Big Sister (radio series)

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Alice frost 1940.JPG
Alice Frost had the title role on Big Sister
GenreSoap opera
Country of originUnited States
StarringAlice Frost
Nancy Marshall
Marjorie Armstrong
Mercedes McCambridge
Grace Matthews
AnnouncerFred Uttal
Jim Ameche
Hugh Conover
Created by Lillian Lauferty
Written byLillian Lauferty
Julian Funt
Carl Bixby
Bob Newman
Bill Sweets
Directed byMitchell Grayson
William Tuttle
Theodore Huston
Thomas F. Victor
Betsy Tuthill [1]
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1936 – December 26, 1952
Opening themeValse Bluette
Sponsored byLever Brothers (Rinso)
Procter & Gamble

Big Sister was a daytime radio drama series created by Lillian Lauferty and broadcast on CBS from September 14, 1936, to December 26, 1952. [2] It was sponsored by Lever Brothers for Rinso until 1946 when Procter & Gamble became the sponsor.


Set in the fictional town of Glen Falls, the program dramatized the life of Ruth Evans who sacrificed her own happiness to care for her younger sister Sue and their crippled brother Neddie. After Sue married reporter Jerry Miller, Ruth continued to care for Neddie. She fell in love with Neddie's doctor, John Wayne, who cured Neddie. Ruth and John married on October 19, 1939, but during World War II, John was held in a Japanese prison camp. He returned to Glen Falls suffering from shell-shock. [2] John was played by Staats Cotsworth, Martin Gabel, and Paul McGrath. [2]

The actresses who portrayed Ruth over the decades were Alice Frost, Nancy Marshall, Marjorie Anderson and Mercedes McCambridge. Sue was played by Haila Stoddard, Dorothy McGuire, Peggy Conklin and Fran Carlon. Michael O'Day was heard in the role of little Neddie Evans. In 1940, ZaSu Pitts joined the cast as Mamie Wayne. [3]

Over the years the program's writers, in addition to Lauferty, were Julian Funt, Carl Bixby, Bob Newman and Bill Sweets. Announcers for the program were Fred Uttal, Jim Ameche and Hugh Conover. Organist Richard Leibert furnished the background music and the opening theme, "Valse Bluette". [2] Ameche's son, Jim Ameche, Jr., played Richard, the son of John and Ruth Wayne. [4]

In an indication of the program's popularity, listeners sent truckloads of wedding presents to the CBS studio when characters Ruth Evans and Dr. John Wayne were married. [5] [lower-alpha 1] Its success led to a spin-off radio series, Bright Horizon , which CBS began broadcasting in 1941. To attract audience to the new show, Alice Frost reprised her role as Ruth Evans Wayne in early episodes of Bright Horizon. [2]


  1. James Thurber cited the event in his series of articles in the New Yorker about the detrimental psychological effects of soap operas. [6]

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  1. Lesser, Jerry (February 10, 1940). "Radio Talent: New York" (PDF). Billboard. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp.  86-87. ISBN   978-0-19-507678-3 . Retrieved 2019-02-06. Big Sister, soap opera.
  3. Stumpf, Charles (2010). ZaSu Pitts: The Life and Career. McFarland. p. 82. ISBN   978-0-7864-6023-6.
  4. "New Character on CBS "Big Sister"". Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. Harrisburg Telegraph. April 1, 1944. p. 15. Retrieved January 6, 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  5. Calabria, Frank M. (1993). Dance of the Sleepwalkers: The Dance Marathon Fad. Popular Press. p. 179. ISBN   978-0-87972-570-9.
  6. Thurber, James (24 July 1948). "Soapland V - The Listening Women" . The New Yorker: 63–68. Retrieved 13 July 2012.