Today’s quiz—what was the first television sitcom starring a woman?
“I Love Lucy” (1951) might come to mind. Maybe “The Goldbergs” (1949). Afraid not. There was at least one before them, before there was coast-to-coast network television, a time when only nine stations were on the air.
In 1945, W6XAO in Los Angeles aired a live situation comedy called “Oh, Miss Tubbs.” It starred Verna Felton, who you may know better as Dennis Day’s mother on radio and Wilma Flintstone’s mother on television (both were pretty much the same character). “Tubbs” had a terrific cast of radio veterans—Jane Morgan, Arthur Q. Bryan, Walter Tetley, Earle Ross and Eddie Marr. I wish I could tell you if more than one episode aired. The Los Angeles Times is silent on any W6XAO programming that year. Various sources on the internet say the station was only operating every other Monday for several hours (and old films made up a good part of the schedule). All I can find out about the show is in these shots taken for the September 30, 1945 of Radio Life magazine. Unfortunately, the scans are ultra low-resolution, but they give you a flavour of the show, which aired August 6th.
Felton is at the blackboard. Tetley is in the chair.
Eddie Marr is to the left of Felton. Marr did a fair amount of dramatic work on radio, but he’s was also the crook who spat out “Your money or your life” to Jack Benny (in a routine later repeated with other actors).
The moustached man who seems to be doing a Gale Gordon impression is Joe Granby. In the second photo, Selma Stern is to the left of Tetley; she plays a housekeeper.
Granby has it out with Earle Ross in the photo on the left. Ross appeared on The Great Gildersleeve as nemesis Judge Hooker. “Ahhhh...SHADDAP!” was pretty much a Felton catchphrase, thanks to her role on the Benny show.
“Oh, Miss Tubbs” had a life after W6XAO. According to the not-always-reliable Internet Movie DataBase, CBS took an option of the show, and it was reworked into a radio sitcom in 1948 called “Our Miss Brooks,” which proved to have more longevity than poor Miss Tubbs. A whole new cast was assembled (though Jane Morgan won a different part). Verna Felton went on to provide the spark in Spring Byington’s “December Bride” sitcom, but she never starred in a TV show again.