The Paley Center for Media, which has locations in both New York and LA, dedicates itself to the preservation of television and radio history. Inside their vast archives of more than 150,000 television shows, commercials, and radio programs, there are thousands of important and funny programs waiting to be rediscovered by comedy nerds like you and me. Each week, this column will highlight a new gem waiting for you at the Paley Library to quietly laugh at. (Seriously, it’s a library, so keep it down.)
I'm no expert on writing snappy headlines to get attention, but as far as book titles go, Mr. And Mrs. Cugat: The Record Of A Happy Marriage is a horrible name for a book. I don't know who Mr. and Mrs. Cugat are, so why would I want to read a book about them, particularly when it's clear from the subtitle that nothing interesting is going to happen to them. But in spite of that, the book became one of the best-selling novels of 1941, was adapted into a film with the (much better) name of Are Husbands Necessary?, starring Ray Milland and Betty Field, a radio show, and finally, a sitcom you may have heard of called I Love Lucy. This column has mostly neglected the radio format, but today we examine My Favorite Husband, the show that gave birth to one of the most important TV sitcoms of all time and introduced Lucille Ball into the nation's homes every week.
In the 1940s, Lucy had worked her way up from cigarette girl to Broadway showgirl to a contract to appear in pictures with MGM. However, after appearing in a number of flops that never really allowed her to truly break out (she became known in Hollywood as "Queen of the B's" after starring in so many B-movies), she decided to approach stardom from a different angle. Instead of making the American public come to her, she'd go to them via radio. On July 23, 1948, My Favorite Husband premiered on CBS radio. She starred as Liz Cugat, who would be renamed a few episodes later to the more accessible Liz Cooper. Her husband, George, was played by Richard Denning, who later in his career would become King of the B's, starring in such films as Creature from the Black Lagoon, Day the World Ended, and The Creature with the Atom Brain. Today we examine the earliest available episode of the show, entitled "The Portrait Painter," and we venture into another dimension's version of I Love Lucy. (Spoiler alert: The dimension I'm talking about is the dimension of sound.) READ MORE