The Right To Happiness

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Lou
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The Right To Happiness

Postby Lou » Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:22 pm

On the Air: Oct. 16, 1939-Jan. 19, 1940, NBC Blue, 10:15 a.m. ET; Jan. 22, 1940-Dec. 26, 1941, CBS, 1:30 p.m.; Dec. 29, 1941-1942, NBC Red, 11:15 a.m.; 1942-July 1, 1955, NBC, 3:45 p.m.; July 4, 1955-June 29, 1956, NBC, 4 p.m.; July 2, 1956-1957, CBS, 2 p.m.; 1957-Jan. 2, 1959, CBS, 2:05 p.m.; Jan. 5, 1959-Nov. 25, 1960, CBS, 1 p.m.

Rose Kransky: Ruth Bailey ... Carolyn Allen Walker Kramer Nelson MacDonald: Eloise Kummer (1939-42), Claudia Morgan (1942-60) ... Bill Walker: Reese Taylor ... Dwight Kramer: Frank Behrens, David Gothard, Ed Prentiss, Dick Wells ... Miles Nelson: John Larkin, Gary Merrill

Announcers: Hugh Conover, Michael Fitzmaurice, Hugh James, Ron Rawson

Theme Song: "Song of the Soul" (Breil)

Premise: Rooted in The Guiding Light, which began in 1937, The Right to Happiness gained a separate berth on NBC Blue on Oct. 16, 1939. Creator Irna Phillips transplanted the popular character of Rose Kransky from Light into her own series. A short while later, the focus shifted to the more appealing Carolyn Allen, whose destiny seemed preordained by an unsavory past that was certified in her series' initiation. Single, Allen would give new meaning to the term "woman's suffrage" while her endurance was tested with four husbands -- three of whom were in general terms inflexible, contentious and headstrong -- and a recalcitrant teenager whose unruly behavior made her life at times a living hell. The melodrama was so absorbing to millions, however, that it maintained a lock on its favored NBC quarter-hour for 13 years. Procter & Gamble retained sole sponsorship for 17 years. Outliving all but three of its contemporaries, Happiness was among a final quartet of soap operas canceled by CBS on "the day radio drama died," Nov. 25, 1960.

Your Turn: If this was among your favorite soap operas, what do you recall most about it?

My Question to You: Can anyone document the name of the actor who played Carolyn's final husband, Lee MacDonald? None of my sources ascribe a name, and he is not designated on any of the tapes I own.

piqueroi
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Postby piqueroi » Wed Nov 09, 2005 11:35 am

Send me a workable 2-track open reel tape recorder and I can dub some of the summer 1957 run to cassette for you. When Lee McDonald put in his first appearance at Debby's wedding and caught Carolyn's attention, he was portrayed by John Larkin who continued the gig until Right to Happiness vanished from the CBS schedule in November 1957 with Lee still in the nursing home, recovering from the drugs given him by the ambulance chasers. At Easter time 1958 when the show resurfaced, Lee (now played by Kevin McCarty) and Carolyn were already married.

piqueroi
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Postby piqueroi » Wed Nov 23, 2005 3:50 pm

CBS dropped The Right to Happiness on January 3, 1958 and picked it up again on March 31, 1958. On open reel I have the 12-27-, 12-30, and 12-31 episodes from 1957 and the 3-31-58 episode from 1958.

Nick

Rose and Carolyn

Postby Nick » Sat Dec 03, 2005 4:08 pm

Can anyone tell me how Carolyn entered the story and was there some plot connection between Carolyn and Rose Kransky before the focus shifted?

piqueroi
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Postby piqueroi » Sat Dec 03, 2005 5:13 pm

I believe Rose Kransky was employed by Carolyn's mother ... when Carolyn returned home from school, she fell for her mother's fiancee. I have a summary but it's in Adobe InDesign which is not on this computer. I will post more info next week if you're interested. When I began listening to The Right to Happiness in summer of 1952, I did not realize Miles was her THIRD husband. (That summer Dwight Kramer rescued Carolyn from an insane asylum where she was imprisoned, returning her to Skip and Miles ... much to the chagrin of Annette Thorpe.)

Nick

Rose Kransky

Postby Nick » Sat Dec 03, 2005 9:58 pm

Thank you. I would be very interested in the plot summary of that time. I've always read that Right to Happiness was a spin-off that featured Rose but all of the material I have on the show gives info-at length (rightly so) on Carolyn, but little to nothing on the early Rose Kransky years. Thank you. I'll look for it in the following weeks.

piqueroi
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Postby piqueroi » Sun Oct 08, 2006 1:43 pm

On the Air: Oct. 16, 1939-Jan. 19, 1940, NBC Blue, 10:15 a.m. ET; Jan. 22, 1940-Dec. 26, 1941, CBS, 1:30 p.m.; Dec. 29, 1941-1942, NBC Red, 11:15 a.m.; 1942-July 1, 1955, NBC, 3:45 p.m.; July 4, 1955-June 29, 1956, NBC, 4 p.m.; July 2, 1956-1957, CBS, 2 p.m.; 1957-Jan. 2, 1959, CBS, 2:05 p.m.; Jan. 5, 1959-Nov. 25, 1960, CBS, 1 p.m.

Rose Kransky: Ruth Bailey ... Carolyn Allen Walker Kramer Nelson MacDonald: Eloise Kummer (1939-42), Claudia Morgan (1942-60) ... Bill Walker: Reese Taylor ... Dwight Kramer: Frank Behrens, David Gothard, Ed Prentiss, Dick Wells ... Miles Nelson: John Larkin, Gary Merrill

Announcers: Hugh Conover, Michael Fitzmaurice, Hugh James, Ron Rawson

Theme Song: “Song of the Soul” (Breil)

Premise: Rooted in The Guiding Light, which began in 1937, The Right to Happiness gained a separate berth on NBC Blue on Oct. 16, 1939. Creator Irna Phillips transplanted the popular character of Rose Kransky from Light into her own series. A short while later, the focus shifted to the more appealing Carolyn Allen, whose destiny seemed preordained by an unsavory past that was certified in her series’ initiation. Single, Allen would give new meaning to the term “woman’s suffrage” while her endurance was tested with four husbands -- three of whom were in general terms inflexible, contentious and headstrong -- and a recalcitrant teenager whose unruly behavior made her life at times a living hell. The melodrama was so absorbing to millions, however, that it maintained a lock on its favored NBC quarter-hour for 13 years. Procter & Gamble retained sole sponsorship for 17 years. Outliving all but three of its contemporaries, Happiness was among a final quartet of soap operas canceled by CBS on “the day radio drama died,” Nov. 25, 1960.

Your Turn: If this was among your favorite soap operas, what do you recall most about it?

My Question to You: Can anyone document the name of the actor who played Carolyn’s final husband, Lee MacDonald? None of my sources ascribe a name, and he is not designated on any of the tapes I own.Kevin MaCarthy may have created the role of Lee McDonald, but I’m not sure. I do know that Lee was played by Les Damon from late l959 until the show closed in l960. This was documented by an article about Les and Claudia Morgan in TV Radio Mirror January, l960. It was not the first time that Les and Claudia played opposite one another. They were on “Lone Journey” together in the l940s. Also when Claudia Morgan took over the role of Carolyn in early l943 (the show had moved from Chicago to New York, and John Young had taken over the writing from creator Irna Philips. I believe she sold her rights to the show to Proctor and Gamble.), Les was playing the part of Dr. Richard “Dick” Campbell. Dick and Carolyn loved each other but their plans to wed were interrupted by the return of Dwight Kramer, Carolyn’s ex husband #2, and father of her child Skippy ((I believe his full name was Dwight Kramer, Jr.). Dwight has been reported killed in action in the Pacific during World War II. I think Carolyn and Dwight remarried, but divorced again, and Dwight married Constance Wakefield. Dick married one Ginny Carson. But I believe she was murdered, and Carolyn was accused and tried for the murder, with Miles Nelson, her husband #3, as prosecutor. So Carolyn stood trial for murder on two occasions during the show’s run, the first time for the death of her first husband Bill Walker. That time she was found guilty and incarcerated. Her child Skippy was born while she was in prison.

The character of Dick Campbell disappeared about the time Carolyn and Miles were wed, around l951. John Larkin was playing Miles, and did so until the character was killed off in 1955. The role was originated by Gary Merrill, and I think Don Maclaughlin may have taken the role briefly between Merrill and and Larkin.

The Right to Happiness did start as a spin off of “Guiding Light.” Rose Kransky, her mother, and brother Jacob moved to a community near Five points. They were neighbors to Emily Burke who lived with her Widowed Brother Tom Burke, and his children Katherine and Terry. Rose took a job as secretary to writer Doris Cameron, whose husband Frank Allen was dying of TB at a sanitarium in Arizona, and whose teenage daughter Carolyn was away at a convent school. Within a few months the Burkes had disappeared and the Kranskys returned to Five Points, leaving Doris as the principal character. After her husband died, Doris fell in love with Bill Walker, but Carolyn came home from school and also fell in love with Bill and was married to him briefly. After they divorced, Carolyn met and married Dwight Kramer, but that marriage was doomed as well. Doris found happiness with her literary agent Fred Minturn and they got married and were phased out of the story by the late l940s.

After Miles died, it seemed like Carolyn and Jack Townsend (Michael Caine) might get together. But he was really out for the large inheritance she had received from the bequest of Sherry Wayne. This was in l956, when TV Radio Mirror stoppped giving their soap summaries, and we didn’t have the luxury of Soap Opera Digest. In fact there was sixteen years of dark ages where no soap summaries could be found, until someone here in Massachusetts started a weekly summary of all the soaps in l972. And a few years later Soap Opera Digest was born. So I have no idea of what happened with Carolyn--how many suitors she might have had until she met and married Lee probably early in l959. I wonder if there is a John Young script collection in some library or on the Internet? The library at Boston University has the complete script collection of Irving Vendig (Edge of Night, early years of Search for Tomorrow, Three Steps to Heaven). And you may know that the university of Wisconsin has almost the entire collection of Irna Philips scripts. I have visited both places along with the Pop Culture Library at Bowling Green University in Toledo, Ohio. That library has complete scripts from each Proctor and Gamble Soap.

Proctor and Gamble sold their radio soaps to CBS (Pepper Young’s Family was initially sold to CBS, but then passed back to its original station NBC.) in early l956. One of the reasons for doing so, may have been their intent to focus on the two new half hour TV soaps “AS The World Turns,” and “Edge of Night.” They sold their TV version of “Brighter Day” to CBS in l960, and “From These Roots” and “Young Dr. Malone” to NBC in l959. None of these shows lasted with the networks for more than two or three years.

I hope this is helpful. Sorry it is so long. You are welcome to edit it.

David White

Irna Phillips supposedly created “Right to Happiness” as a spinoff of “The Guiding Light,” focusing on Mrs. Kransky and her children Jacob and Rose, radio’s first unwed mother. But the Kranskys and their friends, the Burkes (another Irish family in the tradition of her Moynihans, Morans, and Brents) had vanished by the spring of 1940.

They had provided sufficient story-lines: Rose’s courtship by Terry Burke; the father Thomas Burke’s late-life romance, which up-ended things for his self-sacrificing sister, Emily Burke; and the social climbing of Terry’s brother Don and his wife Millie.

But these humdrum plots were shelved in order for Irna to focus on Rose’s boss Doris Cameron. Within the first six months, Doris’ husband took sick and died, and, while she was burying him, her daughter Carolyn fell in love with Bill Walker, Doris’ “lover” (how complete a lover was not specified). Upon discovering that she had stolen her mom’s boyfriend, she attempted suicide, and, in order to save her life, Doris expeditiously lied that Bill was not Mr. Right to Happiness.

Meanwhile Doris’ brother killed his wife and himself. His daughter Louise, driven half-mad by these events, went to stay with Aunt Doris in Chicago. There she decided to humor a dying man by accepting his marriage proposal . But after they were engaged, she fell in love with somebody else.

Has there ever been such a morbid sequence of events outside of Greek tragedy? And within a year Carolyn had married Bill, fallen in love with a younger man, the dying fiance recovered, and then -- heavy duty irony for a soap -- was killed in an accident.

Irna kept some links with her other soaps even after the Kranskys departed.
Dr. Jim Brent of “Road of Life” appeared a couple of times to counsel the distraught Louise.

“Right” may have been Irna’s most Freudian soap. A featured presence was “The Voice of the Past,” played by Marvin Mueller, one of radio’s most resonant voices, who might announce, “Yes, Carolyn, I know all this because I am the Past.”

In a forthcoming essay on radio soaps, “Brave Tomorrows for Bachelor’s Children,” which will be included in my next book I’ll have much more to say.

Meanwhile does anyone know anything about the soaps “This is Nora Drake” between 1957 and its ending in January 1959; or about “Ma Perkins” and “Young Dr. Malone” between 1957 and 1959?

Curiously these last years are the hardest to document.

We can find in libraries late runs of “Right to Happiness,” “Pepper Young’s Family,” and all the Hummert shows.

I’d appreciate any help with “Ma,” “Nora,” and “Malone.”
In the summer of 1952 Carolyn had been abducted and was being held prisoner in an asylum. Apparently during a gubanatorial tour of the facility (Carolyn’s husband Miles was the governor), Carolyn had observed some discrepancies. Annette Thorpe was busily trying to convince Miles that Carolyn had left him because she did not understand him. Carolyn’s ex-husband Dwight had discovered her whereabouts and rescued her just in the nick of time as her captors were about to do away with her.

Carolyn and Miles were reunited and all was happy until the wife of a man who had been condemned to be executed for murder came to plead with Carolyn to interceed with the governor. Carolyn became convinced of the man’s innocence and quietly began to investigate. One of Miles’ political advisors kept telling the governor thaat Carolyn’s efforts were political suicide for Miles. Come to find out, it was the advisor’s son who was the murderer which Carolyn was able to prove at the last minute.

Miles lost the bid for re-election. An old friend of Carolyn’s, Sherry Wayne, asked her for help as she thought someone was trying to kill her. Miles re-established his legal career in Meridian and was employed (unknowingly) by the crooks who were after Sherry Wayne’s fortune. When he discovered their duplicity, they put him unconscious in a car and drove it into the river. Carolyn barely had time to grieve as Sherry Wayne died and Carolyn was left in charge of her vast trust.

Son Skip was not adjusting well to Miles’ death and in school became persecuted by a group of juvenile delinquents, one “Moxie” being the gangleader. They framed him for slashing the principal’s tires. He was befriended by a girl named Mollie Jarvis.

Carolyn was targeted by Jack Townsend, whose scam was to get donations for a youth center and disappear with the loot. Jack got close to Carolyn by way of Skip. Carolyn was greeted by a stranger Lee MacDonald at a friend’s wedding. Lee was a special investigator for Frank Knight, the D.A., looking into Townsend’s activities. Jack’s jealous secretary meanwhile ran away with all the money Jack had collected.

(The conclusion of the Townsend story was after The Right to Happiness moved to CBS radio and, alas, my local CBS station did not carry the show, so I had to wait until 1957 June to pick up the thread again.)

Lee was drugged and being held in a rest home. Carolyn feigned ignorance, but she knw the people “nursing” him were a dangerous group of ambulance chasers who had murdered Frank Knight. She realized they were drugging Lee to keep him quiet. Eventually she gathered enough evidence to have them prosecuted and free Lee to go to another convalescent home, where he recovered his memory.

(Right to Happiness left the air at the end of 1957 and returned in Spring 1958 when Lee was now married to Carolyn and played by a different actor.)

Essentially the turgid melodrama quieted and the remainder of the show was about Grace Driscoll, a girl from “the wrong side of the tracks” who saw Skip as her way to a better life. Carolyn originally was much opposed to this match but after a period saw that Grace was maturing into a good human being and became reconciled to the future.

Perhaps other posters can fill in the gaping holes I’ve left. On this website I’ve been amazed to learn so much ab out Carolyn’s pre-1952 life. When did Claudia Morgan take over the role? When the show moved from Chicago to New York?

During the serial’s CBS run, except for its last few months, the show’s length was cut to a measly ten minutes, barely enough time for plot exposition. Even so, John M. Young usually kept two story-lines going.

As Philip Grant suggests, there was bit more attention to psychological complexity. Carolyn, for example, was a hostile, aggressive mother, a real bigot when Skip started dating the working-class Grace Driscoll. The class bias was underlined by the performance of Betty Garde (one of radio’s great divas) as Grace’s Thelma Ritter-like mother Edna (the name itself mildly low rent). But Saint Carolyn returned to her senses. Two years later when her husband Lee became involved with a beautiful widow, Carolyn became Sharon’s biggest defender.

Some of radio’s best actors appeared on “Right.” John Larkin, who had been killed off as Carolyn’s third husband Miles Nelson, returned within a year to play Lee McDonald. His successors in the role included Kevin McCarthy and Les Damon (for years Carolyn’s frustrated suiter Dr. Dick Campbell). Perhaps because CBS owed them, some stars of recently axed soaps turned up on “Right.” The menacing widow Sharon Graham was played by Clair Niesen: the role commenced shortly after “Backstage Wife,” in which she played the heroine, met its end.

Claudia Morgan played Carolyn from January 1943 to the show’s finale.

Some 1958-60 story-lines, in addition to those mentioned by Philip.

(1) Craig Chalmers, briefly Carolyn’s suiter, had lived with an obsessively devoted sister Linda. After he married Carolyn’s sister-in-law Debby Nelson, Linda tried to break up their home, and even kidnapped their baby.

(2) Sharon Graham and her devoted older friend Harriet (played by Abby Lewis, until lately Ada Overton of “Road of Life”) entered the picture. Sharon was one of the ambiguous, now-you-hate-her, now -you -don’t-types, who may have been intended to be the show’s second heroine. She flirted with Lee and tried to steal the research of a scientist Alex Thorne, who had become Carolyn’s umpteenth swain. Thorne was played by Lyle Sudrow (for many years “The Guiding Light”’s Bill Bauer). He had yet another importunate sister Helen (played by Elizabeth Lawrence, until lately Francie Brent of “Road of Life”).

(3) Carolyn’s neighbor Janet discovered that her husband Jerry was having an affair with his secretary Gretchen.

(4) During a storm Alex was hit by a speeding car. Sharon was suspected of the crime. Noble Carolyn defended her arch-enemy, discovering that the real culprit was one of Skip’s friends Dick Braden. As the serial ended the McDonalds became entangled with the Bradens, particularly the mother Anne, who was an early (and abbreviated) study in domestic frustration.

In other words, radio was beginning to play around like television.

It should be added that John M. Young first entered the soap world as Irna Phillips’ ghost-writer, working on her ‘Woman in White’ for almost two years.
Irna’s “Guiding Light” is known for Rose Kransky, supposedly radio’s first unwed mother. (Actually an unwed pregnant mother had plagued “Mary Marlin” throughout 1935). “Woman in White” is probably the first show to feature that soap cliche, the lie about parentage. Janet had her husband John’s brother-in-law’s baby but said John was the father. Eventually she would be punished by losing her life in the act of saving her child.


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