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Even on the Radio – "Father Knows Best"
Long before Father Knows Best was on television, the old-time radio show “Father Knows Best” was broadcast across the country. The show was created by writer Ed James. NBC aired the first episode on August 25, 1949. The show was about an average middle class family in the Midwest. It aired on Thursday evenings and was sponsored by General Foods.
Robert Young played father Jim Anderson, an insurance salesman. He is portrayed as a wise man that his wife and children turn to for advice.
Margaret, his wife, was played by June Whiteley and later by Jean Vander Pyle. She was the voice of moderation and common sense in the family.
Anderson had three children. Betty was played by Rhoda Williams, Bud was played by Ted Donaldson, and Cathy was played by Norma Jean Nielsen.
Betty, the oldest daughter, was a bit of a drama queen on the show. She often declared minor incidents, “the worst thing that could ever happen!” Her interest was mostly in teenagers.
Bud is portrayed as an all-American boy. Although he received an allowance of $1.25 a week, he often felt that he wanted a little more.
Cathy, the unruly baby of the family, often complained and whined. She felt that her position in the family was not that important because she was the youngest. Her brother and sister often seek her help when they need extra money.
Some favorite episodes include “Enterprising Kids”, “Jim Inherits a Ranch in Arizona”, and “The Phantom Prowler”. Approximately 200 episodes were made.
As the title suggests, the show portrayed a paternalistic view of life in the 1950s. The father was in charge and always knew what was best for his wife and children. But occasionally his wife and children got along well with him. When the show was originally created, the title had a question mark at the end – “Father Knows Best?” Finally, the question mark was dropped from the title.
Moral lessons were often an important part of each show’s plot.
The last radio episode was broadcast on November 19, 1953. It became a popular television series. Robert Young was the only actor to continue the radio show role in the CBS television series.
Thanks to the Internet, episodes of “Father Knows Best” can be heard once again. Step back in time and enjoy the antics of the Anderson family. These and many other old time radio shows are available for download on various sites.
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