Barnaby on the radio

O'Malley on the micThe first dramatic adaptation of Crockett Johnson‘s Barnaby appeared on the Frank Morgan Show of June 12, 1945.  Morgan (best known as the title character in MGM’s Wizard of Oz) played Mr. O’Malley, Norma Jean Nilsson played Barnaby, and Ralph Bellamy played Mr. Baxter. The radio dramatization begins in the second half of the show – at 15:30 of the broadcast.

Click to play The Frank Morgan Show: Barnaby Audition (12 June 1945)

I presume that this goes without saying, but, since this is 1945, some jokes may offend: racial & ethnic stereotypes, sexism, and so on.  A few references:

  • James Petrillo was the President of the American Federation of Musicians.
  • Victory Gardens: during the Second World War, the U.S. government encouraged people to grow their own food.

In my view, this was the lesser of the two radio adaptations.  It uses little of Johnson’s original material, and doesn’t capture the strip’s comic tone.  This broadcast was its one-and-only episode.  Barnaby also inspired another radio show (two episodes), two stage versions, two TV adaptations, and an animated cartoon.  Neither the 1946 nor the 1948 stage version was a hit.  In 1959, the pilot for first TV version – which starred Bert Lahr as O’Malley and Ron Howard as Barnaby – aired to strong reviews, but that was its sole episode.  Produced by Norman Lear, the second TV version (1966) never aired.  I’ve never seen either TV version, and nor have I seen the animated cartoon.  Since it (the cartoon) did win a prize at the 1967 Venice film festival, I presume a print is out there somewhere….

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