|Edward Frank Hummert, Jr. and Anne (Schumacher) Hummert [Anne Ashenhurst]
Stage, Radio, Television and Film writers, producers and directors
Anne Hummert (1905-1996)
Frank Hummert (1887-1966 [or 1879-1966])
Anne Hummert; Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A
Frank Hummert;St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
Anne Hummert;Goucher College, Baltimore, MD
1931 Beatrice Mabie
1932 Hollywood Nights
1932 Jo-Cur Waves of Melody
1932 Stevens and Son of Scotland Yard
1932-1933 Abe Lyman And Movieland's Favorite Band
1932-1933 Aunt Jemima
1932-1933 Penrod and Sam
1932-1933 Roxy Air Theatre of the Stars
1932-1933 The Girl Who Lives Next Door
1932-1935 Bill the Barber
1932-1949 Manhattan Merry-Go-Round
1933 Jack Dempsey's Gymnasium
1933 Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean
1933-1935 The Musical Revue
1933-1938 Album of Familiar Canadian Music
1933-1954 The Romance of Helen Trent
1934-1935 The Life of Mary Southern
1934-1936 Lavender and Old Lace
1934-1936 Lazy Dan
1934-1944 Easy Aces
1935 Blanche Sweet
1935 Chandu the Magician
1935 Don Donnie's Orchestra
1935 Five Star Jones
1935 Marie the Little Princess
1935-1936 Broadway Varieties
1935-1936 MGM Radio Movie Club
1935-1936 The Imperial Hawaiian Band
1935-1937 Rich Man's Darling
1935-1939 Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch
1935-1951 American Album
1935-1954 Backstage Wife
1936 Old Doctor Jim
1936 Paris Night Life
1936 Revue De Paree
1936 Your Lover
1936-1937 Broadway Varieties
1936-1937 Gems of Melody
1936-1937 Night Club of the Air
1936-1938 Hammerstein Music Hall
1936-1938 Who's Who in the News
1936-1939 Painted Dreams
1936-1942 John's Other Wife
1936-1945 Second Husband
1936-1948 Waltz Time
1936-1954 David Harum, show number
1937 Broadway Merry-Go-Round
1937 French Mignon Trio
1937-1938 La Gaiete Parisienne
1937-1938 Wife Versus Secretary
1937-1954 Our Gal Sunday
1937-1955 Just Plain Bill
1938 Way Down East
1938-1939 Alias Jimmy Valentine
1938-1939 London Merry-Go-Round
1938-1939 Phillips Beauty Creams
1938-1939 Phillips Dental Magnesia
1938-1939 Showland Memories
1938-1954 Stella Dallas
1939 California Theatre of the Air
1939 Detective Reeder
1939 Evening Melodies
1939 Inspector Brooks
1939 Sweetest Love Songs
1939-1940 Doc Barclay's Daughter
1939-1942 Orphans of Divorce
1940 Along the Boulevard, show number
1940 Mystery Chef
1941 Russ Lamb
1941-1942 America the Free
1941-1942 For America We Sing
1941-1942 Rainbow Trail
1941-1948 American Melody Hour
1941-1950 Monday Merry-Go-Round
1942 Matinee Melodies
1942-1946 Chaplin Jim U.S.A.
1942-1950 American Album
1942-1954 Front Page Farrell
1942-1954 Young Widder Brown
1943-1945 Friday on Broadway
1943-1946 Amanda of Honeymoon Hill
1943-1948 Album of Familiar Music
1943-1948 American Melody Hour
1943-1948 Lora Lawton
1943-1949 Inspector Hawkes and Son
1943-1955 Mr. Keen Tracer of Lost Persons
1944-1945 Scramby Amby
1944-1945 Valiant Lady
1945-1946 Barry Cameron
1945-1947 Real Stories from Real Life
1945-1952 The Romance of Evelyn Winters
1947-1948 Rose of My Dreams
1947-1955 Katie's Daughter
1948 Your Song and Mine
1948-1951 Mystery Theatre
1949 Mary Kay and Johnny
1950 Nona from Nowhere
1950-1953 Mr. Chameleon
1951 Inspector Thorne
1951-1952 Heartstone Of the Death Squad
Frank Hummert circa 1936
Anne Hummert circa 1936
Anne A. Hummert circa 1936
Anne and Frank Hummert circa 1940s
|Edward Frank Hummert, Jr. was born in St. Louis, Missouri between 1879 and 1887, depending on widely varying accounts. A great deal of Frank Hummert's past--before partnering in Blackett, Sample & Hummert (BSH) Ad agency--is shrouded in mystery and legend. A former St. Louis and New Orleans newspaperman, Hummert was reported to have ridden with the Texas Rangers prior to his career in advertising. He was reportedly married during that period as well. His wife reportedly died, leaving him a widower and confirmed bachelor.
It was while with BS&H that he met his young assistant, Anne Schumacher Ashenhurst, a former newspaperwoman who'd already married--and divorced--another newspaperman. A newly divorced single mother with a baby son in the big city, Anne Schumacher Ashenhurst failed to acquire another newspaper position in Chicago and was hired on as Frank Hummert's assistant. Their mutual interest and romance percolated for a reported seven years before the couple married in 1934. The marriage would last until Frank Hummert's death in 1966.
The couple formed their own company, Hummert Productions, after their marriage, and moved the operation to New York and Greenwich, Connecticut. But it was while still with Blackett, Sample & Hummert that the Hummerts inaugurated a Radio melodrama empire that would span the entire length--and breadth--of The Golden Age of Radio.
Just Plain Bill (1932) didn't start as a daytime soap-opera. It began in the evening. Just Plain Bill eventually ran for 23 years until 1955. The first of over 120 such melodramas over their storied careers, the Hummerts also produced two of the longest running musical variety programs--An American Album of Familiar Music (1931-1951) and Manhattan Merry Go Round (1932-1949)--and one of Radio's longest running mystery programs--Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons (1937-1955). But the most legendary and durable of all of their productions was The Romance of Helen Trent (1933-1960) which spanned 27 years and an estimated 7,222, 15-minute separate scripts.
The Time Magazine article of January 23, 1939 best describes their operation:
Monday, Jan. 23, 1939
Radio: Hummerts' Mill
"One of the oddest outfits in the very odd business of radio is Blackett-Sample-Hummert Inc. Not only is the company the No. 1 buyer of radio time, it is the No. 1 producer of radio materialand, incidentally, a big source of professional exasperation.
Figures available last week showed that in 1938 B-S-H had placed orders for $9,000,000 worth of air time. This was about one-eighth of all money paid for radio network time and over $3,700,000 more than B-S-H's nearest competitor spent. The commission on this sale was about $1,350,000 for B-S-H.
Practically all the time B-S-H bought was used for 15-and 30-minute dramatic serials spotted in the morning or afternoon to amuse housewives, and to push cereals, headache remedies, tooth paste, floor polish, cosmetics, etc. for 19 sponsors. For many of these spots B-S-H's great, straight-line script mill turned out at mass production prices Just Plain Bill, Second Husband, John's Other Wife, Romance of Helen Trent, Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, Lorenzo Jones, Backstage Wife, Our Gal Sunday, Young Widder Brown, Stella Dallas, Alias Jimmy Valentine, David Harum. All these were ghostwritten by some 14 anonymous authors in the names of Adman Frank Hummert and his wife, Anne.
Fifteen years ago the firm Blackett & Sample was organized by Chicago Admen Hill Blackett and John Glen Sample. In 1927 E. (for Edward) Frank Hummert, longtime newspaperman, Liberty Loan slogan writer ("Bonds or Bondage") and pressagent, joined the firm as copy writing chief. In 1930 pretty, brown-haired Anne Ashenhurst, newspaperwoman, was hired to help him. With his young new aide, Frank Hummert discovered that the jackpot in the radio business was the serial "script show."
Their first was Just Plain Bill, a village barber, who has been spouting homely homilies for eight years. Others followed in profusion. By 1935, when Frank married Anne after the death of his first wife, both were vice presidents of the company, Frank with salary and commissions totaling some $117,000, Anne drawing a modest $21,000.
The Hummert mill produces 50 serial scripts a week, a total of some 6,500,000 words a year. In their Greenwich, Conn. home Frank and Anne figure out the trends of their serials four to six weeks in advance, dictate outlines to a battery of stenographers. Outline for an episode (Backstage Wife) may read something like this: "Suspecting that Cynthia Valcourt murdered Candy Dolan with Ward Ellman's gun, after Tess left the fiat, Mary, Larry and Ward rush to Tony Valcourt's penthouse to have a talk with Tony and Cynthia, having sent Tess Morgan to her apartment. Arriving at the penthouse, they are refused admittance by the butler. . . . If Cynthia gets away, Tess may take the rap for the crime. Can they save her? . . . What will Tess do?"
When a script is finished by the ghost writers it goes to an adjunct of the Hummert mill known as Air Features, Inc. for production. No Hummert ghost may even stick his nose inside Air Features' production studios.
By hiring dialogue writers, and not creators, the Hummerts save lots of money. Most serial writers in radio command $200 to $400 a week. For The Goldbergs, Gertrude Berg gets about $2,000. The Hummerts pay a minimum $25 per 15-minute script. Since most Hummert ghosts are glad to add caviar to bread-&-butter from other jobs, they have seldom squawked.
Last year the Hummerts began sending scripts to London to be Anglicized and broadcast from Normandy and Luxemburg to British listeners. Anglicizing largely involved changing cops to bobbies, dollars to pounds, Manhattan Merry-Go-Round to London Merry-Go-Round, Lorenzo Jones to Marmaduke Brown, and most writers felt that some fame or profit from this rebroadcasting should come to them. But every script that went abroad was prudently marked, like those used in the U. S.: "AuthorsFrank and Anne Hummert," and B-S-H picked up all the chips.
Not only writers but actors are concerned with B-S-H's system. Radio has no prescribed wage scale, although most big agency production units pay a basic wage of about $25 for a 15-minute stint, rehearsals included. Featured Artists Service, Inc., the Hummert casting agency, pays a basic $12.50 but rehearsals are briefer than most and great numbers of players get fairly steady work (a serial can hold out as long as a sponsor can). But American Federation of Radio Artists (A. F. of L. affiliated) insists that this is not reason enough for half-pay. Last week A. F. R. A., having failed for a year to negotiate minimums of $15 a 15-minute program, $6 for the first rehearsal hour and $3 for each half-hour thereafter, put the case before its entire membership.
This week, at meetings of A. F. R. A. locals all over the U. S., immediate strike action was being considered against all sponsored radio programs whose producers refuse to sign up."
From the New York Times:
July 21, 1996
Anne Hummert, 91, Dies; Creator of Soap Operas
By ROBERT McG. THOMAS Jr
"Faithful followers of soap operas have learned over the years that after a brief and bitter first marriage a young single mother can find love, marriage and singular professional success with a much older man, but now the question is:
Can a career woman who sacrificed her leisure to keep a nation of enthralled housewives glued to their radios for the better part of two decades survive a heart-wrenching regimen of producing as many as 90 cliff-hanging episodes a week to live a full, rich and long life?
No need to stay tuned or wait for a toothpaste commercial. It can now be revealed that when she died in bed at her Fifth Avenue apartment on July 5, Anne Hummert, the woman widely credited with creating the radio soap opera and spinning out many of the classics of the 1930's and 40's, was a 91-year-old multimillionaire who had maintained a vigorous life almost to the end.
At a time when televised soap operas have become a postfeminist cultural sideshow, it is hard to imagine the era when "Stella Dallas," "Helen Trent," "Ma Perkins" and "Lorenzo Jones" were more than household names, and when virtually every woman in America knew that Mary Noble was the "Backstage Wife" and were familiar with every detail of the anguished but inspiring lives of "John's Other Wife" and "Young Widow Brown."
It is even harder to imagine that all of these plus more than a dozen others were the creations of a diminutive dynamo from Baltimore and the man she kept at bay for seven years after taking a job as his assistant at a Chicago advertising agency.
By the time she met E. Frank Hummert in 1927, the former Anne Schumacher had lived something of a soap opera herself. A brilliant student who graduated magna cum laude from Goucher College at age 20 in 1925, she had begun her career as a college correspondent for The Sun, then worked as a Sun reporter before going to Paris in 1926.
She became a reporter for the precursor of The International Herald Tribune her first day in the city, but within a year she had married and divorced a fellow reporter, John Ashenhurst, and was back in the United States with an infant son.
Settling in Chicago, she failed to get a newspaper job but became an assistant to Mr. Hummert, a former St. Louis newspaperman who had become a renowned copywriter and a partner in the Chicago agency Blackett, Sample & Hummert.
He was some two decades older than she and a confirmed bachelor, but then he had never met a woman quite like his captivating 22-year-old assistant with the tinkling voice, who was such a fount of ideas and organized efficiency that she became a vice president just two years later.
She, on the other hand, had already been married to one newspaperman, thank you, and was in no hurry to marry another. The couple didn't marry until 1934, when they began what friends recall as one of the great love matches, which lasted until Mr. Hummert's death in 1966.
At a time when commercial programming in the infant medium concentrated on working people who returned home to sit in front of their radios at night, advertisers were dimly aware that the housewives who stayed home all day were the nation's primary purchasing agents. But these women were considered too busy to pay more than cursory attention to the family radio.
The Hummerts didn't argue with the theory of the distracted housewife. They simply seized her attention and changed the pattern of her life. After "Just Plain Bill" hit the daytime airwaves in 1933, housewives arranged their work so they would never miss an episode of the small-town barber who married above himself.
Although a short-lived 1930 program, "Painted Lives" by Irna Phillips, is regarded as the first radio soap opera, it was "Just Plain Bill," which began at night in 1932, that created the cultural juggernaut that would eventually be nicknamed for the product that often sponsored it.
Within months the show had spawned many copycats, few as successful as those turned out by the Hummerts themselves, who had as many as 18 separate 15-minute serials running at a time for a total of 90 episodes a week, each ending with an unresolved crisis that was heightened for the Friday episode.
The couple, who formed their own company, Hummert Productions, and moved to New York in the mid-1930's, farmed out the writing after they had dreamed up the original idea and mapped out the initial story line. But they were deeply involved in every aspect of each production, from casting to script editing.
Mrs. Hummert, who had a photographic memory, was renowned in the industry for her ability to remember each intricate twist of every one of their creations.
It was a reflection of the grip the Hummerts had on their audience that their programs generated more than five million letters a year, and it was a measure of their commercial success that by 1939 Hummert programs accounted for more than half the advertising revenues generated by daytime radio.
The Hummerts were also well rewarded. At a time when the average doctor made less than $5,000 a year and the average lawyer half that, they were each making $100,000 a year from their enterprise, which included several evening musical programs, like "Waltz Time," and mysteries, including the haunting "Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons."
When television began to displace radio, the couple simply retired and enjoyed a well-traveled life of leisure. After her husband's death, Mrs. Hummert gave up their Park Avenue triplex and cut down a bit on her travels, but she continued her active life, which until a few months ago included daily three-mile walks.
Mrs. Hummert, whose son died several years ago, is survived by two granddaughters, Pamela Pigoni of Hinckley, Ill., and Anne Jeskey of Park Ridge, Ill., and two great-grandchildren."