June 29, 2009

Do you remember "My Little Margie"? I do!

This "I Love Lucy"-like sitcom ran from 1952 to 1955, and I'm surprised that I have memories of watching it. (I was born in 1951.) I see that the star — Gale Storm — has just died, at the age of 87.

I was able to pull up a clip of the old show. This clip is interesting for several reasons: 1. It's just so incredibly old-fashioned, 2. There's a role for a black actor (Willie Best as Charlie, the elevator operator), 3. There's a law theme (service of process).



RIP, Gale Storm.

***

Something more on Willie Best (who died in 1962):
William "Willie" Best (May 27, 1916 – February 27, 1962) was an American television and film actor. Best was one of the first well-known African-American film actors, although his work, like that of Stepin Fetchit, is today sometimes reviled because he was often called upon to play stereotypically lazy, illiterate, and simple-minded Black characters in films. Best's characterization of the stereotype of the lazy Black man earned him the stage name "Sleep 'n' Eat"; many of his films bill him under this name, if he was billed at all.
Here's a YouTube clip of Best (credited as Sleep 'n' Eat) in a 1932 movie called "The Monster Walks." Offered for historical reference, it's badly recorded and exemplifies the unfortunate stereotypes.

24 comments:

Gary said...

I was born in 1952 and my memory is more of the show "Oh! Susanna" and Gale Storm's incredible smile. It's a feel-good old-fashioned memory. Seems to me they're a lot better than the new-fashioned memories we have been creating since. Call me old-fashioned...

Treacle said...

"My Little Margie" used to come on some cable station called CBN in the 80's. We'd only ever watch it when we were stuck inside during a Southern summer day with 100% humidity and 100+ degree heat. That's what "My Little Margie" reminds me of: a steaming, hot, humid pile of televised shit.

Big Mike said...

I was born a bit before you, Professor, and have some vague recollections of "My Little Margie," but I remember Gale Storm more for "The Gale Storm Show," where she played a stewardess or some such on an ocean liner. Funny, but I don't remember any shows where the setting was on the ship itself, so it wasn't an early version of "Love Boat."

traditionalguy said...

Margie had a great attitude towards life during a simpler time. The "elevator operator's job" was from a simpler time too. Everyone had to speak to an operator for the floor they wanted to stop at. The controls were out of bounds except to a professional operator. The serve yourself priviledge at restaurants and gas pumps were also unknown, as yet. The people expected to recieve services with a smile and they got it, and people got jobs. Not that there is anything wrong with total freedom from good service, or is there?

NKVD said...

The pizzicato strings theme music stuck with me through the years. Even though I was young, I associated that form of playing with that show.

Now that association has been displaced by Desperate Housewifes. Times change.

Randy said...

“I think that the secret to happiness is being surrounded by people you love and having work that you look forward to doing.”

-Gale Storm

RIP

rhhardin said...

I get Gale Storm mixed up with Sky King's niece, always relegated to a Cessna 140 where Sky had the Bamboo Bomber.

She was always being captured by evildoers.

Penny said...

Watching this show was one of my secret pleasures when I was around 6. I would only get to watch when I was home sick from school, most likely with some childhood disease like chicken pox or a tummy ache.

Contrary to your view that the show looks so outdated, Althouse, I was fascinated how the set design seemed currently modern. Mid-century furnishings are having a serious revival with those in their 20's or 30's. All the items on that set would get some serious cash on Ebay.

William said...

Dated: The front door has only one lock. The stereotypical black character is designed to provoke contempt and ridicule. (For what it's worth the stereotype does not provoke hatred.) The stereotypical rich white businessman is not designed to provoke contempt and hatred.

Christy said...

I remember the phrase "The Gale Storm Show" but I associate it wrongly with a family setting and I see her wearing those big, crinolined skirts. I've always thought how odd that I so remembered a show I didn't like.

David said...

I remember Margie's damn theme song. It took me thirty years to get it out of my head and now it's back, thanks to Althouse.

The Willie Best clip? It would be interesting to know what Mr. Best was like in real life--not like that, I'm sure. What a strange line he must have had to walk.

But to hell with those who revile him now for the roles he played. He had to make his way in the world he was born into. Easy now to criticize him, not so easy then to be him, I imagine.

Graham Powell said...

Re: David's question, I read something many years ago about "Sleep 'n Eat" (I think in "Son of Golden Turkey Awards") that said that, offscreen, he was a consummate professional and a nice man who was respected by his colleagues.

According to Wikipedia, he died at 45.

former law student said...

"My Little Margie" was the "That Girl" of the 50s: Young women, out on their own in the big city, who still had close ties to their dads/parents. As a child I found it soothing.

"My Little Margie" used to come on some cable station called CBN in the 80's. ... a steaming, hot, humid pile of televised shit.

Perhaps a better description of the Christian Broadcasting Network's marquee show, The 700 Club. CBN was sold and resold, and now is ABC Family.

Modern Otter said...

I remember MLM pretty well, and I was born in '53, so I'm guessing it got some syndication, probably in daytime, later on in the '50s. And yes, that theme song is nothing less than viral.

Another odd memory I have, as a Midwestern preschooler, was Gale/Margie's father's New York (I guess it was) accent. At the end of most/all episodes he's say "That's my little Margie!" Only it came out "Mah-jee" to my ears, maybe something I'd never heard before. Said father was played by Charles Farrell, who had been something of a silent screen heartthrob.

John Stodder said...

A lot of shows from the 50s were rerun during the day. My Little Margie is one of those show I associate with being home with pneumonia for a week, an annual occurrence in my childhood.

The exterior shot between the credits and the first scene (0:29) is clearly Park La Brea, a mid-city Los Angeles apartment community where I lived when my son was born. From the surroundings, I think the building shown might be the one I lived in for a couple of years.

former law student said...

A lot of shows from the 50s were rerun during the day.

True. I also remember "Love That Bob," photographer Bob Cummings with his sassy secretary Schultzie; "The Millionaire," where this guy had to give someone a million dollars, week after week; and the Loretta Young Show -- some sappy melodrama. Afternoons had Burns and Allen, sponsored by Walgreens ice cream, and Leave it to Beaver.

Ruth said...

I wonder how many people who read blogs actually saw an elevator operator in real life. Gale Storm was an amusing actress, now that you mention I remember a lot of things she did, otherwise I have not given it a thought in years. I'm glad she had a long and happy life.

bagoh20 said...

A little more:

"Bob Hope, who worked with him in "The Ghost Breakers" (1940), called Best "one of the finest actors I know", and given the opportunity he could have become a top-rank comedian. A 1950 drug bust killed his movie career, but producer Hal Roach kept him busy as a semi-regular on the TV programs "The Stu Erwin Show", "My Little Margie", and "Waterfront". Always a controversial figure among black critics, Best was vilified by civil rights activists in the late 1950s and he withdrew from show business. He died in obscurity at the Motion Picture Country Home."

He died of cancer.

A shame he died ostracized by many in the black community. A sad end to a very successful career. Zealots for any cause can be unnecessarily cruel.

ired said...

I loved MLM, and Gale Storm was one of my favorite early TV actresses. I especially remember wishing/hoping for such a relationship with my father. Never happened, though. I'm 10 years older than Ann, so I do remember elevator operators!

former law student said...

Chicago's Unity Building, located at 127 North Dearborn Street, had elevator operators until it was demolished in 1989 to form part of the notorious vacant Loop Block 37.

Unity's elevator operators were the eyes and ears of the building. Better than a security guard, they knew who was visiting the building, and who they were seeing, when they came, and when they left. They could visit any floor at any time. The building was rather narrow, and only 17 stories tall, so one operator in the off hours was sufficient.

The Unity Building was famous as being the site of the founding of the Rotary Club. Lawyers such as Clarence Darrow had offices there. More recently, it was famous/notorious for being the home of the ground floor restaurant Mayor's Row.

Penny said...

I remember elevator operators twenty years post the "My Little Margie" series.

First. Department stores! Just for starters. The last department store to get rid of their elevator operators was the first one of three to die, at least where I grew up.

DING DING DING message in that, wouldn't you agree?

Second. New York City higher end apartments! Of course the elevator operator in this case gave way to the burly doorman, the girl at the front desk PLUS those cameras, which to this day make us all feel safer.

DING DING DING...

And it only goes to show...

Bell-ringing alarm clocks are not the way to wake up.

David said...

Sure, I remember elevator operators. I loved the elevators where you could actually see the inside of the walls as you went up and down. A good elevator operator stopped his car smoothly and exactly level with the exit floor. A lesser operator, or a good one having an off day, lurched to a stop a few inches from level, and then lurch-thumped it into alignment.

I've been in a few fancy vintage buildings in Chicago that still have elevator operators.

Penny said...

I've never been lurch-thumped into anything, let alone "alignment".

Lest we forget, this post was originally about Gale Storm, whose name at least, is odder than fiction.

The fact that it has since become about Willie Best, whose name is also odder than fiction, gives me pause.

Pause enough to be humming "Love in an elevator". Going up while I'm going...

And over to you, Dave. ;)

S.W. Anderson said...

"My Little Margie" was a fun show, although after watching it for a season the plots became very predictable, even for a kid.

At a time when most sitcoms had a certain makeshift quality about them, still getting the hang of the new medium, "My Little Margie" came across as a smoother, slicker production. I think that was because it was among the first, shows of its kind filmed in Hollywood with a relatively high production budget. Others such as "I Married Joan," "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet," "Mr. Peepers" and "The Life of Riley" gained some of that slickness in their later seasons.