My Friend Irma, created by writer-director-producer Cy Howard, is a top-rated, long-run radio situation comedy that spawned a media franchise. It was so popular in the late 1940s that its success escalated to films, television, a comic strip and a comic book. Marie Wilson portrayed the title character, Irma Peterson, on radio, in two films and the television series. The radio series was broadcast on the Columbia network from April 11, 1947, to August 23, 1954.
Dependable, level-headed Jane Stacy (Cathy Lewis—and Joan Banks during Lewis' illness in early 1949) began each weekly radio program by narrating a misadventure of her innocent, bewildered roommate, Irma, a scatterbrained stenographer from Minnesota. The two central characters were in their mid-twenties. Irma had her 25th birthday in one episode; she was born on May 5. After the two met in the first episode, they lived together in an apartment rented from their Irish landlady, Mrs. O'Reilly (Jane Morgan, Gloria Gordon).
Irma's boyfriend Al (John Brown) was a deadbeat, barely on the right side of the law, who had not held a job in years. Only someone like Irma could love Al, whose nickname for Irma was "Chicken". Al had many crazy get-rich-quick schemes, which never worked. Al planned to marry Irma at some future date so she could support him. Professor Kropotkin (Hans Conried), the Russian violinist at the Princess Burlesque theater, lived upstairs. He greeted Jane and Irma with remarks like, "My two little bunnies with one being an Easter bunny and the other being Bugs Bunny." The Professor insulted Mrs. O'Reilly, complained about his room, and reluctantly became O'Reilly's love interest in an effort to make her forget his back rent. In 1953, Conried dropped from the cast and was replaced by Kenny Delmar as his cousin, Maestro Wanderkin.
Irma worked for the lawyer, Mr. Clyde (Alan Reed). She had such an odd filing system that once when Clyde fired her, he had to hire her back again because he couldn't find anything. Useless at dictation, Irma mangled whatever Clyde dictated. Asked how long she had been with Clyde, Irma said, "When I first went to work with him he had curly black hair, then it got grey, and now it's snow white. I guess I've been with him about six months."
Irma became less bright and more scatterbrained as the program evolved. She also developed a tendency to whine or cry whenever something went wrong, which was at least once every show. Jane had a romantic inclination for her boss, millionaire Richard Rhinelander III (Leif Erickson). Another actor in the show was Bea Benaderet.
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