Many Hollywood stars extended their careers on radio, some of them also moving into television in its early years. Groucho Marx made frequent appearances not only on comedy-variety programs but on the rising genre of humorous quiz shows. In 1947 he became the host of ABC radio's popular You Bet Your Life , which made the transition to television in 1950 and ran until 1957. Ed Wynn started out in film, moved to radio and television, then played comic parts in a series of films in the 1950s and 1960s. Robert Young became established as a reliable second leading man in the 1930s and 1940s, then debuted the long-running Father Knows Best franchise on radio, before moving to television. Especially for Hollywood's extensive B-list starts, radio in the late 1940s became a springboard both to television fame and, less frequently, back toward greater eminence in the film business.
It was a set of Hollywood's secondary ladies who made the deepest mark on one of broadcasting's most enduring genres, the situation comedy, first on radio, then on television. Such B-list performers and comediennes as Lucille Ball, Dinah Shore, Joan Davis, Eve Arden, Hattie McDaniel, and Ann Sothern began by building up reputations as frequent radio guest stars in the 1930s and early 1940s. When World War II removed many male comedians from the air, as well as increasing the prominence and importance of the female audience at home, the film industry supplied key talent to move into prime time. Out of this conjunction the sitcom was born, taking comedy in a new direction—away from the stand-up, gag-based variety format and toward a new genre based on recurring characters in humorous situations, emphasizing domestic settings.
Joan Davis was the first to step into the leading-lady spotlight, as she moved from a supporting cast position on The Rudy Vallee Show in 1941 to primary status when Vallee left the program to go into the military in 1943. Renamed The Sealtest Village Store , it featured Davis as a frustrated, man-chasing spinster; she would go on to take the headline role in The Joan Davis Show on CBS in 1945, and from there to television in the sitcom I Married Joan (NBC, 1952–1955). Lucille Ball, the best-known of radio's film comediennes, moved, like Davis, from an RKO contract to star in My Favorite Husband (CBS, 1948–1951), though her fame came with the debut of I Love Lucy in 1950 on CBS-TV. Ann Sothern took her fame as the star of MGM's Maisie films to radio in a situation comedy of the same name in 1949; she went on to star in television sitcoms for the next twelve years. Eve Arden, who starred in a long line of B-movies from the 1920s through the 1940s, including a series of Republic Studios features based on the Lucky Strike Your Hit Parade radio series, debuted as Our Miss Brooks on CBS in 1948. Hattie McDaniel, the first African American actress to win an Emmy, for her role in Gone with the Wind (1939), made her radio headliner debut in the long-running Beulah in 1947. These pioneering woman-centered situation comedies used the star power of their Hollywood-based leading ladies to draw ever larger audiences to this new form, and to take them from radio to television in the early 1950s.
Other properties moved from film to radio, many of them adaptations from fiction or comics. Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man first mutated into a series of films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy beginning in 1937; it became a radio program in 1941 and later shifted to television. Series like The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet prospered in film, radio, and television formats. The film industry also came to increasingly rely on the star-producing capabilities of radio, with radio personalities starring in many popular Hollywood films.
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