Who Wears The Trousers?
A fascinating and entertaining series about husband and wife double acts in American entertainment.
Double acts got more money. Period. Solo stars like Fred Allen realised that with a straight man in tow, his wages would double.
But why have a straight man when you can have your wife?
|01||01||Fred Allen And Portland Hoffa||20030325||Portland Hoffa, one of the biggest radio stars of the 20s had never performed before in her life, but it was she who stole the hearts of the nation.|
Had Fred bitten off more than he could chew? This is a partnership that has never been explored before and we've spoken to Frances Hershowitz, Portland's niece, about their amazing story.
|01||02||Jim And Marian Jordan||20030401||Jim and Marian were better known as cult American duo Fibber McGee and Molly.|
Molly McGee was a brand new kind of wife.
Slick, sophisticated and level-headed, her down to earth approach bolstered a depression torn small town America.
Fibber and Molly were the only comedy couple to present a hard and realistic view of life in the mid West.
But what would happen when their own lives ceased to reflect the fiction they portrayed? We've interviewed Janice Jordan, Jim and Marian's granddaughter for this episode.
She reveals how their rise to fame very nearly never came about.
|01||03||Jane And Goodman Ace||20030408||Jane Ace was the original dumb dame, a true scatterbrain.|
Jane flew the flag for suburbia, with an affluent and urbane style of comedy.
The Aces were the couple to aspire to for many Americans.
Politics were in turmoil and Jane was the nation's only constant.
Famous for the ludicrous malaprops Janeisms and with hundreds of shows to write, how long could husband Henry Goodman sustain their success? We've spoken to Mark Singer, their great nephew, about how exactly Goodman did manage to keep the show going - three times a week for an extraordinary 26 years - and the effect this had on their marriage.
Produced by Elizabeth Freestone
|01||04||Geogre Burns And Gracie Allen||20030415||The world was at war, and so were George and Gracie.|
Gracie was a consummate professional, an excellent vocal mimic and brilliant character actress.
Originally her husband's straight man, he quickly realised that it was she who was getting all the laughs.
Against the backdrop of social change, George and Gracie may have been able to boost national morale, but would their flirtatious style of humour become stale and dated? Married with two children, would they become too old for their own jokes? Everyone remembers George, but he only really became famous in his later years.
Gracie died tragically young at a time when she was the most recognised and popular comedy performer in America.
Her numerous publicity stunts and highly original marketing campaigns led her to an amazing body of work - we trace her as she runs for President, become a surrealist painter and scores a piano concerto - for one finger.
|01||05||Jack Benny And Mary Livingstone||20030422||The family radio gang was a media phenomena, the reality TV of it's time.|
Mary Livingstone played the foil to husband Jack Benny - she was the smart aleck who always got the last word.
But behind the laughter was a woman who suffered terribly from mic fright and self doubt.
To the outside world their marriage was perfect, but behind closed doors was a very different story.
This episode includes previously unheard clips and unprecedented access to family members including Jack and Mary's daughter Joan Benny, and their grandson Michael Rudolph.
|01||06 LAST||Lucille And Desi||20030429||Lucille Ball was firmly in the driving seat.|
She knew what she wanted - her husband Desi, a Cuban, to star in her show.
Controversy dogged their careers, and people couldn't believe that a white middle-class woman would marry someone of Hispanic descent.
Nevertheless, far from outraging the moral majority, I Love Lucy became the most successful sitcom of all time.
Domestic squabbles and scatterbrained schemes reigned supreme.
In I Love Lucy, Desi and Lucy always happily made up at the end.
Off screen, however, the story was to have a bitter twist, as Lucy Arnaz Jnr explains.