss more.

Edited by EricMontreal22
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Edits: Cox actually has a new as of last year update of the Radio Soap Dictionary at a cheaper paperback price--The A to Z of American Radio Soap Operas--it seems to be exactly the same text. here http://www.amazon.com/American-Radio-Soap-Operas-Guide/dp/0810868334/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285824942&sr=1-3

And here's the new book he did about 1946-1960 tv soaps that apparently includes a chapter on irna and individual chapters on Search for Tomorrow, Love of Life, The Guiding Light, The Secret Storm, As the World Turns, and The Edge of Night. http://www.amazon.com/Daytime-Serials-Television-1946-1960/dp/078642429X/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285824942&sr=1-5 will have to track it down

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Thanks for telling us about all that, Eric. I'm sure it must have felt like your own secret pleasure finding all those old soap operas from radio. It's a shame that these things are now a forgotten artform.

Here's some stuff about Rosemary which was in the From Mary Noble to Mary Hartman book. Rosemary Dawson and her "ebullient" younger sister Patti were raised by their mother, whose husband had walked out on her 16 years earlier (naturally she never thought of moving on with another man).

When Rosemary's mother want to take in a confused young war veteran, Rosemary is not sure. She feels the house is too small, she thinks a stranger being in the house will upset her and Patti. Then Dr. Jim, who suggested the idea to begin with, tells Rosemary about her mother's reaction.

"Jim Cotter, if I can do anything in the world to help any man who's gone through shell fire - who's come back confused and lost and perhaps terrified inside at all that he's done - at all that he's seen - Jim, I'd give my right hand to take care of him. I'd consider it a privilege...I'd consider it the greatest privilege I ever had."


"That's what your mother said, Rosemary. That's why I love her - that's why I'm proud to know her...That's why I'm mighty grateful to count myself one of her friends."

When Rosemary hears this, then she agrees to letting the vet stay in her home.

Rosemary started out as "indispensable link, sympathetic ear, and helping hand," but then got into the big romance with Bill Roberts. After that settled down, Rosemary reemerged as helper and friend. Bill was a war vet and a reporter. They met around the time Rosemary and Joyce had a falling out.

Joyce was in love with her boss, Dick Phillips, who often cheated on his wife Emily. Dick insisted to her that his marriage was over and he will ask her for a divorce. He puts it off and puts it off, lying to Joyce that his wife has the flu, but finally asks her. Emily, his wife, still loves him, and the viewers are asked to agonize over whether Joyce should marry a man whose wife still loves him. Emily comes to Joyce's boardinghouse late at night to tell her she's agreed to divorce Dick because now she sees Dick can only truly be happy if he's with Joyce. The next day at work, Joyce is full of shame.

Joyce gets over her doubts and decides to go forward. She confides in Rosemary, who is shocked by Joyce's selfishness, especially when Joyce admits Emily still loves her husband.

Rosemary continues to try to push her friend.

Rosemary continues over and over, saying someday Joyce will know she broke Emily's heart.

Joyce responds:

"That's very dramatic, Rosemary, and very silly to say. It isn't true at all. Maybe he broke her heart long ago - maybe she didn't know how to hold him - maybe she didn't love him enough - maybe lots of things, because I don't believe any man would play around with other women if his wife was everything to him. You know that, Rosemary. You know there wouldn't be room for anyone else - any room in his heart, I mean, for anyone else if his wife were everything to him."

Rosemary says all she can say if Joyce should get out of Dick's life immediately, and for always. Joyce is sorry they have to part this way, but she won't listen to any more of Rosemary's warnings. Rosemary repeatedly tells her boyfriend Peter Harvey, about this. When Peter suggests she stay out of it, Rosemary says, "It's any woman's affair, when you see a marriage being broken up." The show basically says that Rosemary is so unforgiving because her heart is still unawakened. Peter tells Joyce, "You'll find people who have lived, Joyce, deeply and completely, are the most tolerant people. They're the ones who understand. They don't go around judging someone else. They know too well how easy it is to do some of the things you've sworn you'd never do. They know how weak human beings are - how susceptible to temptation, and instead of condemning them, they forgive them."

Rosemary soon meets Lieutenant Bill Roberts when she's standing at the street corner staring at the bus he's on. She says "What's happened to me?" The announcer says: "Yes, what's happened to Rosemary Dawson, as she is standing there under the streetlamp, gazing after a departing bus, with a vague feeling as she sees it disappear bearing off Lieutenant Roberts that a part of her has been torn away?"

When Joyce thinks back to when she first met Dick, Rosemary finally understands.

Rosemary apologizes to Joyce for her intolerance and says she now understands. She would rather die than lose Bill. They talk endlessly about their happiness and how no one else in the world understands and how it's like a ray of sunlight in a gray world and how their bodies almost seem too small to hold such happiness. Unfortunately, Joyce does not get her happiness. Emily, in Reno getting her divorce, is killed in a car crash. In spite of no note being found, many believe she committed suicide. Dick is upset and rushes to arrange her burial. Months later, he returns to Springdale, married to another woman!

While Bill has made Rosemary happy, Bill has also found happiness, as he is now "freed from fear."

This is some dialogue from when Rosemary and Bill Dawson declared their love for each other.

They also talk about when Bill reveals that he has amnesia and is afraid to be with Rosemary because he doesn't know what might emerge from his past. He tells her mother he wants to leave town to protect her. "I'm just somebody that the tide washed in to your shore." Her mother reluctantly agrees. In time he recovers his memory -- some of his first memories are of his daughter.

A few days after Rosemary and Bill get married, they luxuriate in their happiness. Rosemary says "It's just like the frosting on your birthday cake - it's just like seeing your Christmas stocking when you open your eyes on Christmas morning."

Rosemary and Bill talk about whether her family will be jealous or upset that she spends most of her time with Bill, but he says that's to be expected of a recently married couple. Rosemary says she now realizes that you don't start to live until you're married. Life has no meaning.

Rosemary worries about protecting Bill and his genius.

Bill is NOT so supportive of Rosemary's desire to work.

Finally they decide that since they live with her mother and Rosemary doesn't have to do housework, they will both work until they have their own home. Finally, some years later, they do, and she quits her job.

After they marry, Rosemary worries when Bill gets an attractive female research assistant (nothing happens.) She also has to track down his lost daughter, and is even kidnapped by underworld figures, while all he can do is stay in the hospital and wait for her to call.

They mention Rosemary in the context of religion in the radio soap. When Rosemary gets back from a near-fatal trip to New York after a con man tricked her into thinking he could reunite her with husband who'd been gone for quite a while and then tricked her into mortgaging her home and giving him her money, she expresses her happiness at being back in Springdale with her family. She asks if she can say grace. Religion is also mentioned after Bill and Rosemary get back from their wedding, and Rosemary's mother asks to say grace.

The book also talks about Rosemary's final months. Rosemary had had a miscarriage, but they all but adopted two young siblings, Anna and Lonny Cisare. Bill is now editor of the Banner and has deposed Springdale's crime boss. The young hoods who had roamed the streets under the crime lord's command are now hanging out at a Boys' Club Bill started. Anna, after spending a long time believing she was unworthy of love, marries the assistant editor of the paper and quickly falls pregnant. Lonny gets involved with an older woman, Monica, who is very hot but is bad news. Bill and Rosemary think they've talked him out of the relationship, but he continues to see Monica on the sly. By the time they realize this, Monica has convinced him to withdraw the Boys' Club funds, marry her, and run away to Florida. The money was very substantial, since Mr. Van Vleck, publisher of the Banner, gave them $5,000 to build a gym.

Lonny, Monica, and a friend leave in Lonny's old jalopy. Rosemary and Bill are very upset, but as the night - which lasts for weeks on the radio - goes on, they begin to argue. Bill feels they should give up on Lonny, but Rosemary can't and won't. Lonny proves Rosemary right after driving on and on through a blizzard. He stops at a gas station and mails the money back. While Monica and her friend are asleep, he turns the car around so they can face the consequences of their actions. When Monica wakes up and realizes what he's doing, she grabs the wheel, and they skid into a telephone pole. At the hospital, Monica, who is out of it, talks about Lonny's theft -- Rosemary and Bill are respectively confused and outraged. Then the cops show up to arrest Lonny for killing a man in a hit and run right before the accident. Rosemary eventually proves Lonny's innocence - Lonny was buying gas at ten minutes past two, forty miles from the accident that took place at two. Lonny is set free, but learns Monica has died of her injuries. Lonny decides he has to leave town for a new life. Bill and Rosemary reconcile when a new neighbor, Diane Thompson, tells Rosemary that she is using Lonny to replace the baby she miscarried. Rosemary realizes she cannot obsess over a young man who is not her son and decides to be happy she and Bill will have the house to themselves.

They leave for a week of bliss at the Hotel Dalton. Diane invites them to a dinner being given in her honor thrown by a group called Little Mothers that worked with teenagers. Rosemary is impressed. Rosemary and Diane become close, but strange telegrams arrive that upset her. She isn't in when Rosemary phones her, even though she's been seen to enter the hotel. An ugly man confronts her and calls her Goldie. On the last day of the Roberts' vacation, Diane asks them to meet her in the hotel lobby so they can all return to Springdale together, but instead she weeps alone in her room and asks them to go on without her.

Mr. Wilson, an ad man who once worked with Bill, asks Bill to write a series of articles for a national magazine. He will be doing good for young America, because this is an expose on narcotics. Bill will work closely with the narcotics squad. Bill soon starts getting threatening phone calls. He won't back down. He is helped by a gorgeous young researcher, Mercy Ainsworthy. Rosemary immediately becomes jealous. Her only confidant is Diane. Then Diane's brother Ray arrives with his five year old daughter, Betsy. Rosemary starts to take care of her. They get along with Ray, although Bill, when he visits, resents Betsy's constant presence. Ray is shady and when he's alone with Diane he twists her arm, he blackmails her with information about her past. He's in Springdale to spy on Billy. He gives info that enables the big drug pusher, Smitty, to elude the narcotic squad's pursuit in Chicago. Meanwhile, the Banner publisher is upset by Bill's neglect of the paper. Ray's employers have told him to get a job as a test pilot and to make contact with some people in Portland, Maine. And Betsy's toy panda, with a zipper in its back, might be used to hide heroin.

At this point, the show learned they were going off the air. The drug story was not resolved.

Bill decides Springdale and the Banner is too small for his vision and he wants to move upwards. Rosemary isn't sure how to react. Lonny returns from New York a month after his departure. He's found peace and wants a small town life. He accepts the invitation of Betty Gray to her senior prom, and they fall in love. They go visit his sister's new baby and decide to get married.

Mercy tells Robert go move to New York, and he does. Rosemary says she will support him no matter what. Larry, the assistant editor who married Lonnie's sister, warns Bill that Mr. Van Vleck won't keep the Banner going if Bill isn't there, but Bill says he's going. Larry gets the money to buy out Mr. Von Vleck and runs the paper himself, with Lonny as his partner. Bill decides he wants to stay in Springdale after all. Lonny and Betty marry in Rosemary's house, the reception at Betty's parents' home across the street. Everyone is thrilled for them. Rosemary and Anna and Lonny got a little house as a surprise for Betty.

Just as Rosemary and Bill settle down for the night, Mercy arrives to try to get Bill to change his mind. Rosemary realizes the decision must be Bill's and leaves him alone with Mercy. She goes to see her mother and stepfather. Bill shows up to tell her that the most important thing in his life is her and he will never risk that. The next day, Rosemary tells Larry that Bill wants to work as the editor of the Banner again, Larry has wanted Bill to come back, and agrees to never let Bill guess that she came up with the idea. He offers Bill the third equal partnership in the Banner.

Edited by CarlD2
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My library has that book but I haven't checked it out since I was a teen--I'll have to! Thanks for typing it all out!

I remember at some point when I was visiting my Grandma for the Summer in a different city, I found another radio soap record at a used record shop and played it on her turntable--I *think* it was Ma Perkins and she heard it and came in to listen saying how many great memories it brought back ofher and her freinds listening to Perkins after school every day...

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That must have been wonderful. My grandmother didn't like to talk too often about things like that, although she probably listened to a few radio shows.

I was always most fascinated by the thought of these young or fairly young women having to wear old lady makeup and wigs to be Ma Perkins. You could make a great movie or TV show out of that.

If you're interested there is some more stuff on other radio soaps. Not as much as Rosemary but they do talk about some other radio soaps of different genres. You probably already know this but can you believe some professor or something, Berg, tried to kill the radio soaps by claiming they upset or caused distress in housewives and that's exactly what the Axis Powers wanted?

I think what I like best about radio soaps is the idea that you can do anything. One of them, When a Girl Marries, had a story where the lead heroine was lured to an exotic locale by a disturbed man, and he kept her in a gorgeous bedroom, faked her death, then dyed her hair and tried to make her think she was his dead wife. The book talked about how this type of story was wish fulfillment for the female viewer at home because they could imagine themselves in these circumstances. They also said that the stories of men paralyzed, helpless, weak, was wish fulfillment, since most of the listeners had husbands who were in the outside world most of the day.

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The Mary Noble to Mary Hartman book talks about how radio soaps were looked down on and only a few, such as Sandra Michael's shows Lone Journey and Against the Storm, were spared. The MNtMH authors said the scripts they had seen didn't make them get the hype. This is from Lone Journey.

This is from Against the Storm, which was so acclaimed they even had Edgar Lee Masters reading from The Spoon River Anthology. John Masefield was shortwaved in from England for one episode, where he was supposed to be lecturing and reading from his own work for a main character, Professor Allen. No commercials were used that day. FDR was even supposed to be on the show, but it was canceled because of WWII.

This is about Kathy, a refugee, and she has a dream that the soldiers killed in the war are now able to be brothers. A friend named Phil appears in her dream.

They talk some about One Man's Family, which was also seen as being above the typical soap, as it had chapters and books, instead of just episodes. It was a weekly show for many years but in 1950 was knocked down to 15 minutes. The show ran until 1959. When the show ended, Morse wrote in the LA Times. "My own sorrow is not so much in the cessation of the show as such as in the thought that one more happy, sober beacon to light the way has been put out...The signposts for sound family are now few, and I feel the loss of One Man's Family is just another abandoned lighthouse."

Here's a line on the show from 1938, Father Barbour. "It's my opinion that the family is the source from whence comes the moral strength of a nation. And disintegration of any nation begins with the disintegration of the family. The family is the smallest unit in society. Millions and millions of these little units make a nation. And the standards of living set up by these family units indicate the high or low standards of a nation. A well-disciplined, morally upright family is bound to turn out good citizens! Good citizens make a good nation."

One of his grown sons says, "No doubt about that! There's a rising tide of sentiment growing throughout the world, fostered by people who are sick over the way things are going...Perhaps it's the answer we've all been looking for...an answer in the hearts of men."

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