Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m sharing a sitcom that aired 70 years ago tonight — on February 22, 1953. It’s the fourth episode of Private Secretary (1953-1957, CBS), a vehicle for Ann Sothern in which she played Susie MacNamara, a former stage actress now working as the private secretary for a big-time theatrical agent in Manhattan, Mr. Peter Sands (Don Porter). This duo — along with costar Ann Tyrell — would later join forces again on The Ann Sothern Show, which premiered in 1958 — after Private Secretary folded amid contract disputes — and although now set in a hotel (and initially not including Porter, who was brought in midway through the first year), it was a spiritual, if not technical, continuation.
Now, most stories on both Private Secretary and Ann Sothern involved some kind of episodic gimmick — a guest character, or specific narrative hook — not really exploring the lead characters and their interoffice dynamics. At least, not often enough. However, the primary dramatic through-line of both shows — and to my eye, more explicit on Ann Sothern — was the relationship between Sothern and Porter, with a teased romance that finally culminated, when the latter show wrapped in 1961, in their official coupling. I make that point because it’s relevant to this early entry from Private Secretary, entitled “Where There Is A Will” — directed by Christian Nyby and written by Leonard Gershe — for it includes flashback sequences, and one, in particular, about how the two leads first met, thereby positioning their bond as a sort of emotional core for the series. Again, future story wouldn’t centralize them as much as I’d hope a low-concept workplace sitcom would, but the intent was at least there. Also, this episode features a cameo by Jack Benny, whose own show typically alternated every fourth week with Private Secretary here in the winter/spring of 1953, and his presence is an added bonus.
So, here’s a copy of “Where There Is A Will,” which was first broadcast 70 years ago tonight! (This version has the syndicated opening and closing, airing under the name Susie.)
Come back next week for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more 3rd Rock!
“Private Secretary” and “The Ann Sothern Show” are both part of the “I Love Lucy” universe. Susie MacNamara was in the flashback Cuba episode of the “Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” and Lucy Ricardo appeared in an episode of “The Ann Sothern Show.”
Hi, Alan! Thanks for reading and commenting.
That’s correct; Ball’s appearance in the 1959 second season premiere of THE ANN SOTHERN SHOW was reciprocation for Sothern’s appearance on the 1957 premiere of THE LUCILLE BALL-DESI ARNAZ SHOW (which was shot shortly after PRIVATE SECRETARY folded). Additionally, THE ANN SOTHERN SHOW was produced by Desilu with an original format created by I LOVE LUCY scribes Bob Schiller & Bob Weiskopf.