Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories

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Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories

Postby Lou » Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:30 pm

On the Air: Jan. 18, 1937-July 2, 1937, CBS, 1:45 p.m. ET; July 5, 1937-June 21, 1946, CBS, 11:45 a.m.; June 24, 1946-July 1, 1955, CBS, 12:15 p.m.; Jan. 2, 1956-Nov. 16, 1956, CBS, 2:45 p.m.

Aunt Jenny: Edith Spencer (1937-51), Agnes Young (1951-56)

Announcers: Dan Seymour, others unidentified

Theme Song: "Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms"

Premise: The format for this soap opera assumed a closed-end story line, a feature shared by few other serials that were considered successes. The number of thriving daytime dramas with terminating story lines could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Ongoing series -- with central characters whose lives were affected by other figures -- were prolific and usually attracted far more fans. But Aunt Jenny proved there was an audience for drama dispensed in only five chapters. For nearly two decades the show confounded the odds, drawing one of daytime radio's biggest audiences and becoming the most successful drama of its kind. The series typically focused on romantic tales involving citizens of the rural community of Littleton. As narrator, Aunt Jenny provided a link between the daily installments and the weekly story changes. In her perky kitchen -- where she baked warm delicacies from the recipes of the longtime sponsor, Spry -- she spun yarns while interacting with announcer Dan Seymour and other townsfolk. The stories themselves were little more than vignettes, of course, when compared with other soap operas. But they were intriguing to serial lovers with short attention spans and to those whose schedules wouldn't permit their involvement in serials with continuing plots.

Ponder this: (a) Of 18 soap operas that pursued the closed-end formula throughout its lifetime, only one besides Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories could be considered successful. What was it? (b) What soap opera was launched as an open-ended serial, yet made the transition successfully to a closed-end formula before the end of its run? Post a note with your answer(s) here.

[You will find a more extensive analysis of closed- vs. open-ended series in chapter 1 of "The Great Radio Soap Operas."]

Larry M
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Location: Ohio

Postby Larry M » Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:06 pm

It appears that no one has answered the quiz, so I'll try. The other successful radio soap opera besides Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories that employed an ultimate conclusion format was The Light of the World. I actually have one episode of it, and didn't know at first that it is considered a soap opera.

The program that evolved into a closed-end serial was Front Page Farrell. I have a tape of the 8/1/49 broadcast which hints at the show's dual nature (soap and crime drama). Newspaper reporter David Farrell is in his office at "The Daily Eagle," all set to take wife Sally to see the play "Love in the Springtime." Then he learns that the police are in a shootout with bank robber King Kerr, and rushes to the scene.

So there are my answers. I knew that book I bought by Jim Cox would come in handy some day. (Just kidding. It comes in handy lots of days).

I haven't been able to locate many episodes of Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories, but the ones I do have are all very good. Even though the plot changes every week, there is enough of the familiar to make us feel at home. Aunt Jenny is always present, of course, dispensing her good sense and proclaiming the virtues of Spry All-Vegetable Shortening. All the stories seem to be set in Littleton. We learn that a railroad train makes one of its stops there, and that the town has a rooming house, a law office, St. Stephen's Church and a newspaper called "The Clarion." This generosity of details about the setting I find to be characteristic of the best radio soap operas.

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