Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bachelor's Children

Bachelor's Children was a radio soap operate booming out from WGN-AM in Chicago. It started in 1935 and became syndicated on CBS in 1936 with Old Dutch Cleanser as sponsor. In 1941 NBC picked it up and it continued until 1946, with Colgate as the new sponsor. It went back to CBS in 1942 and was sponsored by Wonder bread; somehow without irony. 

Bess Flynn wrote a story line synopsis that was published in 1939 as a skinny little hardback edition. the contents are unspeakably melodramatic and even maudlin, but it's a soap opera, that's par for the course. The concept is that the lead character, Dr. Rob graham adopts the two daughters of his deceased army buddy—hijinks ensue. The dedication page bears the following text:
"This story of "Bachelors Children" is dedicated to the radio audience of America by the makers Old Dutch Cleanser in the interest of better cleaning. The loyalty and friendly interest of this great audience is evidenced by the thousands of letters we have received. We trust that "Bachelors Children" will entertain you in the future as it has in the past, and that Old Dutch Cleanser will merit your continued use."
(Even for ad copy of the day it's pretty stiff.) Bess Flynn was the creator and main writer for the series. Writers like Bess are total unknowns now. But on WGN back in the 1930s she was a prolific writer. Bess acted on and wrote for the radio soap operate "Painted Dreams" that ran from 1930 to 1943 on WGN, where she played the part of Mother Moynihan. She was also with the short-lived soap opera "Life Begins" which ran on CBS in 1940 and 1941, playing the part of Martha Webster.  Not that "Bachelor's Children" was her first gig. She was Tilda-the-Maid on the program "The Gumps" a 15-minute, WGN program that ran for several seasons between 1931 and 1937. It too was syndicated on CBS. She wrote another serial "We Are Four" in which her son was cast. While that series ran just 2 years (1935 - 1937) he went on to star in "All American Boy." [that's Bess below]
 What was special about Bachelor's Children for Bess Flynn, was that she created it and was the lead writer and it was a huge success. She appears in the book The A to Z of American Radio Soap Operas by Jim Cox. He describes her as "a skillful writer and versatile radio actress." Her career took off because of Irna Phillips. Phillips had a dispute with the owners at WGN over her rights to the series "Painted Dreams". When Phillips left the station, Bess Flynn took over writing, directing and playing the lead role. She died in 1976 at the age of 92.