Second Husband


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

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

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]


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]

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 magazineEdit

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 scheduleEdit

Starting Date Ending Date Network Day(s Length Sponsor
April 26, 1936 April 4, 1937 NBC Blue Sunday 30 minutes Sterling Drugs*
April 21, 1937 July 28, 1937 NBC Blue Wednesday 30 minutes Sterling Drugs*
August 3, 1937 April 14, 1942 CBS Tuesday 30 minutes Sterling Drugs*
April 20, 1942 July 31, 1942 NBC Blue Monday-Friday 15 minutes sustaining
August 3, 1942 April 26, 1946 CBS Monday-Friday 15 minutes Sterling Drugs*
  • Sterling's products advertised on Second Husband were primarily Bayer Aspirin, Dr. Lyons Tooth Powder and Phillips' Milk of Magnesia.[3]


Cast members were as follows:

Role Actor/Actress
Brenda Cummings Helen Menken
Cathleen Cordell
Grant Cummings Joseph Curtin
Richard Waring
Milton Brownspun Ralph Locke
Bill Cummings Carleton Young
Ralph Lee Robertson
Ben Porter Jay Jostyn
Marion Jennings Arlene Francis
Madaline Belgrad
Edwards, the butler William Podmore
Fran Cummings Janice Gilbert
Charita Bauer
Mercer McCloud
Dick Cummings Tommy Donnelly
Jackie Grimes
Louise McPherson Ethel Wilson
Irma Wallace Joy Hathaway
Valerie Welles Jacqueline De Wit
Marcia Judy Blake
Peter Dick 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]


  1. ^ a b Buxton, Frank and Owen, Bill (1972). The Big Broadcast: 1920–1950. The Viking Press. SBN 670-16240-x. P. 209.
  2. ^ a b Terrace, Vincent (1981), Radio's Golden Years: The Encyclopedia of Radio Programs 1930–1960. A.S. Barnes & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-498-02393-1. Pp. 234–235.
  3. ^ a b c Cox, Jim (2005). Historical Dictionary of American Radio Soap Operas. Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 0-8108-5323-X. Pp. 200–201.
  4. ^ Sterling, Christopher H. (ed.) (2004). Encyclopedia of Radio. Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 1-57958-249-4. P.
  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. ^ a b c "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. ^ a b 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.

External linksEdit

  • "Second Husband" story (based on the radio program) in the January 1940 issue of Radio and Television Mirror magazine