Second Husband

Last updated
Second Husband
GenreSoap opera
Running time30 minutes
15 minutes
Country of originUnited States
StarringHelen Menken
AnnouncerAndre Baruch
Created byFrank and Anne Hummert
Written byHelen Walpole
Nancy Moore
Elizabeth Todd
Produced byFrank and Anne Hummert
Original releaseApril 26, 1936 – April 26, 1946
Sponsored bySterling Drugs

Second Husband was a radio soap opera in the United States. [1]

Radio broadcasting distribution of audio content to a dispersed audience via any audio mass communications medium

Radio broadcasting is transmission by radio waves intended to reach a wide audience. Stations can be linked in radio networks to broadcast a common radio format, either in broadcast syndication or simulcast or both. The signal types can be either analog audio or digital audio.

A soap opera is an ongoing drama serial on television or radio, featuring the lives of many characters and their familial, platonic and intimate relationships. The term soap opera originated from radio dramas being sponsored by soap manufacturers.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.


The program told "[t]he dramatic story of Brenda Cummings and the problems that arise within her family when she marries Grant Cummings, her second husband." [2] Widow Brenda's marriage to wealthy Grant Cummings produced problems on two levels—her son and daughter didn't want to accept Grant as their new father, and Brenda wanted a career as a movie actress, which Grant opposed. [3]

Second Husband was one of 35 radio series – many of them soap operas – produced by the husband-and-wife team Frank and Anne Hummert from 1931 through 1960. [4] The conflict regarding Brenda Cummings' desire for a career in movies resembled the situation of Mary Noble in another Hummert program, Backstage Wife . [3]

Anne Hummert American screenwriter

Anne Hummert was the leading creator of daytime radio serials or soap opera dramas during the 1930s and 1940s, responsible for more than three dozen series.

<i>Backstage Wife</i>

Backstage Wife is an American soap opera radio program that details the travails of Mary Noble, a girl from a small town in Iowa who came to New York seeking her future.


Helen Menken, who was the first actress to play Brenda Cummings, was a veteran of Broadway plays when the show began. She first appeared in a Broadway production at age 3 and was in another when she was 5. Menken progressed to more substantial roles by the time she was a teenager and "[t]hrough the mid-1920s, she presented a string of powerful performances in challenging dramas." [5] Thus, a newspaper article about Second Husband advised readers: "The series will afford Miss Menken the opportunity of displaying her versatility and acting genius and will enable you radio dialers to hear one of the theater's brilliant actresses in a gripping role." [6]

Helen Menken American actress

Helen Menken was an American actress.

A 1939 magazine article about Second Husband described Menken as "a perfectionist, which probably accounts for the fact that she is one of the few stars of stage or screen who has been able to make and retain an equal success on the air." [7]

Menken's personal life mirrored her role in the program to an extent, because when the show aired she was married to her second husband. Thus, her real-life experience sometimes affected her work on Second Husband. As an example, she told one reporter, "It wasn't until after my second wedding that I realized what I had missed in not wearing a lovely, flowing, white wedding gown." After acknowledging her sentimental nature, she continued: "When my wedding scene ... came into the script, I went out and bought a beautiful wedding gown. And I was married over the air in it. The way I had always wanted to be married in real life. It was beautiful." [8]

The star's stage experience might also have influenced how the program was broadcast. That same article noted, "Broadcasting Second Husband is almost like putting on a regular stage play, with the curtain rising at the beginning of the show and falling at its end, and all the actors taking curtain calls in response to applause." [7]

Cross-marketing with magazine

Cross-marketing, in which each of two entities promotes the other's product or service, was used to the mutual benefit of radio programs and magazines in the era of old-time radio. Radio historian Elena Razlogova wrote: "The networks and magazines perfected the cross-marketing common among department stores, newspapers, movies, pulps, slicks and comic strips in this period [the 1930s]. Editors and program producers synchronized print and on-air tie-ins. [9]

Second Husband and Radio and Television Mirror magazine exemplified such cross-marketing. The magazine's January 1940 issue carried the first installment of a serial titled "Second Husband." A headline deck on the story's opening spread introduced the serial as follows: "Beginning in intimate diary form, the vivid story of a young mother who thought it was no crime to love and marry again – based on the popular radio serial of the same name." [10]

People at the magazine and the program coordinated promotion of efforts related to the tie-ins. Razlogova cited one example, when the magazine printed a full-page portrait of Brenda Cummings that was promoted on the radio show, "giving the listener no opportunity to miss either event." She added, "Thanks to such precisely orchestrated campaigns, radio shows boosted their ratings while fan magazines jacked up their circulation." [9]

Broadcast schedule

Starting DateEnding DateNetworkDay(sLengthSponsor
April 26, 1936April 4, 1937NBC BlueSunday30 minutesSterling Drugs*
April 21, 1937July 28, 1937NBC BlueWednesday30 minutesSterling Drugs*
August 3, 1937April 14, 1942CBSTuesday30 minutesSterling Drugs*
April 20, 1942July 31, 1942NBC BlueMonday-Friday15 minutessustaining
August 3, 1942April 26, 1946CBSMonday-Friday15 minutesSterling Drugs*


Cast members were as follows:

Brenda CummingsHelen Menken
Cathleen Cordell
Grant CummingsJoseph Curtin
Richard Waring
Milton BrownspunRalph Locke
Bill Cummings Carleton Young
Ralph Lee Robertson
Ben Porter Jay Jostyn
Marion Jennings Arlene Francis
Madaline Belgrad
Edwards, the butlerWilliam Podmore
Fran CummingsJanice Gilbert
Charita Bauer
Mercer McCloud
Dick CummingsTommy Donnelly
Jackie Grimes
Louise McPhersonEthel Wilson
Irma Wallace Joy Hathaway
Valerie Welles Jacqueline De Wit
MarciaJudy Blake
PeterDick Nelson
Dr. Mark Phillips Vinton Hayworth

Others in the cast were Lois Hall, James Meighan, Colleen Ward, Virginia Dwyer, Nancy Bashein, John Thomas, Skippy Homeier, Peter Donald and Stefan Schnabel. [1] [2] The orchestra leader was Vic Arden. [7]

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  5. Connolly, Thomas F. "Helen Menken". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  6. McIver, Ernest D. Jr. (August 2, 1937). "'Round the Radio Dial". The Free Lance Star. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 "Tuesday's Highlights". Radio and Television Mirror. 12 (6): 44. October 1939. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  8. Sher, Jack (July 4, 1937). "'Old Maid' on Marriage—From Experience". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 11 May 2014.
  9. 1 2 Razlogova, Elena (2011). The Listener's Voice: Early Radio and the American Public. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN   978-0-8122-4320-8. P. 65.
  10. "Second Husband". Radio and Television Mirror. 13 (3): 12–14, 65–67. January 1940. Retrieved 14 May 2014.