A-plus actress, B-minus material: Old-time radio listening, 5 April

Adventures of Maisie: Nick the Gambler (Syndicated, 1951)

Ann Sothern as Maisie. (Photo: NBC.)

Ann Sothern as Maisie. (Photo: NBC.)

Ann Sothern didn’t know she was auditioning for her own radio series when she turned up on Lux Radio Theater in 1941, for that dramatic jewel’s adaptation of her B-film hit Maisie Was a Lady. By the time she was finished with that film series, she’d find herself talked into taking it to radio, in The Adventures of Maisie, which was at least as much B-fare as the film series was, with only Sothern’s knack for comic timing and brassy persona keeping it from turning into a complete disaster.

Sothern, of course, would find her way to television and stronger success, first in Private Secretary (known in later syndication as Susie) and, later, The Ann Sothern Show (also known, sometimes, as Katie), before becoming Vivian Vance’s sometime successor as Lucille Ball’s partner in mischief in the latter years of The Lucy Show.

Somewhere in her television years, alas, Sothern suffered a bout of hepatitis that left her with a permanently-bloated midsection that compelled her wearing dark, flared-at-the-waist dresses on camera for the rest of her career. That career ended in the 1980s when she decided to retire to Idaho—far, far from the bustling Brooklyn of Maisie Ravier’s dreams and undoings.

And to think there remain those who think the only thing she did of note was play the title voice of television’s all-time worst situation comedy . . .

Tonight: Pausing in Las Vegas while traveling across country, Maisie (Ann Sothern) runs into a former show colleague (Joan Banks) who barely recognises her, making it difficult for Maisie to collect an old debt until a gambler (William Conrad) steps in fatefully enough, helping her reclaim the debt but potentially paying an unwanted price when he thinks she’s changed his luck for the better at the craps tables.

Jake the Snake: Peter Leeds. Herman: Arthur Q. Bryan. Announcer: Jack McCoy. Music: Harry Zimmerman. Writer: John L. Greene.

 

FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .

Comedy

The Great Gildersleeve: Apartment Hunting (NBC, 1950)—Marjorie (Mary Lee Robb) prepares to find her first apartment with Bronco Thompson (Richard Crenna), but Gildersleeve—heartsick at the thought of her moving out, even as a married young woman—has one idea he thinks will keep the newlyweds-to-be close, but good luck selling them on it until an unexpected roadblock. Leroy: Walter Tetley. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Bessie: Gloria Holliday. Hooker: Earle Ross. Peavey: Richard LeGrand. Announcer: Jay Stewart. Music: Jack Meakin Orchestra. Writers: Paul West, John Elliotte, Andy White.

 

Crime Drama

Richard Diamond, Private Detective: Death and the Package (NBC, 1950)—A would-be client who fears he’s being followed visits Diamond (Dick Powell) with a valuable if unusual Oriental statuette . . . and collapses dead of a bullet in the back, right in the office, leading the sleuth to learn the hard way just how many more seemed willing to kill or die on the statue’s behalf. Helen: Virginia Gregg. Levinson: Ed Begley. Otis: Wilms Hebert. Additional cast: Unidentified. Music: Frank Worth. Director: Blake Edwards. Writer: Unidentified.

21st Precinct: The Six Hundred (CBS, 1956)—An already overworking morning on the day shift gets just a little more wild for Cronin (James Gregory) and his men when they’re called to a burglarised paint store from which its entire safe has been stolen. King: Ken Lynch. Additional cast: Joe Santos, John Sylvester, Leslie Woods, Bill Quinn, Larry Hanes, Eric Dressler. Announcer: Roger Foster. Writer/director: Stanley Niss.

 

Fantasy

Quiet, Please: I Always Marry Juliet (ABC, 1948)—A now-struggling Shakespearean actor (Ernest Chappell, who narrates as well) makes Romeo his stage specialty and actresses who play Juliet (Margaret Draper, Abby Lewis, Ann Seymour) his romantic specialty . . . until his defiance of the tragic storyline haunts him well enough. Shakespeare: James Monk. Music: Albert Buhrman. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.

 

Western

Gunsmoke: Trapper’s Revenge (CBS, 1959)—A trapper (Ralph Moody) who passed through Dodge the previous fall has returned and puzzles Doc (Howard McNear) and Matt (William Conrad) when he’s discovered to be hanging on—barely–from months-old wounds and tells a very disturbing story of how he got them and what he plans to do about them. Kitty: Georgia Ellis. Chester: Parley Baer. Additional cast: Vic Perrin. Announcer: George Fenneman. Music: Rex Khoury. Sound: Ray Kemper, Bill James. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: John Dunkel.

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