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Original Electric Theater header art

The Electric Theater Radio Program

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The Electric Theater premiere spot ad from October 3 1948
The Electric Theater premiere spot ad from October 3 1948

The Electric Theater spot ad from January 8 1949
The Electric Theater spot ad from January 8 1949

Billboard magazine review of 'Victoria Regina' on Electric Theater from November 27 1948
Billboard magazine review of 'Victoria Regina' on Electric Theater from November 27 1948

From the May 27, 1949 Portsmouth Times:

Radio In Review

 Soporifics With Helen Hayes
      ELECTRIC THEATER, on CBS at 6 p.m. Sundays, has two strikes against it.
     The two strikes, respectively, are Walter Winchell on ABC at the same time and some awfully potent television competition.  Still, it's doing fairly well--not because of any great merit or its dramas but because of the presence of Helen Hayes.
     Miss Hayes is one of the first ladies of the theater--I have more sense than to nominate any one actress as the first--and she also has toured extensively, sometimes penetrating into remote vastnesses of America where even radio is barely known.  Her theater audience isn't confined to Manhattan.
     Also, she's one of the few stage luminaries who is really experienced in radio acting.  In one respect she's unique.  She plays a wide assortment of roles on this program and, in each case, she succeeds in being the character as written and also quite distinctly Helen Hayes.
      PURISTS MAY complain that this is a bad precedent for an actress of Miss Hayes' stature, that she ought to be exclusively character and leave Miss Hayes home with Charles MacArthur.  But the purists probably haven't listened to Electric Theater.     Many of the characters Miss Hayes is asked to play are of such low wattage that it takes a booster charge to galvanize them into some resemblance of people.
       At various times, Miss Hayes has portrayed a colored mammy in the deep South, a naive but determined school teacher, the London suburban housewife of Noel Coward's "Brief Encounter", and a woman of Growing Awareness if you know what I mean and if you don't I'll explain.
      A WOMAN of Growing Awareness is one who is charmed by a strange man in a subway station (he retrieves her purse) or a saloon where she goes to telephone (he rescues her from a drunk) or a midtown street corner (he gives her directions) and then marries him a week later after a whirlwind courtship mostly conducted on the roller coaster at Coney Island.
     Gradually she Grows Aware.  There is something awfully fishy about her husband.  He spends all his time in the cellar, digging.  He disappears for weeks at a time, visiting his mother, he says.  When he returns, he carries a lean box bearing the works hydrochloric acid, in which, he explains, are his dirty shirts which he plans to wash personally in the cellar.
     After 20 minutes if this is radio, at the end of the second act if it's a play, Page 212 if it's a book, she says:  "Why are you staring at me that way?"
      THAT IS A WOMAN of Growing Awareness.  So widespread is this role it's become almost a separate branch of the acting profession.  It ought to have its own union.
     Miss Hayes, I should say, Grew Aware as artfully as the job can be done.  Her Awareness was as gradual and inevitable as an eclipse of the moon.
     Most of her dramas are brimming with romance and many of them have cute endings--much too cute for my taste.  They're not bad, but they're not for me.  I had them tentatively labeled as women's fare, but my wife indignantly has rejected that suggestion.  She finds them inedible, too.
     So lets just call them soporifics, candy coated and non-habit forming.

(copyright 1949, New York Tribune)

     John Crosby, Radio curmudgeon extraordinaire, was at his best reviewing programs that he didn't like.

     With all due respect to the author of the above article, I must disagree with John Crosby's assessment of Electric Theater and of Helen Hayes.  While he is a fine writer, after reading so many of his articles over the past year, it seems he just doesn't like anything.  I wonder if he wasn't paid to bestow mediocre reviews on everything so the listening audience would tune in just to see what was so distasteful about the series he was reviewing.

     Electric Theater was another starring vehicle for Helen Hayes, much the same as Textron Theatre in 1945.  It featured Miss Hayes in both original radio dramas created especially for her, as well as adaptations of stage hits for which she had already won great acclaim.  In fact, in response to a flood of listener requests, she did a repeat of a broadcast of one of her most memorable performances in Textron Theatre, "My Little Boy." 

     While Helen Hayes was unavailable to star in the first six productions (she was in London fulfilling a stage commitment, appearing in "The Glass Menagerie") some of Hollywood's best and brightest stars, Henry Fonda, Basil Rathbone, Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall, Marlene Dietrich, Jessica Tandy, and Louis Calhern stepped in to get the series started in grand fashion.  CBS apparently spared no expense with the supporting cast, either, with talent like James Lipton, Richard Kollmar, Parker Fennelly, Ralph Camargo, Anne Seymour, Bernard Lenrow, Lyle Sudrow and Arlene Francis, among others.

     The shows were superbly adapted by Robert Cenedella from the best works of both classic and contemporary authors such as Stephen Vincent Benet, Sinclair Lewis, Charles Tazewell, Booth Tarkington and Joesph Cochran, with several of the productions written especially for Miss Hayes.  Add to that the wonderful music of Vladimir Selinsky, and you have a winning combination. 

     The production began airing on October 3, 1948 and ran for 35 weeks without pre-emption.  CBS and Helen Hayes had planned for another season to begin in the fall of 1949.  CBS began promoting the new season in early September, with a supposed start date of 9 October.  On 28 September, the network announced the start date would be delayed until late October due to the death of Miss Hayes' 19 year-old daughter, Mary MacArthurHelen Hayes confirmed that her radio show would go on, despite the tragedy.  Then, as the new late-October start date approached, Helen Hayes announced she had decided to forego any further radio commitments to devote all her time to her private life.

     We have no doubt, had Miss Hayes continued with a second season, it would have been at least the equal of the wonderful first season.  Helen Hayes instilled her own personal grace and dignity into every performance she did, and it showed.  Hopefully, more of these "lost" shows will turn up in the future so we may have the pleasure of hearing more of this extraordinary actress' long-forgotten performances again.  Meantime, we take great pleasure in the few episodes we have of Electric Theater, and celebrate one of the finest and most beloved acting talents of the Golden Age. 

Series Derivatives:

AFRS Globe Theatre; Helen Hayes Theater
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Dramas
Network(s): CBS; The AFRS
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): None
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 48-10-03 01 One Sunday Afternoon
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 48-10-03 to 49-05-29; CBS; Thirty-five, 30-minute programs; Sundays at 9:00 p.m.
Sponsors: Independent Light and Power Companies
Director(s): Joseph R. Stauffer [Producer]
Lester O'Keefe
Principal Actors: Helen Hayes, Henry Fonda, Basil Rathbone, Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall, Marlene Dietrich, Jessica Tandy, Louis Calhern, James Lipton, Horace Braham, John Williams, Lester Fletcher, Dick Kollmar, James Monks Jr., Martin Gabel, Evelyn Varden, Bradley Barker, Torin Thatcher, Islay Benson, Maurice Wells, Cherry Harding, William Podmore, Parker Fennelly, Gladys Thornton, Ralph Camargo, Hedley Rainnie, Dorothy Francis, Anne Seymour, Thomas Heaphy, Bernard Lenrow, Jo Gilbert, Mary MacArthur, Lyle Sudrow, Katharine Raht, Arlene Francis, Lauren Gilbert, John Morley, Myron McCormick
Recurring Character(s): None
Protagonist(s): None
Author(s): Lawrence Houseman, Stephen Vincent Benet, Charles Tazewell, Sinclair Lewis, Matt Taylor, John Van Druten, Samuel Raphaelson, Booth Tarkington, Harriet Washburn, Maxwell Anderson, Joseph Cochran
Writer(s) Carl Ewald, Harold Jedica Taub [Writers]
Robert Cenedella [Adapter]
Music Direction: Vladimir Selinsky [Composer/Conductor]
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Joe Ripley
Helen Hayes [Host]
Sydney Smith [Narrator]
William Johnstone [AFRS Host]
Estimated Scripts or
Episodes in Circulation: 3
Total Episodes in Collection: 3
RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.

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The Electric Theater Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
One Sunday Afternoon
48-10-03 Nebraska State Journal - Tonight, at 8 p.m. over KFAB, Henry Fonda will be the first of six pinch-hitters for Helen Hayes who must forego her first half-dozen broadcasts in order to fill commitments on the London Stage. Now making a big hit in the current Broadway play, "Mr. Roberts," Fonda will start the "Electric Theater" series in James Hagen's gay comedy, "One Sunday Afternoon."

48-10-03 Syracuse Herald Journal - PREMIER PLAY on the CBS Electric Theater at 9 tonight over WFBL will be James Hagen's comedy, "One Sunday Afternoon," starring Henry Fonda. Helen Hayes, permanent star of the program, will return Nov. 14 from England, where she is appearing in "The Glass Menagerie." Substituting on the series, besides Fonda, will be Basil Rathbone, Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall, Marlene Dietrich and another star, yet unchosen.
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse
48-10-10 Syracuse Herald Journal - 9:00 P.M.--WFBL--Electric Theatre, starring Basil Rathbone in "Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse."
48-10-17 Syracuse Herald Journal - 9:00 P.M.--WFBL--Electric Theatre, starring Margaret Sullavan in "Rebound."
The Admirable Crichton
48-10-23 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) "Electric Theater" presents "The Admirable Crichton" starring Herbert Marshall. Distinguished guest stars are being featured until Helen Hayes joins the show as permanent star.
The Lady Is Willing
48-10-31 Nebraska State Journal - GLAMOROUS Marlene Dietrich recreates her starring screen success in the sparkling comedy "The Lady Is Willing," on the Electric Theater program tonight. The story, based on a Broadway leading lady who steals a baby, will be heard over KFAB at 8:00.
Accent On Youth
48-11-06 Mason City Globe-Gazette - (8 p.m.) Stars of 2 current Broadway hits--Jessica Tandy and Louis Calhern--are costarred in the comedy "Accent on Youth."
Victoria Regina
48-11-14 Long Beach Press-Telegram - 7:00--KNX--"Victoria Regina," Helen Hayes' greatest stage success was something she didn't even want to read at first will be aired here on the "Electric Theater."
The Sobbin' Women
48-11-20 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) On her 2nd broadcast as permanent star of "Electric Theater," Helen Hayes stars in an amusing short story "The Sobbin' Women."
Angel Street
48-11-28 Long Beach Press-Telegram - 7:00--KNX--Helen Hayes stars as victim of a cheating husband in "Angel Street" on the "Electric Theater."
Dark Victory
48-12-04 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) Helen Hayes stars in "Dark Victory," the poignant love story of a woman who knows she has only a few months to live, on "Electric Theater."
What Every Woman Knows
48-12-11 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) Helen Hayes recreates her memorable role of stage and screen in the comedy "What Every Woman Knows" on "Electric Theater."
The Littlest Angel
48-12-18 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) Helen Hayes recreates a memorable broadcast of a few seasons ago when she narrates Charles Tazewell's touching Christmas story "The Littlest Angel" on "Electric Theater."
The Second Sarah Siddons
48-12-24 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) Helen Hayes portrays Fanny Kemble in "The Second Sarah Siddons," an original radio drama on "Electric Theater."
48-12-30 Cumberland Evening Times - Helen Hayes will appear in "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis, in the Sunday broadcast of the Electric Theater over the Columbia network. Some years ago she starred with Ronald Colman in the movie version of the famous story.
Being Nice To Emily
49-01-08 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) Helen Hayes stars in a delightfl comedy, "Being Nice to Emily," adapted from a short story by Matt Taylor.
Young Woodley
49-01-13 Cumberland Evening Times - Helen Hayes, star of the Electric Theatre, will play the part of the heroine adaptation of "Young Woodley" to be presented on this program Sunday, January 16, at 9 pl.m. EST over the CBS network. She will appear in the only feminine role in the John Van Druten drama that had a successful run on Broadway. The part of "Young Woodley" will be played by James Lipton, with the remainder of the cast including Horace Braham, John Williams and Lester Fletcher. Action of the play takes place at a boys' school in England. The charms of Miss Hayes, in the role of the young wife of a much older schoolmaster, cause the shy "Young Woodley" to fall in love with her.
49-01-20 Cumberland Evening Times - Helen Hayes will be starred in a radio adaptation of Samuel Raphaelson's famous broadway play, "Skylark," on the Electric Theater Sunday, January 23, at 9 p.m. EST over the CBS network. Miss Hayes' leading man will be Dick Kollmar, popular as a Broadway and radio actor and well known as co-star of the "Dorothy Kilgallen and Dick" husband-and-wife radio show. James Monks, Jr., another Broadway and radio actor who appeared with Miss Hayes in "The Sobbin' Women" alwo will appear in the cast. In this play Miss Hayes will be cast as the wife of a progressive advertising executive who jeopardizes his marriage by his devotion to his business and success. A tenth wedding anniversary party given by Lydia and Tony Kenyon, the central characters, brings to a climax their domestic troubles.
The Enemy
49-01-27 Cumberland Evening Times - Helen Hayes again will have Martin Gabel as her leading man when he plays opposite her in a radio adaptation of the short story "The Enemy" on the Electric Theater, Sunday, January 30, at 9 p.m. EST over the CBS network. Gabel, a well known radio and Broadway actor, appeared with Miss Hayes in "Angel Street," recently presented on the Electric Theater. Miss Hayes will be cast as "Rose Dodge," a retired school teacher, in this psychological drama adapted for radio by Therese Lewis from Nelia Gardner White's short story. Only other feminine member of the cast will be Evelyn Varden. Bradley Barker, well known animal imitator, will take part of a dog. The story of bruised emotions in childhood that affected her whole life is unfolded as "Rose Dodge," after retiring to a New England village, comes in contact with a neighbor whom she feels persecutes her in his effort to break down her self sufficiency.
The Ghost and Mrs Muir
49-02-03 Cumberland Evening Times - Helen Hayes will star in the delightful story of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir on the Electric Theatre Sunday, February 6, at 9 p.m. EST over the CBS network. Playing opposite her as the Ghost will be Torin Thatcher of the Broadway hit, "Edward, My Son," who also appeared with Miss Hayes on teh Electric Theatre in "The Second Sarah Siddons" last December. A Lucy Muir, Miss Hayes will be the young English widow whose life is dominated by her brother and his wife who are devoid of imagination or romance. Given a little money of her own, Lucy Muir sets forth to live alone and she selects a seacoast cottage that has a ghost, known only to her. Lucy Muir and the Ghost become friends, she learns that he was a sea captain and when she loses her money and cannot buy the house as she had hoped, he suggests they join in writing a book. The writing of the book of his gusty sea experiences and its subsequent publication provide amusing situations. The assisting cast will include Islay Benson, Maurice Wells, Cherry Hardy and William Podmore.
The Wren
49-02-10 Cumberland Evening Times - "The Wren," a play that was written especially for Helen Hayes by Booth Tarkington, has been chosen by the star of the Electric Theatre for her vehicle on this program Sunday, February 13, at 9 p.m. EST over the CBS network. This was one of Miss Hayes' early Broadway successes and has been adapted for radio by Robert Cenedella. Miss Hayes' leading man will be Donald Murphy, actor who appeared earlier in the season with Miss Hayes in an adaptation of "Accent on Youth." Others in the cast will be Parker Fennelly, best known in radio for his "Titus Moody" character, Gladys Thornton and Ralph Camargo. As the little wren-like school teacher who, in her quiet way, runs her father's boarding house in Maine, Miss Hayes will add another to her variety of roles on the Electric Theatre. Before the final curtain the little teacher also manages several characters about her plus a romance for herself.
The Recluse
49-02-17 Cumberland Evening Times - Helen Hayes will star in "The Recluse," a story written especially for the "Electric Theatre," Sunday, February 20, at 9 p.m. EST over the CBS network. Harriet Washburn, a St. Paul woman, wrote this dramatic script that has been adapted for the Electric Theatre by Robert Cenedella. A cast of well known radio actors and actresses will support Miss Hayes who will be cast as the central figure, Sarah Taylor, an aging recluse who is found in her cluttered home suffering a broken hip. When she is about to die her mumblings about a necklace lead to the unfolding of her life story by the doctor attending her. Miss Hayes' leading man will be Hedley Rainnie and the remainder of the cast will include Dorothy Francis, Anne Seymour, Thomas Heaphy, Bernard Lenrow and Jo Gilbert.
The Damask Cheek
49-02-24 Cumberland Evening Times - A sparkling cast of well known names including her daughter, Mary MacArthur, will join Helen Hayes in the Electric Theatre adaptation of John Van Druten's comedy of manners, "The Damask Cheek," Sunday, February 27, at 9 p.m. EST over the CBS network. Miss Hayes' leading man will be Lyle Sudrow and others in teh cast will be Katharine Raht, best known in radio as "Mrs. Aldrich" of the famous "Aldrich Family," Arlene Francis, well known Broadway and radio actress; Mary MacArthur, and Lauren Gilbert. Sydney Smith, prominent radio and Broadway actor, will be narrator.
A Study In Charcoal
49-03-06 Nebraska State Journal - Helen Hays, Electric Theatre hostess, will headline an all-star cast in "A Study In Charcoal," a story of a hillbilly wife who suddenly rebels when she realizes her married life has been spent in drudgery--KFAB, 8 o'clock.
Autumn Crocus
49-03-13 Long Beach Press-Telegram - 6:00-KNX-Helen Hayes acts as a schoolmarm in quest of romance on the "Electric Theater" presentation of "Autumn Crocus."
Saturday's Children
49-03-07 News - Helen Hayes, to whom Newsweek recently devoted two full pages, will be heard in four well-known productions on the Electric Theater, Sundays at nine p.m. on the Columbia Broadcasting System. These dramas, part of the Electric Theatre series starring Miss Hayes, will include: March 20 "Saturday's Children"; March 27 "Farmer Takes a Wife"; April 3, "Shadow on the Heart"; April 10, "Manhattan Pastoral." 49-03-19 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) Helen Hayes will be starred in a Maxwell Anderson play, "Saturday's Children."
The Farmer Takes A Wife
49-03-26 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) The versatile and charming Helen Hayes will be starred in an American folk comedy, "The Farmer Takes A Wife." Her leading man for this radio adaptation of a former Broadway play will be John Morley.
Shadow On the Heart
49-04-02 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) The inimitable Helen Hayes will be starred in a tender love story, "Shadow on the Heart."
My Little Boy
49-04-09 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) In response to a flood of listener requests, Helen Hayes will repeat her memorable performance of "My Little Boy" on Electric Theater.
The Seven Miracles Of Gubbio
49-04-16 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) The first radio performance of "The Seven Miracles of Gubbio," an allegory of the miracles of St. Francis of Assisi, will be given by Helen Hayes on "Electric Theater."
Manhattan Pastorale
49-04-23 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) The First Lady of the Theater, Helen Hayes, plays the role of a smalltown school-teacher who finds more excitement than she bargained for when she visits New York.
Brief Encounter
49-05-01 Long Beach Press-Telegram
9:00-KNX--Noel Coward's simple yet spectacular story, "Brief Encounter," has been chosen by Helen Hayes for the Electric Threater presentation.
No Room For Peter Pan
49-05-08 Democrat And Leader - 7:00 O'CLOCK, Electric Theater--Helen Hayes in "No Room for Peter Pan"--CBS-WBBM.
Love From A Stranger
49-05-15 Democrat And Leader - 7:00 O'CLOCK, Electric Theater--Helen Hayes in "Love from a Stranger"--WBBM.
My Favorite Wife
49-05-22 Portland Press Herald - Tonight Helen Hayes and Myron McCormick team up in the delightful comedy, "My Favorite Wife". This program is brought to you ovre WGAN by the Electric Light & Power Companies.
His Name Is Jason
49-05-28 Mason City Globe-Gazette - Sunday (8 p.m.) Helen Hayes will star in an original radio drama by Joseph Cochran titled "His Name Is Jason," concluding Electric Theater's current season. Miss Hayes will return to CBS in this series next fall.

49-09-28 Syracuse Herald Journal
THE RETURN of Helen Hayes' Electric Theater program which was scheduled for Oct. 9, has been postponed dur to the death of Miss Hayes' 19 year-old daughter Mary MacArthur, in New York last week. The new starting date will probably be late in October.

49-10-02 Cedar Rapids Gazette - Helen Hayes will see that her radio show goes on--despite the loss of her only daughter, Mary MacArthur, recently. However, resumption of her "Electric Theater" series will be postponed for awhile--probably until the last of the month.

49-10-22 Syracuse Herald Journal - HELEN HAYES has decided to forego any regular radio commitments this season, and intends to devote all her time to her private life. She made the decision following the tragic death of her daughter, 19-year-old Mary AMacArthur last month. Miss Hayes was to have started her "Electric Theater" winter series on Oct. 9.
Meet Corliss Archer, a comedy series starring Janet Waldo, which had substituted for the Electric Theater during the summer, will continue in the 9 P.M. spot on CBS Sunday nights.

AFRS H-5 'Globe Theatre' Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
My Little Boy

The Electric Theater Radio Program Biographies

Helen Hayes Brown

Stage, Screen, Television and Radio Actor

Birthplace: Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

1933 Fleischmann's Yeast Hour
1937 Benefit For the American Red Cross
1937 NBC Presents Eugene O'Neill
1938 Rally For the National Foundation For Infantile Paralysis
1938 Silver Theater
1939 Campbell Playhouse
1939 Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
1940 Cavalcade Of America
1940 Lux Radio Theatre
1941 Helen Hayes Theatre
1941 Young America Wants To Help
1942 Dear Adolph
1942 The March Of Time
1942 Treasury Star Parade
1944 Radio Hall Of Fame
1944 Something For the Girls
1945 Textron Theater
1946 Victory Clothing Collection
1946 Radio Reader's Digest
1946 Stars In the Afternoon
1946 These Are My People
1947 BOrn In A Merry Hour
1947 Theatre Guild On the Air
1948 Electric Theatre
1949 Voice Of the Army
1949 Ford Theatre
1950 You Can Be An Angel
1950 The Quick and the Dead
1951 I Took It Lying Down
1952 A Letter To Joan
1952 NBC Symphony Orchestra
1952 Best Plays
1953 This I Believe
1953 Medicine U.S.A.
1953 The Korea Story
1954 Anthology
1954 Hallmark Hall Of Fame
1954 Salute To Eugene O'Neil
1955 Biography In Sound
1955 The Tex and Jinx Show
1955 What Christmas Means To Me
1956 CBS Radio Workshop
1957 Recollections At Thirty
1959 Eleanor Roosevelt Diamond Jubilee
Adventures Of A Quarter
Helen Hayes with famed Stage actor William Gillette in 1918
Helen Hayes with famed Stage actor William Gillette in 1918

Helen Hayes circa 1928
Helen Hayes circa 1928

Helen Hayes with husband, playwright Charles MacArthur circa 1928
Helen Hayes with husband playwright Charles MacArthur circa 1928

Helen Hayes circa 1931
Helen Hayes circa 1931

Helen Hayes holding her first Oscar for The Sin of Madelon Claudet circa 1932
Helen Hayes holding her first Oscar for The Sin of Madelon Claudet circa 1932

Helen Hayes as a young Victoria Regina in the Hanna Theatre production of the same name (1937)
Helen Hayes as a young Victoria Regina in the Hanna Theatre production of the same name (1937)

Helen Hayes as an aged Victoria Regina in the Hanna Theatre production of the same name (1937)
Helen Hayes as an aged Victoria Regina in the Hanna Theatre production of the same name (1937)

Helen Hayes circa 1955
Helen Hayes circa 1955

Helen Hayes circa 1980
Helen Hayes circa 1980
From the September 18, 1993 Titusville Herald, Titusville, PA:

First Lady of the American Theater, Actress Helen Hayes, Dies at Age 92

     NYACK, N.Y. (AP) — Helen Hayes, who won the highest honors of stage, screen and television and was dubbed "First Lady of the American Theater," died Wednesday.  She was 92.
     Miss Hayes was brought to Nyack Hospital, in this New York suburb where she made her home, early last week suffering from congestive heart failure.  Her death was announced by hospital spokeswoman Nancy Kriz.
     Miss Hayes made her professional debut at age 5.  Her career spanned eight decades and roles ranged from Little Lord Fauntleroy to Queen Victoria to the cantankerous passenger in "Airport," for which she won an Oscar. 
     She received three Tonys and an Emmy as well as two Oscars, and in 1981 was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement.  In 1980, she was selected as one of 10 American artists to be commemorated on a gold medallion issued by the Treasury Department.
     Despite her size — she was 5 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds — she brought lofty command to historical roles, and she added grace and mischief to parts as ingénues and elderly sleuths.
     "Victoria Regina," in which Miss Hayes played 80 years of Queen Victoria's life in 2 1/2 hours, was among her greatest triumphs. It opened on Broadway in December 1935.  She starred in the role for 517 performances on Broadway, and played it more than 400 times more in a 1937-38 tour that grossed an unheard of $1.2 million at the box office.  "Even if you don't make it as an actor, it's an act of courage to try," she once said.
     Miss Hayes left the theater in 1971, after 66 years, because of allergies to dust that aggravated chronic bronchitis. But she always said the theater was still her first love.  "Sometimes the audience is annoying, sometimes they go to sleep and snore," she said. "But sometimes they're a true inspiration."
     "As a performer, I yearn for the personal connection with an audience, and the theater is the only place you can get it," she said.  After leaving the stage, she continued to work before the camera and was active in a number of causes, including the rights of the aged.
     She said she enjoyed old age, "the dividend, years," and joked that she expected to live to be 100.  "I came in with the century and I don't think it's polite to leave it without my escort," she said in 1987.
     Miss Hayes denied stardom meant greatness and poked fun at her fame. "When I get panicky at rehearsals," she said in 1966, "I reassure myself, 'No, they wouldn't dare fire me. It would be like spitting on the American Flag."'  Her first Tony Award came in 1947 for her performance in "Happy Birthday" and the second in 1958 for 'Time Remembered." The third, in 1980, was for lifetime achievement.
     Among other notable plays were "What Every Woman Knows" in 1926, "The Good Fairy" in 1931, "Mary of Scotland" in 1933, "Ladies and Gentlemen" in 1939, "Candle in the Wind" in 1941, 'The Wisteria Tree" in 1950 and "Mrs. McThine" in 1952.
     At age 55, she had a Broadway theater named for her, an honor accorded no other living actress except Ethel Barrymore. After a battle that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Helen Hayes was torn down in 1982 to make way for a hotel, but another theater was renamed in her honor.
     Miss Hayes made her first movie appearance, apart from an occasional silent film, in 1931 in 'The Sin of Madelon Claudet." The film, written by her husband, playwright Charles MacArthur, won Miss Hayes the Academy Award as best actress.  "Airport" won her a supporting actress Oscar in 1970.  She also appeared in "Arrowsmith," "A Farewell to Arms" and "Anastasia."  A television Emmy, in 1952, was for no specific performance, but followed a season in which she appeared in three live dramas on the "Schlitz Playhouse." In her 70s, she starred as a title character in the "Snoop Sisters" TV mysteries.  She also played the detective Miss Marple in TV movies in 1982 and 1983.
     The unlikeliest of her awards was a recording-industry Grammy in 1976 for a record on which she read the Bill of Rights. "Duller reading you never heard, but I was thrilled," she said. "I felt like a country and western singer."
     She was born Helen Hayes Brown on Oct. 10, 1900, in Washington, D.C., daughter of a wholesale butcher company manager, and was sent to dancing school to correct pigeon toes.  Lew Fields, a Broadway producer, saw her in a school play and told her mother to train her for the stage.
     In 1905, Miss Hayes debuted professionally as Prince Charles in a Washington stock company production of 'The Royal Family.'  A number of child roles followed in the capital before she made her Broadway bow at age 9 in Fields’ production of "Old Dutch."  Star billing came in 1920 in "Bab," subtitled 'The Sub-Deb." 
     She and MacArthur married in 1928, and the marriage lasted until his death in 1956. Miss Hayes insisted a responsibility of stardom was that "your personal life must be above reproach."  They had a daughter, Mary, in 1930. She died of polio at age 19, shortly before opening on Broadway in a play with her mother.  The couple also adopted a son, James, who became a movie and television actor known for his role in the 1970s detective series "Hawaii Five-0."  The family lived in Nyack, on the Hudson River 20 miles north of New York.

As is often the case, the above obituary failed to mention Helen Hayes' extraordinary Radio career. Contemporary journalists can, we suppose, be forgiven the oversight. But however the oversight occured, it doesn't discount Miss Hayes' extraordinary contributions to The Golden Age of Radio.

In addition to fifteen years of starring in her own radio programs between 1935 and 1950, Helen Hayes made frequent appearances in the finest, most prestigious dramatic programs of the era. Indeed, between 1933 and 1956 Helen Hayes made over 500 appearances over Radio. Given her extraordinary reputation, popularity and legendary acting talent, each of her appearances on Radio were met with considerable promotion and fanfare.

Among her many repeat performances over Radio, she compiled:

  • Four appearances on Silver Theatre
  • Eight appearances on Campbell's Playhouse
  • Seven appearances on Cavalcade of America
  • Six appearances on Hallmark Hall of Fame
  • Three appearances on Biography In Sound
  • Four appearances on Anthology

Her own drama anthologies over Radio comprised 240 appearances alone. She also appeared in all twelve episodes of the Orson Welles narrated Adventure of A Quarter, in addition to numerous other public service, war bond campaign and World War II patriotic anthologies.

The "First Lady of Theater" sobriquet was aptly applied to Helen Hayes throughout her long, highly productive, highly inspirational life. The sobriquet was as equally applied to her work on The Stage, the big screen, Television, and Radio. Her great legacy stands better represented over Radio than over any other medium she enhanced with her enormous talent and grace.

"We rely upon poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to articulate what most of us can feel, in joy or sorrow. They illuminate the thoughts for which we only grope; they give us the strength and balm we cannot find in ourselves. Whenever I feel my courage wavering I rush to them. They give me the wisdom of acceptance, the will and resilience to push on."

"Every human being on this earth is born with a tragedy, and it isn't original sin. He's born with the tragedy that he has to grow up. That he has to leave the nest, the security, and go out to do battle. He has to lose everything that is lovely and fight for a new loveliness of his own making, and it's a tragedy. A lot of people don't have the courage to do it."

"Age is not important unless you're a cheese"
          ----- Helen Hayes

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