Retro OTRDiary 32 Lum and Abner – Movie Theater Comparison 1935-43. (retro586)

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The topic of starting a movie theater came up twice in existing recordings of the show. First from May through July of 1935, then 5 years later from September to the end of 1943. In the 1930’s, Chet Lauck and Tuffy Goff wrote all the shows. After their first movie in 1940, and their return to the air waves, they were joined by Roswell B Rogers. Extra characters began showing up, and the writing was a little more sophisticated. Also, after performing for the five years, their voice representation showed some development.

The story is largely the same. Sometimes moving a few jokes earlier or later in the telling. Sometimes dropping older humor for topical humor to fit in with the war years. The later telling of the story has a full week of shows added, presumably due to Tuffy Goff taking some time off. Chet Lauck carries the weight of the show with his characters of Lum, fgrandpap, and Cedric. He’s joined by a couple other character actors, including a final appearance by Lurene Tuttle, as her character of Mary Edwards, recently put under the guardianship of Lum and Abner… and Lizabeth too.

The story came on the heels of different ones, but ones that found Lum leaving town in despair, despondency, and fears from Abner that his friend would, “suicide himself.”

In May of 1935, there had been a chain letter that found Lum and Abner with a lot of hogs on their hands. Squire Skimp took them to sell in Chicago, and the gents dreamed of a monument in their honor. Well, mostly Lum. The small size of the monument is only a minor deterrent. All decked out in borrowed lodge regalia and even a borrowed white horse, a bar b cue is arranged. However, “Things Go Wrong At The Unveiling Ceremony.”

Poor Lum, In 1943, Lum left in despondency after losing face to Caleb Wehundt, and his trade school idea. It didn’t help that his own ward, Mary Edwards took the class of his rival. Mary will only make one more appearance on the show. This can be found in the episode, “Lum Will Teach a Class In Country Storekeeping.”

When Lum leaves in despair, in 1935, it was for one episode, but in 1943, the disappearance went on for most of a week. Winding up in Abner giving away all of Lum’s possessions. Once the widow Jessup, and her scary kids, are scared out of the house, the movie theater topic returns. They discuss the importance of having the right kind of building. Why do they need to have a slanting floor, and high ceiling? In the 1935 episode, “How To Operate A Picture Show,” Abner goes on a rant about shadow puppets, and that he can do it every bit as good as the kids can.

In 1943 Besides the same idea of shadow puppets, the Cotton warehouse is secured with a phone call to Dick Huddleston. With times changed as they were, with more sophisticated writing, and with a war on, jokes also change. Which explains this one about the OPA. An agency that set price limits,, and tried to prevent run away inflation during the war years.
“Discuss Opening A Movie Theater In Pine Ridge.” Both cover Abner wanting to jack up one side of the building for the slanted floor, the need for good seats, and getting grandpap’s player piano. Also a matter of confusion over which side is the front of the house in a theater, and which is the back. An example is found in the 1935 show, “Cotton Warehouse For The Theatre.” The later telling of the story expands into multiple episodes to tell about the jacked up floor , getting the piano, Abner’s confusion and acquiring the projector. Plus Cedric trying to learn how to use it.

Both tellings of the movie theater has grandpap getting the best of Lum in renting his player piano, As found in, “Lum And Abner Hire Grandpap.” But in 1943, a whole week of additions are inserted.
<ul><li>Lum Gives Free Passes To Everyone In Town. (A matter that worries Abner about how they’re going to make money. And some trouble Lum gets into with Henry Lunsford. In 1935, Henry was in town, but Abner was still town constable.)

More things in running a picture show are addressed in the 1943 shows , such as…
<ul><li>Abner Will Go To Mena
<li>Abner Packs For Trip To Mena
<li>Motion Picture Salesman Arrives
<li>The Vulture’s Revenge
<li>Film Company President Pays A Visit To Lum

As if to remember they have a child in their guardianship, Lum gets a phone call from school. And in this stand alone episode, Mary makes probably her last appearance to get a talking to from Lum about the cause of her falling grades… boys. “Mary is Having Problems In School” also finds Lum in an awkward situation of having to tell Mary… um, you know… the facts of life… but not exactly.

After a week of training, “Abner Returns From the Lyric Theater In Mena” and he’s all trained to run the movie projector.

The stories match up a little closer again wen they name the theater. Though the name they settle on in 1935’s “Trying To Name The New Theater,” is different from the 1943 episode “Vote On The Name Of The Theater.” Clearly a vote is involved in one, but not in the other.

The stories parallel pretty closely. Squire wants to be a partner, but you know it’s not going to happen. Squire starts a rival theater, and he draws away resources, including employees who leave to work for Squire’s better wages. Legal charges are brought against Squire, and he has to shut down.

But wait, there’s more. The plot thickens.

Squire is injured, and a new legal battle begins. Without giving away any spoilers, or the points in the plot line, things end well, then they don’t, and a disagreement between Lum and Abner leads into the next story. In 1935 it was a silver mine in Arizona, but in 1943, it goes a different direction. In fact, though the courtroom ordeal ends before the end of the year, the fall out that leads into the next story takes place just after the new year.

Bonus Tracks

Besides a show full of clips from Lum and Abner, our usual opening theme is…
<ul><li>The Tune Wranglers – They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree
<li>W. Lee O’Daniel and his Hillbilly Boys – Devilish Mary