Ford Theater

Originally aired January 18, 1948

Girl Crazy is a theater musical with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and book by Guy Bolton and Jack McGowan. It is remembered as the show that made stars of both Ginger Rogers (who, with Allen Kearns, sang “Could You Use Me?” and “Embraceable You” and, with Willie Howard, “But Not for Me”) and Ethel Merman (who sang “I Got Rhythm”, “Sam and Delilah”, and “Boy! What Love Has Done To Me!” ). It has been adapted twice for film, most notably in 1943 with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In that version, the roles played by Ginger Rogers and Ethel Merman were combined into one, played by Garland. It was revived (and heavily revised, with a completely new plot, and songs from other Gershwin shows added) in 1992 under the name Crazy for You. It features the greatest amount of hit songs by Gershwin in one Broadway show, and is the only one of the Gershwin musical comedies to be filmed more than once.

Ford Theater

471102 Ah Wilderness

Originally aired November  2,1947

A rather long podcast this week as I look at big budget radio programs. The Ford Theater was Ford’s second big budget program from the forties. This one was ambitious and no expense was spared. The dramas cast big name talent and ran for sixty minutes with minimal commercial time.

Ah, Wilderness! is a play by Eugene O’Neill, and has the distinction of being the only true comedy he would ever write. In contrast to O’Neill’s other, often tragic works, the overall tone of Ah, Wilderness! is rather sentimental and nostalgic.

The play takes place around the Fourth of July, 1906, and focuses on the Miller family of Connecticut. The main plot deals with the middle son, 17-year-old Richard, and his coming of age.

The title derives from Quatrain XI of Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which is one of Richard’s favorite poems.

The play was first produced on Broadway on October 2, 1933 at the Guild Theatre by The Theatre Guild, where it ran for 289 performances. The cast included George M. Cohan (Nat), Elisha Cook Jr. (Richard), Marjorie Marquis (Essie), and Eugene Lockhart (Sid).

The play was revived four times.

The story was also made into the 1959 Broadway musical Take Me Along starring Jackie Gleason as the drunken Uncle Sid (Beery’s role in the film), Walter Pidgeon as Nat and Robert Morse as Richard. The play ran for 448 performances. Gleason won the 1960 Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical.

Ah, Wilderness was made into a 1935 movie directed by Clarence Brown, starring Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Eric Linden, Cecilia Parker, and a young Mickey Rooney.