Sunday, March 25, 2018

Old Time Radio: Our Miss Brooks (1948)

Most people are probably more familiar with the TV version of Our Miss Brooks than the radio version, which had a four year headstart. Both, though, were very successful.

What you might not know is that Eve Arden was the 3rd choice of then-CBS executive Harry Ackerman to play English teacher Connie Brooks. His first was Shirley Booth, who'd later land her own iconic role on TV as Hazel. Second choice Lucille Ball was committed to My Favorite Husband at the time, and we know the rest of her story. Arden landed the part, and cemented her own status.

Future film star Jeff Chandler was Mr. Boynton, the object of Miss Brooks' affection. After trying to juggle the radio show with a movie career, Chandler left the show, and Robert Rockwell took his place. Rockwell, along with Arden, Richard Crenna, Gale Gordon, and the rest of the cast, would transition to television when CBS put Brooks on the small screen in 1952, coinciding with season 5 of the radio program.

From what I'd seen of the TV version, Walter Denton (Crenna), while willing to give his teacher a ride in his car, was otherwise a well meaning bumbler. Translated, he may have been inspired by Archie, who was also on the radio at the time.

Right now, let's revisit "Conklin's First Day". Gale Gordon does not appear in this episode, as another actor essays the role of Osgood Conklin. Gordon would take over in the character's 3rd appearance.

The radio version lasted 8 seasons (1948-56), while the TV edition ran for four (1952-6). The coda was a feature film version in which Brooks & Boynton were ready to settle down.

Curiously, there was a point in the TV version where Boynton wasn't around, and Brooks pursued physical education teacher Gene Talbot (Gene Barry, in one of his first TV gigs). We'll cover the video version another time.

Rating: A.

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