One Man's Family
"...Dedicated to the mothers and fathers of the younger generation, and to their bewildering offspring..."
Renowned radio playwright Carlton E. Morse is certainly no stranger to fans of old time radio, with a resume of programs that includes "I Love a Mystery," "His Honor the Barber," and "Family Skeleton". However, it is his long-running radio serial "One Man's Family" - a Peabody Award-winning ode to domesticity - that stands out as his greatest creation; from April 29, 1932 to May 8, 1959 this prestigious half-hour drama entertained audiences with a weekly examination into the lives of an authentic (if extremely well-off) American family, the Barbours of Sea Cliff, San Francisco.
Morse, who had been hired by NBC in San Francisco to write "blood-and-thunder" radio serials, pitched the idea of a drama about a close-knit San Francisco clan to his reluctant network bosses, having been inspired by John Galsworthy's "The Forsythe Saga." The powers that be weren't particularly sold on the concept and, in fact, told the writer-director-producer to be prepared for a quick cancellation. But the show caught on in a big way with radio audiences; shortly after its local debut it was assigned a berth on the NBC West Coast Network and went coast-to-coast a year later in 1933. At the height of its popularity - it garnered a C.A.B. rating of 28.7 in its 1939-40 season - it was securely nestled among the nation's top five radio programs. In 1949, when the show's longtime sponsor, Standard Brands, announced it was pulling out, the NBC network found itself inundated with 75,000 letters of support; the show soldiered on, sustained, until the format was changed to a five-day-a-week quarter-hour beginning in June of 1950.
The first program introduced the seven members that at that time made up the Barbour brood, including patriarch Henry (J. Anthony Smythe), a conservative stockbroker who ruled with an iron hand, and his wife Fanny (Minetta Ellen), a sweet and gentle soul who generally supported her husband but effectively kept his excesses in check. Their offspring were eldest son Paul (Michael Raffetto), oldest daughter Hazel (Bernice Berwin), twins Clifford (Barton Yarborough) and Claudia (Kathleen Wilson) and youngest son Jack (Page Gilman). Morse cast in these roles actors with whom he was personally acquainted, and many of their character's traits were liberally borrowed from the performers themselves. The cast also maintained an impressive degree of longevity working on the series; the original seven stuck together for close to 11 years and two of them - Smythe and Gilman - went the entire distance from debut to cancellation.
By the time "One Man's Family" ended its twenty-seven year run, the population on the show numbered nearly 100 characters; Barbour family members not only were overly marriage-minded but bred like rabbits as well. Interestingly, in spite of the show's reputation as the epitome of decency and family values, listeners often mailed letters in protest of the frequency of the program's characters to play dramatic scenes in b-e-d. Indeed, much of Morse's output - in which it's none-too-subtly hinted that many members of the Barbour clan are a tad on the dysfunctional side - remains surprisingly contemporary; in an essay on the show written by radio historian Elizabeth McLeod, it's pointed out that a 1949-51 storyline that examines the romantic fixation Paul Barbour's ward Teddy had on her benefactor was very much ahead of its time. "That Morse was able to treat such a psychologically-complex, highly-charged, relentlessly adult storyline as delicately as he did - and yet as powerful as he did - is true testimony to his skill as a dramatist," she rightfully asserts.
"One Man's Family" has often been dismissed as just glossy soap opera, but Morse's superior scripting and dramatic scope often allowed the show to transcend that genre. Raised on Radio author Gerald Nachman observes, "It could be as sentimental, saccharine and romantic as soap opera, but it was rarely as melodramatic, as full of soap operatic agony, dark, dire events, preposterous coincidences, wrenching plot twists, and the overwrought ladies' magazine-fiction tone of routine soaps." The series worked more as a continuous radio novel, with its episodes set up as "book" and "chapters", and concentrated more on characterizations than plot. As Morse himself once explained, "Plot didn't worry me. Plots always come to me out of the relationships."
"One Man's Family" became fully rooted in the pop culture of its time and was often parodied by radio comedians, including Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, who paid it tribute with their uproarious parodies of the lives of "Butcher" clan in "One Fella's Family." ("Fanny, Fanny, Fanny..." "Oh, shut up and stop mumbling, you senile old man!") Like so many programs of radio's Golden Age, it tried to spread its wings and garner further success on television - twice, in fact, with a prime-time run from 1949 to 1952 which included the likes of Eva Marie Saint, Tony Randall and Mercedes McCambridge in the cast and a daytime version during the 1954-55 season.
"My own sorrow is not so much in the cessation of the show as such as in the put out," lamented creator Morse to a Los Angeles newspaper reporter shortly after the show concluded its lengthy radio run with Chapter 30, Book 141 on May 8, 1959. "One more marker has been torn down...the sign posts for sound family life are now few, and I feel like the loss of "One Man's Family" is just another abandoned lighthouse".
Gone...but certainly not forgotten, as Radio Archives is pleased to present nearly six hours of original radio broadcasts from the pen of Carlton E. Morse and Harlan Ware. Twenty-one original episodes, including four previously unavailable broadcasts direct from newly discovered 16" lacquer discs (one of which contains an amusing "blooper"), one half-hour broadcast from December, 1941 and sixteen other digitally restored episodes.
Book 40, Chapter 13: The Last of 1941
Sunday, December 28, 1941 - 30:00 - NBC Red, sponsored by Tenderleaf Tea
Book 98, Chapter 3: The Barbours Sweat It Out
Wednesday, September 24, 1952 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Miles Laboratories
Book 99, Chapter 21: The Practical Aspect of Christmas
Monday, December 15, 1952 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Miles Laboratories
Book 99, Chapter 22: Margaret's Triumph
Tuesday, December 16, 1952 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Miles Laboratories
Book 99, Chapter 27: Paul Arrives For Christmas
Tuesday, December 23, 1952 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Miles Laboratories
Book 125, Chapter 46: The Cure (AFRTS #206)
Monday, March 4, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 125, Chapter 47: Final Proposition (AFRTS #207)
Tuesday, March 5, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 125, Chapter 48: The Unsigned Document (AFRTS #208)
Wednesday, March 6, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 125, Chapter 49: The Letter in the Wastebasket (AFRTS #209)
Thursday, March 7, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 126, Chapter 16: Certified Mail for Henry Barbour (AFRTS #231)
Monday, April 8, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 126, Chapter 17: Talk of a Wedding (AFRTS #232)
Tuesday, April 9, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 126, Chapter 18: A Moment of Indiscretion (AFRTS #233)
Wednesday, April 10, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 126, Chapter 19: Questionnaire at Midnight (AFRTS #234)
Thursday, April 11, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 126, Chapter 31: Father Barbour Congratulates the Opposition (AFRTS #246)
Monday, April 29, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 126, Chapter 32: A Crowded Day at the Barbours (AFRTS #247)
Tuesday, April 30, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 126, Chapter 33: New Move in an Old Game (AFRTS #248)
Wednesday, May 1, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 126, Chapter 34: The Forgotten Birthday (AFRTS #249)
Thursday, May 2, 1957 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 129, Chapter 55: Report from Pebble Beach (AFRTS #456)
Friday, March 14, 1958 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 129, Chapter 56: Lost in the Fog (AFRTS #457)
Monday, March 17, 1958 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 129, Chapter 57: An Eight-Car Collision (AFRTS #458)
Tuesday, March 18, 1958 - 15:00 - AFRTS
Book 129, Chapter 58: The Truth About Andy (AFRTS #459)
Wednesday, March 19, 1958 - 15:00 - AFRTS