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Ronald Colman in The Halls of Ivy

The Halls of Ivy

Ronald Colman and his wife Benita Hume starred in the Halls of Ivy, a very well-written, superbly acted radio program that was full of warmth and wit. The show aired from 1950 to 1952 on NBC and is not often mentioned when old-time radio programs are the topic of conversation, but it is one of my favorites. The combination of Mr. & Mrs. Colman's acting and Don Quinn's writing made for an enjoyable half-hour's worth of entertainment.

The show was created by Don Quinn who for many, many years put words in the mouths of Fibber McGee and Molly. Quinn wrote jokes that made you think. On the McGee program there was a fast and furious onslaught of crazy puns, mangled cliches, and double-meanings. Sometimes all at once -- when delivered by the superb timing of the talented Jim Jordan as Fibber.

The pace was brought down a notch or two for the Halls of Ivy, but not the wit. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face -- and keep it there for 30 minutes -- the dialogue between the Colmans was, and still is today, fresh and humorous. They worked well together, and one needs only to listen to the program for 5 minutes to know they were obviously enjoying themselves.

They played delightfully contrasting characters. Ronald, as Dr. William Toddhunter Hall, the scholarly President of Ivy College. And Benita, as Victoria, veteran of the British stage, thoughtful, energetic, and always amusing. They were surrounded by a talented cast of radio veterans including Willard Waterman, Herb Butterfield, and Gale Gordon.

There are approximately 50 shows that are available today on cassette or cd. I am the happy owner of most of them. It's a light-hearted feel-good comedy that never fails to lift my spirits.

Below is an excerpt from a script of a 1951 program. It presents a typical slice-of-life scene in the lives of the Halls that opened each show....before the REAL action begins.

Announcer:

The Halls of Ivy starring Mr. And Mrs. Ronald Colman.

MUSIC:

Theme up and play brief intro and then singers do the first two lines of theme song -– then hum under:

Announcer:

Welcome again to Ivy. Ivy College that is. In the little town of Ivy, USA. For many families breakfast is a small pandemonium filled with the clatter of cups, the confusion of tongues, desperate last gulps of scorching coffee and the mad dash to the bus station. But for Doctor William Todhunter Hall, president of Ivy, and his wife, Victoria, it's usually an unruffled few moments put aside for their private lives. This morning, for instance, Victoria is arranging a bowl of flowers on the table while Doctor Hall is thoughtfully staring at a highly polished spoon.

MUSIC:

Theme fades as lines begin

Victoria:

There, now. Nothing like a few well-raised ranuncu – ranun. Hmm, what's the plural of ranunculus, Toddy?

Hall:

Oh, you could express it in three different ways. One, Latin: ranunculae. Two, English: ranunculuses. Three, idiomatic: ah, some of these pretty whatch-ma-callits.

Victoria:

Oh, yeah. I'll take the idiotic way. But they do make a pretty centerpiece, don't they?

Hall:

Ah, ha, they do indeed. Yes, they start the morning off very well. But it is the picture of Victoria, well and beautifully arranged in the opposite chair, which sustains me for the rest of the day.

Victoria:

Oh, darling. I do feel lovely and conceited. At breakfast, too.

Hall:

Where my emotions for you are concerned the time of day is unimportant. My heart ticks away but it strikes no hours. Besides, I've never subscribed to the popular belief, originated by some sour cynic and perpetuated by comic strip artists, that the breakfast table is necessarily a battle ground, strewn with bad manners and resounding with the clash of personalities.

Victoria:

That's because you are a dear love.

Hall:

As my father used to say, the world would be a happier place if people would start the day by drinking a toast to someone rather than just eating it with someone.

Victoria:

Ah–that's a wonderful idea. A toast–

< Glasses clink >

Victoria:

Here's to William, the light of my life, from a woman who is extremely happy that I happen to be his wife. Well, the meter may be a little bit ragged but the sentiment is sincere.

Hall:

Well, the meter doesn't matter as long as I did.

Victoria:

Did what?

Hall:

Meet her.

Victoria:

I'm glad you did, too. And not to interrupt a nice sentimental conversation, but may I ask why you keep staring into that teaspoon? Hmm? What's the matter with it? Do you want a clean one?

Hall:

No. No. No No. Its quite clean and handsomely polished. No, I was merely fascinated by the optical illusion caused by the reflections in a concave surface. In it I am upside down. It's very refreshing.

Victoria:

Refreshing?

Hall:

Yes. It's a matter of perspective, of course. But any device which can show things in a new light is both stimulating and therapeutic.

Victoria:

Ah. You mean if the world could see itself reflected in a teaspoon it might stop waving its knives.

Hall:

Something like that, yes. And then, too, there's the school of thought which believes that standing on one's head early in the morning is stimulating to the brain. It's seems good for-

< Doorbell >

Victoria:

I'll toss you to see who walks to front door on his hands. Have you got a quarter?

Hall:

Ha, ha. No. So I'll volunteer.


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