Susie Meets Peter (and Jack)

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!