Friday, November 21, 2008

Not Exactly Ozzie And Harriet




At a time when most `radio couples' were loving, sweet, and kind to each other. . . John and Blanche Bickerson were something a bit different.


The married protagonists of the show spent practically every on-air moment exchanging withering, and usually hilarious, insults.


Starting as a sketch in 1946 on NBC's Chase & Sandborn Hour, and starring Frances Langford and Don Ameche,  the battling Bickersons would prove popular enough to  move to their own CBS show the following year.


Critics (and sometimes even fans of the show) often cringed at the vituperative late night exchanges between John and Blanche, but the writing was always sharp and funny, and the performances dead-on.




A Typical exchange of  3am `pillow talk'  might include (from the wikipedia)


B: You used to be so considerate. Since you got married to me you haven't got any sympathy at all.
J: I have, too. I've got everybody's sympathy.
B: Believe me, there's better fish in the ocean than the one I caught.
J: There's better bait, too.
B: I don't see how you can go to bed without kissing me good night.
J: I can do it.
B: You'd better say you're sorry for that, John.
J: Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
B: You are not.
J: I am too. I'm the sorriest man that was ever born.

John and Blanche were trend setters.  



Jackie Gleason was reportedly a fan of the show and would model parts of Ralph and Alice Kramden on the Bickersons, and Al and Peg Bundy of Married, With Children were basically the Bickersons updated for the 1990's.


A young, and not-quite-famous Danny Thomas would appear as Blanche's ne'er-do-well brother, Amos.   Even after moving to CBS, the Bickerson's remained a 15-minute sketch on a half-hour variety show.


Frances Langford would sing a couple of songs, and Danny Thomas would provide some comedy or a song, during the non-Bickerson segments.


There were some that considered the scathing late-night exchanges between John and Blanche as being detrimental to the institution of marriage.   Phillip Rapp, the creator and writer of the show, reportedly based many of the exchanges on his own rocky marriage.


Most people, however, took the Bickerson's antics as guidance on`what not to do' in their marriage.   That is, if you wanted to wake up in the morning without a butcher knife sticking out of your chest.


The long-suffering role of John Bickerson was played for the first 4 years by the well known radio and movie star, Don Ameche.   His movie portrayal of Alexander Graham Bell was so famous, `Ameche' briefly became slang for the telephone. 


from the trailer for The Feminine Touch (1941)

Another Hollywood triumph for Ameche came when he starred in Ernest Lubitch's  Heaven Can Wait which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.    Ameche would retire during the 1970's, but returned to the silver screen in the 1980's in such movies as Cocoon (1985), and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993).


Ameche died in 1993 of prostate cancer.




Shrewish Blanche was played by the beautiful and talented songstress, Frances Langford.   Langford got her start on the Rudy Vallee radio show during the early 1930's, became a regular on the Dick Powell radio show in 1935, and had a movie career that spanned two decades.



Frances Langford in the film This Is the Army (1943)


She appeared in many movies, including Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Born to Dance (1936) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)  and the Glenn Miller Story (1954). In several of these movies, she appeared as  herself.


Langford pretty much retired from the national stage in the mid-1950's although she appeared frequently at a resort she and her third husband, Ralph Evinrude, created in Jenson Beach Florida.


Langford died on July 11th, 2005 of congestive heart failure.  She was 92.



During the last year of the Bickerson's radio show, Lew Parker (later to play Marlo Thomas' father on That Girl) took over the role of John Bickerson.  


The chemistry was never quite the same, however, and the show ran out of steam.  Attempts to resurrect it on television failed as well.  It lasted only 13 episodes, with Lew Parker and Ms. Langford.



Here you will find a selection of Bickerson's episodes available on    Many of these recordings are short - 5 to 10 minute sketch segments - not the entire show.   Some feature Lew Parker instead of Don Ameche.




1947-02-23 Amos Does Time
1947-03-16 Racetrack, The
1947-05-18 John Makes Out His Will
1948-05-14 Two Weeks With Pay
194------- 8th Wedding Anniversary
194------- Amos Borrows The Car
194------- Amos'sBachelorParty
194------- BachelorDinner
194------- BickersonsLoseTheirApartment
194------- BirthdayPresent
194------- BlancheBetsOnTheHorses
194------- Blanche'sNewCoat
194------- Breakfast
194------- CarRepairsFooTeachingBlancheToDrive
194------- ChristmasEve
194------- Cruise, The
194------- EasterParade
194------- Eunice'sWedding
194------- HospitalStay
194------- IncomeTaxRefund
194------- John Goes To Las Vegas
194------- John The Shoplifter
194------- Kitty's Litter
194------- Presidential Suite
194------- Vacation Trailer
194------- Valentine's Day
194x-xx-xx Movie The
194x-xx-xx New Puppy
194x-xx-xx Pink Slip
1951-06-05 Fatal Anniversary Present
1951------ Gooseby Vacation, The
1951------ Mink Coat, The


chris reinhardt said...

Do you have any idea where I can get the record or dvd of when Blanch was expecting and had morning sickness? I remember my parents listening to it when I was a young girl and, it was hysterical. If I'm not mistaking I think it was called the first nine months.

Michael Coston said...


I've looked but can't seem to find one by that ttle. I only know of three albums The Bickersons, The Bickersons Fight Back, and The Bickersons rematch .

If it was a tape, it might have been recorded off the air. Best bet are old vinyl record stores. Good luck.

chris reinhardt said...

Thanks Nichael

I finely found it. It was with Joycw jameson and some guy I never heard of. It is called, The first nine months and it's really funny. Thanks for looking.