Celebrity Interview Goes Wrong

Boyer-Lansbury-BergmanThere’s really no journalism practiced in this episode of “A Date with Judy” from April 3, 1945, although the teenage heroine is going off to do a celebrity interview with actor Charles Boyer, in town for a wartime Red Cross benefit. Judy even mentions Boyer’s charm in the previous year’s hit with Ingrid Bergman and Angela Lansbury in Gaslight, photo at right. Her interview is hardly as dramatic, just a charming case-of-mistaken-identity, followed by an apologetic editorial, but it’s the only even loosely journalism-related episode of the series currently in
this Internet Archive collection

More may be on the way, however. Radio collector J.David Goldin’s RadioGoldIndex online database of episodes, which may be in various not-online library collections, includes several possibilities, all fitting my theme about how important the daily newspaper was in American culture for most of the 20th century.

In one of the episodes Goldin mentions, in which “Judy has a ‘job’ with The Daily Chronicle, she’s a society editor,” was apparently broadcast in 1942 and again in 1945. Judy was “covering” her Aunt Lilly’s wedding. I doubt that journalistic conflict of interest is part of the plot. And then in 1944 Judy tried to get a job as assistant to the paper’s society editor. She apparently wound up getting a date with the handsome son of “the editor of the Daily Bugle” instead. (So it looks like Judy Foster and family lived in a two-daily-newspaper town, not uncommon in the 1940s.) Also in 1944, her brother was in the running to be editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and a year later Judy was (briefly) editor of what was apparently a school literary magazine, “The Purple Flamingo.”

I haven’t heard any of these, but according to online discussions, the Old Time Radio Researchers Group (https://otrr.org) is preparing a new collection that will eventually be shared at the Internet Archive, so maybe some of Goldin’s old favorites will be included.

Meanwhile, the most significant “newspapers in popular culture” connections for the “A Date with Judy” series may be its author and producer. The creator of the character was a Pittsburgh Press columnist, Aleen Wetstein (1908-2010) who went from being secretary of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment to writing a weekly column in the 1930s called “One Girl Chorus,” which Wikipedia says was “eventually adapted by Wetstein and Jerome Lawrence as a radio domestic comedy titled A Date with Judy, which she adapted and exploited across all entertainment forms possible at that time, including theatre, film, television, and comic books.” (Jane Powell was Judy and a 16-year-old Elizabeth Taylor was her best friend in the newspaper-free 1948 movie “A Date with Judy.”)

According to Wetstein’s L.A. Times obituary, <<“A Date With Judy” was originally conceived as a radio vehicle for her friend, actress Helen Mack, whose “crazy stage mother” kept pestering Leslie to write a show for Mack, Diane Leslie said. By the time the teen-angst comedy debuted on the radio in 1941, Mack was too old to star, but she directed episodes that Leslie wrote and produced.>>

The radio series producer was, in fact, Helen Mack, whose earlier acting career included the classic newspaper movie “His Girl Friday,” in which she played the memorable Mollie Molloy, “hooker with a heart of gold,” treated terribly by newspapermen. She was also the co-star of “King of the Newsboys” in 1938, but again not in a journalistic role. Her appearance in “His Girl Friday” was brief, but memorable, with Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson, her one friend in the courthouse newsroom:

Hildy Johnson : Come on, Molly. Let’s get outta here.
Molly Malloy : They ain’t human!
Hildy Johnson : I know, they’re newspapermen.
Molly Malloy : All they’ve been doin’ is lyin’! All they’ve been doin’ is rotten lies!

I hope “A Date with Judy” included a more positive newspaper role model for teen listeners, although society editors and editor’s sons may not be the most promising possibilities.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1940s, comedy, teenagers. Bookmark the permalink.

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