||THE GALE STORM SHOW
aka OH! SUSANNA
Sitcom based on a cruise ship travelling around the world.
143 Episodes of 30 minutes duration. CBS. 1956-1960. ABC 1960.
Gale Storm followed up her initial sitcom success on My Little Margie with this comedy, which could be considered an ancestor of the 1970's smash The Love Boat.
Storm played Susanna Pomeroy, the social director on the S.S. Ocean Queen luxury liner who seemed to get herself into trouble, thanks to her various schemes–whether bringing star-struck lovers together, or pulling one over on the ship’s captain, Simon Huxley (Roy Roberts). Aiding and abetting Susanna in her plots was the ship’s beauty salon operator, Elvira “Nugey” Nugent, played by screen comic Zasu Pitts (pictured above, left). James Fairfax was the ship steward, Cedric.
The series also gave the star a chance to flex her vocal cords. By the second half of the 1950's, Storm was making hit records on the Dot label, with such top ten smashes as “Ivory Tower” and “Dark Moon;” nearly every episode of The Gale Storm Show featured her in a vocal performance.
On September 29th, 1956, CBS premiered the show after food giant Nestle eagerly agreed to be its sponsor–without seeing a pilot. As in so many American series of the time, the ‘Gale Storm’ cast appeared in commercials for the sponsor (Storm would tell viewers that Nescafe instant coffee satisfied her “coffee hunger”.) Critics were kind to Storm’s new sitcom, compared with the negative reviews My Little Margie received. “Los Angeles Times” TV writer Cecil Smith was smitten:
“Gale Storm is a lass easy to love. The new series is better done and funnier than [My Little] Margie, but it will undoubtedly sink or float with Gale. She’s her zany self, donning wigs, masquerading, getting into shipboard trouble. And singing and dancing.”
Viewers were in love as well. The Gale Storm Show was the highest rated new sitcom of the 1956-57 season; by its second year, it ranked 16th in the national Nielsen ratings. But in the fall of 1959, the series moved to ABC for one final season. ABC aired reruns of The Gale Storm Show in its daytime line-up from 1959 through 1961. Repeats of the series (along with My Little Margie) ran endlessly in syndication during the 1960's and ‘70's.
It was to be Gale Storm’s last television series. In later years, she appeared only occasionally in TV and on stage; in 1981, she disclosed her alcoholism in an autobiography called “I Ain’t Down Yet.” Storm did commercials for the rehabilitation hospital she credited with helping her fight alcohol. Gale Storm was 87 years old when she died on June 27th, 2009 at a California convalescent hospital. Because her two series have not been seen much for the past few decades, many people don’t know who Gale Storm was. But those who followed her career on both TV and film (and heard her recordings) would be hard-pressed to forget her charm, talent and enduring pluck.
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