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Radio Soap Opera Discussion

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I have read that both television actresses Lee Lawson (Love of Life, One Life to Live) and Lydia Bruce (The Doctors) were actresses in radio soap operas.   Which roles and shows were played by them.

I also understand that actress Grace Matthews (Claudia Dillman on The Guiding Light) was a radio actress.   What roles on what shows were played by her?

Was Lois Holmes, who created the role of Marion Conway on The Guiding Light, on any radio serials?

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"Tune in Tomorrow," or "How I Found 'The Right to Happiness' with 'Our Gal Sunday, Stella Dallas, John's Other Wife,' and other Sudsy Radio Serials," by Mary Jane Higby. Cowles Education Corp., New York. 226 pp. $5.95.

As the book jacket says about radio soap opera -"it was melodramatic, it was hilarious, it was bone -tiring, it was the big time, it was the tranquilizer for millions of housewives, it was the stimulator that soared sales." Mary Jane Higby's book is, if anything, nostalgic and anybody who cared about the peak program years of network radio, or wants to care about them, will find much to go by in Tune in Tomorrow.

Miss Higby was the leading lady for 18 years of When a Girl Marries and spoke, sang and "sometimes sputtered" her way through a number of shows including Lux Radio Theater, Camel Caravan, Kraft Music Hall, Maxwell House Showboat, Silver Theater, Shell Chateau, We, the People and a legion (52) of drama serials, which defy listing. There's also some residual promise for those in the broadcast field: Miss Higby, who currently is cast in motion pictures and appears in radio and TV commercials, touches on such ongoing matters as "censorship" by program sponsors; the inevitable presence of advertising agency types, and the influence of program ratings.  

This book was published in 1968. Can be found for purchase on the web.

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Broadcasting August 1960



Last of radio's daytime serials are marked for oblivion at CBS Radio's request. most controversial and by all odds most profitable, institution neared the end of the road last week.


CBS Radio officially signalled the end when it announced new program plans (see page 28) that have no place for daytime serials. a program form that mesmerized audiences and advertisers for close to 20 years. At their peak. daytime serials ran virtually uninterrupted for six to eight hours each weekday, held more than half the housewife population spellbound and waiting to "tune in tomorrow at the same time." stirred up nationwide controversy among psychiatrists, doctors and social researchers, and accounted for perhaps a third or more of all the income on the radio networks. At the end. which now seems apt to fall on Friday. Nov. 25, they occupy only two hours of network time per day, and the advertising revenues they represent. which used to be counted in quick millions. now are figured in slow hundreds of thousands.


High Water Mark

In 1940, one of the serials' best years, it was estimated that daytime sales on CBS and NBC amounted to $26.7 million, most of it from serials. In that year records indicated that CBS was carrying 25 serials a day or 125 quarter -hours a week, 120 of then sponsored, while NBC was carrying 20 serials a day, all but three sponsored. This arithmetic. with daytime then selling at one -half of nighttime rates, indicates that both networks must have been billing -for time charges -about as much on daytime as on night, which in those pre -tv times was prime in the purest sense. By 1948, serials were said to be attracting $35 million a year from sponsors. Historically, CBS and NBC have been the main networks in the serial business. ABC, which came along later. carried a few from time to time, including such strong entries as My True Story and Whispering Streets, but dropped these in its aborted all -live programming experiment in 1957. NBC abandoned serials along with all other entertainment programming the first of this year, leaving the field to CBS. CBS's plans to end the era are not irrevocable, but they're close to it.Theoretically, CBS Radio affiliates could upset the plans, but in this case (1) the plans originated with a group of affiliates and (2) the cry to abandon serials has come periodically from throughout the affiliate body. The only thing that has kept the serials on has been a combination of continuing evidence of relatively strong audiences and relatively strong, though sporadic, advertiser interest. They're currently 25% sold and have a 32 -week average of 45% sponsorship thus far this year. If they maintain any advertiser interest at all they will go off stronger than they came on, some 30 -odd years ago.


Before the serial was invented and took hold, daytime radio was an empty stretch of time which advertisers widely regarded as unsuited to their purposes. The Mists of Time The genesis of the daytime serial is hazy. There is dispute about whether its birthplace was Chicago or WLW Cincinnati or, less likely, New York. Most historians nominate Chicago, which by all accounts was the first headquarters of serial production. There is argument, too, about the identity of the first serial. Some authorities say the forefather was The Goldbergs, which started in Chicago radio about 1928 as a nighttime show, later moved to daytime and ran to 1945, the last eight years under sponsorship of Procter & Gamble - probably the heaviest underwriter of serials among all advertisers. There are other claimants to the ancestral role, among them The Stolen Husband, a serialized version of a novel, which ran on WBBM Chicago under Quaker Oats sponsorship. Others identify Just Plain Bill as the original. Whatever the origin, the formula that developed was simple. With a few notable exceptions, it was to take a heroine. give her a strong will and a lot of problems (preferably including men of weaker will and more problems), and let her work everything out for the best. A handful ventured into humor -among them Vic & Sade, Myrt & Marge and Lorenzo Jones -and a few. like Just Plain Bill, had men instead of women for the stars, but as a class they centered on heroines and might be described, generically, as "unhappy stories about unhappy people."


Everybody's Problems

Housewives by the millions loved every tearful minute of it, reveled in every agony, wrote in for advice on their own personal problems and deluged the networks with flowers when illness took their favorite characters (as it often did in order to give them vacations, to accommodate a budget cutback or for other non -medical reasons). A wedding would bring tons of gifts, a new baby a shower of clothes and playthings, a death reams of condolences on paper often stained by tears and edged in black. A condemned murderess, according to newspaper accounts, confessed she was worried about the outcome of Abies Irish Rose, which was taking a virtually unheard -of summer hiatus at the time. "I won't be here in September," she sobbed, and the producers brightened her last days by sending a resume of the story line for the fall and winter. Women obviously took the dramatized miseries seriously, and some people began to get worried. A psychiatrist, Dr. Louis I. Berg of New York, stirred up a storm that swept across the country when he declared in 1942 that, judging from stories of women undergoing change of life, serials were inducing a string of ailments ranging from arrhythmia to vertigo. All sorts of activity followed. The networks set up committees and hired researchers; others, including independent research organizations, got busy in many ways. Surveys were made, papers were printed and books published -and in the end, serials were exonerated. A lot of statistics came out of these and similar studies. The serials' audi- ence was generally estimated at 20 million women. One project found that 54% of the available housewives were serial listeners and that the average fan listened to 5.8 serials a day. This was about 1944 -45. Another study, commissioned by NAB and published in 1946 as "The People Look at Radio," found that housewives were about even- ly divided between listeners and non- listeners and estimated that the listeners averaged four serials a day.


The Origin of "Soaps" The object of this devotion had earned, in the meantime, a number of soubriquets less dignified than "daytime serials." "Soap opera" remains the most popular term and, at the time of its invention, was well earned. Soap companies had been among the most ardent investors, and in 1939, which may not have been their high year, sponsored more than 40% of approximately 250 quarter - hours which were on the air each week. Procter & Gamble alone once had 19 different daytime and evening programs going on the networks, and that may not have been P &G's highest year. Aside from soap companies, breakfast foods and drugs were among the biggest serial users. At the last remaining serial center, CBS Radio, General Foods and Glenbrook Labs Div. of Sterling Drug get the nod as its first serial sponsors, dating to 1931 and remaining -though not continuously into 1959 at least. The soap opera remains as a generic term describing a type of program, but it no longer is correct as an indication of sponsorship. NBC's archives do not provide an immediate answer to the question so far as that network is con- cerned, but CBS Radio hasn't had a soap sponsor on a serial in 16 months: not since Lever's Surf pulled out of Romance of Helen Trent, Whispering Streets, Young Dr. Malone and Right to Happiness in April 1959. Cereal, laxative and various remedy advertisers have been more frequent buyers in recent years.


The Production Factories

If one product category- soap -can be linked with the heyday of serial sponsorship, one little band of nimble -minded, facile - writing people can be identified with serial production and, in most cases, with its origin. The names of Frank and Anne Hummert, Elaine Carrington, and Irma Phillips are synonymous with daytime serials, and their productivity - and that of a few others, mostly con- temporaries- continues to mystify historians of the daytime drama to this day. The Hummerts, credited with being among the first to envision the magnitude of the gold mine that advertisers might tap in daytime radio, built and operated what is generally regarded as the biggest factory ever constructed for the manufacture of daytime serials. By 1948 they were producing 13 soaps and 5 half -hour programs turned out by an assembly -line of writers working from plots that the Hummerts conceived and supervised. At one point the Hummerts were producing virtually all of the serials carried on NBC. CBS newsman Ned Calmer was once in their stable of "dialoguers." But the honors for productivity usually go to one of the Hummert writers, Robert Andrews, who is credited with turning out five scripts a day, five days a week, for years. Once, when a shipment of his scripts was lost in a plane crash, he is said to have dictated that day's episode of one serial by telephone from Hollywood to New York while the show was on the air, managing to stay a few lines ahead of the actors. The show that day contained a few more long pauses than usual, but they passed unnoticed. The pause was a standard device in most soaps. Plots moved about an inch a day. Ma Perkins and Bill the Barber (later Just Plain Bill) were among the earlier shows in the stream that Mr. Andrews turned out for the Hummerts. He quit in 1942. "Got tired," he explained. The Hummert factory rolled on. Stella Dallas, Lorenzo Jones, Young Widder Brown, Backstage Wife, were among their best known entries in those years, along with Skippy and Terry & Mary, a pair which the Hummerts sold to General Mills to show the profit to be had in sponsoring daytime serials for children.


Other Writing Machine

Elaine Carrington started Red Adams in 1932 on NBC as a half -hour nighttime program, moved it to daytime under Beech -Nut chewing gum sponsorship a short time later (after changing its name to Red Davis to avoid identification with Adams Chiclets, a Beech -Nut competitor), and finally, under P &G sponsorship, changed it to the name that is still best known, Pepper Young's Family. Irma Phillips, noted like the Hummerts for prolific output, acted in as well as wrote one of her first serials, Today's Children. She later wrote, among others Woman in White, Lonely Women, Right to Happiness, Guiding Light and Road of Life, The rights to the last three of which she subsequently sold to P &G for $175,000. Other names pop up prominently in histories of the serial. Paul Rhymer's Vic & Sade ran on NBC for some 13 years and won critical praise for a vehicle of contemporary humor in America. Carleton Morse's One Man's Family had a highly successful run that spanned 27 years, also on NBC. Sandra Michael's Against the Storm, a wartime serial with a patriotic theme, won a Peabody award for excellence. Charles Jackson. who won fame with his novel Lost Weekend, turned out Sweet River for two years. Aside from Mr. Jackson and Mr. Calmer. others have gone on to more permanent fame from serial stints. Don Ameche is said to have played the lead in as many as four serials at once. Jim and Marian Jordan, who became Fibber McGee & Molly, played miscellaneous voices in daytime operas in the early days. Actor Everett Sloane was Sammy Goldberg for a while, and Van Heflin and Joseph Cotten also appeared in roles on the Goldbergs show.


Mail Pull

The serials also set up a new concept of coverage maps for radio stations. P &G had used premium offers to find out where its listeners were, one of the first being a seed offer to Ma Perkins listeners in return for 10 cents and an Oxydol boxtop. Lever once got an estimated 2 million write -ins for a brooch offered by.Rinso on Big Sister. The Blackett- Sample -Hummert agency used premium offers extensively -Duane Jones, later known as the Boxtop King, was then with B -S -H -and sometimes, it is recorded, received more write -ins than the programs could claim in total audience.


Irna Phillips was one of the most prolific writers of soap opera throughout its long, sudsy history. Her brain children include Road of Life, Woman in White, Right to Happiness, among others. P &G enthusiastically bought three of her properties for $175,000. John Karol, who was in charge of sales for CBS Radio before switching to CBS -TV a couple of years ago, recalls that when he first joined CBS in the early 1930s, as head of research, he adapted the premium -offer idea to obtain measurements of station coverage.


The Remnants

Out of the scores of serials that once filled daytime radio, four remain, along with two more re- cent entries, on CBS Radio. These are slated to go in November. Ma Perkins has been on for 27 years, and Right to Happiness, Young Dr. Malone and Second Mrs. Burton have been on for close to 20. The newer ones are Couple Next Door, which is outside the soap - opera tradition in that it is humorous, and Whispering Streets, which also departs from the norm by dramatizing separate stories. A seventh serial slated to leave, Best Sellers, which was launched only a few months ago, also doesn't really count as a daytime serial in the old sense: it serializes popular novels. Approximately 50 to 60 actors and actresses are employed in these seven shows. By comparison, the soaps once gave regular employment to some 150 actors and part-time roles to 1,800. Although CBS Radio's decision on serials marks the end of an era, it does not mean the end of serials. While their fortunes were waning on radio they were surviving on tv -where some of the oldest old -timers may still be found in modern dress. Among them: Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, Guiding Light on CBS -TV and Young Dr. Malone, From these Roots, NBC -TV.  

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Kings Row 26 Feb 1951 - 29 Feb 1952 CBS/NBC. The NBC run began 22 Oct 1951


Kings Row had been a book,a movie with Ronald Reagan and later a primetime series.

Billboard review

Kings Row RADIO -Reviewed Friday (2), 3:15 -3:30 p.m., EST. Sponsored by Colgate -Palmolive -Peet Company, Monday thru Friday, thru William Esty via Columbia Broadcasting System. Producer, Arlene Lunny. Writer, Welbourn Kelley. Director, Edward Downs. Music, Bert Buhr - man, organ. Announcer, John Mac - Dougalt. Narrator, Lee Vines. Cast: Francia DeSales, Doris Dalton, Charlotte Manson, Charlotte Holland and Jim Boles.

Scrtpter Welbourn Kelley has effectively utilized the characters from Henry Bellamann's best selling novel for soap opera. That the sentimental and neurotic Kings Row characters always had potentialities for the necessary endless trouble is undeniable. And Kelley has included all the proved soap opera elements. Francis DeSales, as Parris Mitchell, psychiatrist, gave his lines a consistently calm reading on the segment caught Doris Dalton skillfully provided the hysterics in the role of the sick in the head gal out for Mitchell's scalp. A clue to her trouble was her husband, an unmitigated scoundrel, who may be insidiously trying to drive her to the nut house. Life Ebbing The stanza caught involved a tense interview ' between Miss Dalton and DeSales. Whether the .latter would live to appear on the next installment seemed to be in doubt at the program's end. A legion of other complex characters were referred to in the dialog, indicating more than ample material to extend the serial as long as necessary. The commercial for Fab employed testimonials in a woman's voice to back up the announcer's claims. The Luster Cream Shampoo jingle was used at the end. Kings Row is soap opera at its most typical. Gene Plotnik.

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I have been listening to a radio soap for almost a year now - Hearts In Harmony - and I absolutely love it. I'm just over half way through the episodes that exist. 


Does anyone know where I can find any info on HIH? I've done an internet search and can't really find anything. I'm fascinated to know more about the serial. When I first started listening, the characters would sing a song at the piano every other episode and then one day I realized it hadn't happened for several weeks - and it never happened again. Why did they change the format? How many years did the show run? Questions, questions, questions.


I've also started listening to Aunt Mary but I don't enjoy it nearly as much. I'm having a very hard time becoming involved in the story. 


Anyway, should anyone have a tip on how to find more info, I'd appreciate the help!

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@Paul Raven  the cast I've found from various books on Radio Soaps



Abel  Baker...???

Rex Belson...????

Fulmer Green...Jim Boles

                      ...Chuck Webster

Hazel ____   Green...???

Elsie Sandow Mitchell...Charlotte Holland

                       ....Susan Douglas

Dr. Parris Mitchell...Francis De Sales

Randy (McHugh) Monahan...Charlotte Manson


Patient...Doris Dalton



Denise Alexander

Jane Alexander


Announcer....John McDougall

Narrator...Mr. Lee Vines


Somewhere, I have a box with copies of all the passages about the radio soaps from the books. II'll see if I can find it and share some of the info. I have a cast list for Aunt Mary I will post later.


I'll have to go back to see if I can find anything on Hearts In Harmony. This is all I have



Hearts in Harmony 




Mrs. Gibbs...Alice Yourman

Penny...Jone Allison

G.I. Friends...   Bill Lipton

                  ....William Redfield


Singing Voice...Anne Marlowe


Singing Vocals...Bob Hanna

Edited by slick jones

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@slick jones  Thanks for even that little bit! I really enjoy that show.  Another one that people seem to talk about is One Man's Family? Something like that. I might seek that one out as well. Gonna try to give Aunt Mary another month or two.

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MBS   1946




David Bowman ...Jay Novello

Dr. Lew Bracey...C Hames Ware

Ben Calvert...Pat McGeehan

Jessie Ward Calvert...Irene Tedrow

Kit Calvert...Vivi Janiss

                   ....Josephine Gilbert

Mary Lane Gilbert...   Jane Morgan

Lefty Larkin...Fred Howard

Bill Mead...Jack Edwards

                ...Bob Bailey

Peggy Lane Douglas Mead...   Jane Webb





       Tom Collins

        Pauline Drake

        Betty Lou Gerson

        Cy Kendall

          Ken Peters



      Hugh Brundage

       Marvin Miller

        Vincent Pelletier

         Dick Wells



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7 hours ago, adrnyc said:

@slick jones  Thanks for even that little bit! I really enjoy that show.  Another one that people seem to talk about is One Man's Family? Something like that. I might seek that one out as well. Gonna try to give Aunt Mary another month or two.


One Man's Family was amazing!

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7 hours ago, adrnyc said:

@slick jones  Thanks for even that little bit! I really enjoy that show.  Another one that people seem to talk about is One Man's Family? Something like that. I might seek that one out as well. Gonna try to give Aunt Mary another month or two.

I have casts for both the Radio and television  (OMF) versions. It will take some time to track down, but I'll put them both up this week.

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