The Women Who Made Television Funny

Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms

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About the Book

Most of the bright and talented actresses who made America laugh in the 1950s are off the air today, but their pioneering Hollywood careers irrevocably changed the face of television comedy. These smart and sassy women successfully negotiated the hazards of the male-dominated workplace with class and humor, and the work they did in the 1950s is inventive still by today’s standards. Unable to fall back on strong language, shock value, or racial and sexual epithets, the female sitcom stars of the 1950s entertained with pure talent and screen savvy. As they did so, they helped to lay the foundation for the development of television comedy.
This book pays tribute to 10 prominent television actresses who played lead roles in popular comedy shows of the 1950s. Each chapter covers the works and personalities of one actress: Lucille Ball (I Love Lucy), Gracie Allen (The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show), Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks), Spring Byington (December Bride), Joan Davis (I Married Joan), Anne Jeffreys (Topper), Donna Reed (The Donna Reed Show), Ann Sothern (Private Secretary and The Ann Sothern Show), Gale Storm (My Little Margie and The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna), and Betty White (Life with Elizabeth). For each star, a career sketch is provided, concentrating primarily on her television work but also noting achievements in other areas. Appendices offer cast and crew lists, a chronology, and an additional biographical sketch of 10 less familiar actresses who deserve recognition.

About the Author(s)

David C. Tucker is the author of numerous books about classic film and television history. A retired public library administrator, he lives outside Atlanta, Georgia.

Bibliographic Details

David C. Tucker
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 215
Bibliographic Info: 41 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2900-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8732-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Introduction      1

1. GRACIE ALLEN      5

2. EVE ARDEN      21

3. LUCILLE BALL      39

4. SPRING BYINGTON      59

5. JOAN DAVIS      75

6. ANNE JEFFREYS      93

7. DONNA REED      109

8. ANN SOTHERN      125

9. GALE STORM      141

10. BETTY WHITE      157

Appendix I: Casts and Credits      173

Appendix II: Chronology      179

Appendix III: Ten More Leading Ladies      183

Chapter Notes      187

Selected Bibliography      193

Index      195

Book Reviews & Awards

“David C. Tucker is one of McFarland’s very best authors. Not only does he write well, his research skills are impeccable.”—Classic Images; “soundly researched…compelling”—The Old Radio Times; “gripping…a class act”—Chattanooga Airwaves; “pays tribute to 10 prominent television actresses”—New Books in the Communications Library; “filled with interesting details and anecdotes…recommended”—Georgia Library Quarterly.