Niagara Gazette

Columns

May 8, 2013

BRADBERRY: Most of all, I remember Mama

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Her apparently tumultuous early days, which may have been touched if not damaged by her own nuclear family life, if her 1947 novel, Transfer Point, about the daughter of divorced parents is any reflection of her experiences, probably added to her quest for comfort and stability.

Who, in the midst of life’s compound troubles could offer that more than Mama?

Everyone, it seems needed a Mama then; in fact, based on the same story, the Broadway Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II production opened on October 19, 1944 at the Music Box Theatre and ran for 713 performances with a cast that included Marlon Brando, making his Broadway debut as Nels.

So popular was the maternal longing as depicted and satisfied by the story, the play was adapted for a 1948 feature film written by DeWitt Bodeen and directed by George Stevens starring Irene Dunne as Mama.

But it was the television show that put Forbes’ version of Mama into America’s living rooms and hearts.

Originally broadcast live from a television studio located above the Oyster Bar in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, Mama offered guidance to the burgeoning post-war families as well as much needed aid and comfort to many a weary, war torn soul.

With Peggy Wood in the title role and Rosemary Rice as Katrin, the cast also boasted fatherly Judson Laire as Papa, Dick Van Patten as brother Nels, and my personal favorite, Robin Morgan as Dagmar.

Robin Morgan, originally from Lake Worth, Florida, now in her early seventies is, not surprisingly, a very successful writer, poet, feminist advocate co-founder of the Women’s Media Center and author of no fewer than twenty published books including the classic anthologies, “Sisterhood Is Powerful”.

The series received an Emmy nomination in 1951 and Wood scored an Emmy nomination in 1957 for her eight year portrayal of Mama, the same year that all of the 26 surviving filmed episodes of Mama were aired on New York’s WPIX-TV Channel 11. Unfortunately, most of the live “kinescoped” episodes are lost.

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