Wednesday 22 March 2023

Lou's Boss

There were two things I noticed about Lou Grant when the show first aired. One was it was a drama, meaning it wouldn’t be including cameos by Ted Baxter or Rhoda Morgenstern. The other was a familiar voice had a body that was being seen on camera.

Mason Adams made an extremely good living voicing commercials. Yet he obviously had a desire to stand in front of the camera. To borrow from a phrase he ended TV spots for Smuckers regularly: he had to be good. The show was on for five seasons and he was nominated for Emmys in three of them.

Adams had been a star years earlier, but only aging housewives would have remembered. He spent 15 years as the lead in the soap Pepper Young’s Family, leaving the role only because NBC radio replaced the show on April 27, 1959. The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin was quite proud of him. The paper pointed out in one 1947 edition that Adams was known at the University of Wisconsin as Mason Abrams, was a member of the Wisconsin Players, won the Frankenburger Oratorical Award and conducted a speech clinic. Oddly, Adams wasn’t from Wisconsin. He was from Brooklyn. You’d never guess listening to him.

Here’s a little profile from the Ft. Lauderdale News of March 5, 1949. The writer insists on calling him “Pepper.”

‘Pepper Youngs’ Visit
Soap Opera Hero Says 2-Week Beach Vacation All Too Short
Pepper Young left his radio family in New York long enough to enjoy a Ft. Lauderdale vacation with his real wife, Mrs. Mason Adams. Vacation scene is the home of the radio soap serial author, Elaine Carrington, 2820 N Atlantic blvd. Trading posts, Elaine is in New York while Pepper and Mrs. Adams have full run of the writer's picturesque home, "Journey's End," which is located right on the ocean.
"Two weeks vacation in Ft. Lauderdale is all too short," the 30-odd-year-old Pepper said Wednesday. Mrs. Adams, diminutive brunette sporting a sun burned nose and wearing a yellow sun dress claims it will be hard to face civilized clothes and the New York rush after the idyllic peace of two weeks on the Florida coast.
Mason Adams, who met his very young looking wife seven years ago while teaching dramatics at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, has been Mrs. Carrington's fictional "Pepper Young" for four years. Before her marriage to Pepper, Mrs. Adams was Sheila Tanchan, of London, England.
Shortly after they met, Pepper joined the Army Air Force and received training at Miami Beach. He was unable to make the grade as a flyer, however, due to an eyesight deficiency. It was in 1944 he donned the role of Pepper Young in Elaine Carrington’s soap opera of the air waves.
When questioned regarding his climb up the ladder to his present nationally known place in radio, Pepper replied.
"The usual amount of Broad way floperoos. The usual amount of blunders. The usual amount of sudden good luck."
This well built, serious faced young actor has a delightful expression of being intensely sympathetic, understanding, and, at once, deeply amused. He is wholely plain spoken and natural and obviously very much in love with his real life wife, Mrs. Mason Adams.

Adams appeared in Road of Life (also an NBC show), but did more than soaps. He was a featured player on a number of episodes of Inner Sanctum.

Network radio wound down, but radio commercials did not. Adams found work aplenty doing voice-overs on a radio and TV—in addition to stage work—until Lou Grant came along in 1977.

Here’s a column from the Newspaper Enterprise Association, July 13, 1980.

Mason Adams
There's No Role Like Hume

HOLLYWOOD — Mason Adams is the veteran actor who plays Charlie Hume the managing editor on CBS’ fine show "Lou Grant." For Adams, it is a role that is making his life enjoyable.
Not that it wasn't enjoyable before. Adams seems to be a man who lives life totally, and he has always been a successful actor. But now, with his emergence on "Lou Grant,” everything is just a touch rosier.
He and his witty charming wife Margot make a good couple. Mason says that Margot has total recall, while "I have total forget.” Indeed, at critical junctures in the conversation, Margot is always there to fill in a name or a date. He seems to supply all the verbs in their joint speech, while she chips in with the proper nouns.
For Mason Adams, film is something new. He is around 60, but all his career, until lately, has been spent on stage and the radio. If his voice is very familiar to you, it is because you spent your flaming youth listening to Mason Adams starring on the radio serial, "Pepper Young's Family,” for almost 20 years.
Finally, he made his first film appearance in a TV movie about hockey, “The Deadliest Season.” It was filmed in the East — Hartford, Conn., to be precise — and they cast most of the parts in the East, too. That's how Adams got his film career going.
"From then on,” he says, “everything has happened serendipitously."
The MTM people saw “The Deadliest Season" at the time when they were putting the "Lou Grant" cast together. They brought Mason Adams to California and he became, suddenly, a television series regular.
Serendipity and its mysterious works continued. He was seen in "Lou Grant" and so, recently, played his first feature film role in a movie called "The Final Conflict." He played the president of the United States.
It was only a one-day role, but that one day happened to be in England, so Margot and Mason parlayed the part into a two-week vacation trip, motoring around much of Great Britain.
Mason Adams, who comes originally from New York, got his first taste of being the center of attraction when he fell off a wall and everybody who watched that event applauded He loved the sensation of being applauded.
"I have been interested in performing ever since," he says.
His parents felt, however, that he should first prepare himself for another career, just in case. So he got his master’s degree (from the University of Wisconsin) and taught speech in New York for a year or so.
Among his pupils was one lazy, class-cutting young man, who became Marlon Brando. Adams says he would like to say he recognized his magnificence then, but all he thought at the time was that the young man was lazy and class-cutting.
Adams has been working steadily, busily and happily in New York all these years. Radio, he says, gave him a good living for a long time. But when he saw the handwriting on the wall — it read "Radio Is Pooping Out" — he began doing commercials. All the while, he did plays, on and off Broadway, but somehow never did any film.
Now that he has his feet (and the rest of him) wet in the film pool, he likes it. He finds that he enjoys the limelight he is basking in, too.

Adams appeared in some small film roles after that, and in theatre until 2002. And there were still plenty of commercials that helped the bank account. He died at his home on April 26, 2005 at age 86.


  1. Oh yeah, Adams was no stranger to radio and voice overs. The seventies and eighties were replete with Adams voicing " Smuckers Jams and Jellies ", " Cadbury Candies ", various pain relivers, and a few appearances on " The CBS Radio Mystery Theater ". His distinctive voice could be recognized anywhere. Respected actor in front of the camera, and behind the microphone.

  2. ANY time that I'm with a friend and see SMUCKERS-I quote Mason's catchphrase/slogan.:)