PLAYHOUSE 90: HELEN MORGAN (TV)

Summary

One in this dramatic anthology series. This production, hosted by Dana Wynter, chronicles the life and career of Helen Morgan, the famous torch singer and Broadway star of the 1920s, as told by her mother Lulu Morgan. The program begins in Illinois in 1917, as seventeen-year-old Helen attempts and fails to connect with her long-absent father. She and Lulu decide to head for Chicago, where Helen auditions for a show by singing "Moonlight Serenade," and pianist Marty Dix takes a shine to her and helps her to land the job, then taking her to a jazz club, where she meets musician Benny Carter and sings "Nobody Cares For Me." A few years later, Prohibition takes effect and Helen works as a chorus girl, maintaining a relationship with an older married man, Roy, much to Marty and Lulu's disapproval. After a failed attempt to secure a contract with a bootlegger, she auditions at the Backstage Club, and though she panics and drinks heavily beforehand, the audience is highly impressed with her emotional rendition of "Mean To Me," sung from atop the piano. She soon achieves success in New York, though Lulu notes that her "heart wasn't in it." George White hires her as an understudy to Helen Hudson in "Scandals," and when she performs the role, she is met with strong reviews, though she continues experiencing personal problems with Roy. When she returns home drunk one night, Marty scolds her about the relationship, leading to an argument.

Later, Helen lands the role of Julie in "Showboat" and performs at her speakeasy, Chez Morgan, on the side, singing "Bill" from the musical. Roy tells her that he must leave for Europe with his family and considers a divorce in order to be with her, but they are interrupted when the club is raided and Helen is arrested. Afterwards, she ends things with Roy and weds someone else, but the marriage soon fails and she continues her hard-drinking lifestyle. Despite his worries, Marty finds that he cannot leave her, and Helen wakes up one morning to realize that she has married Bobby Talbot, a young man devoted to her. As she rehearses with her signature song "Why Was I Born," her young friend Marilyn comes to her and admits that she is pregnant, and Helen promises to help her. Her Broadway show "Sweet Adeline" is a success, but Lulu warns her about Bobby and her negative effect on his life, and she ends up divorcing him despite his love for her. She soon happily takes charge of Marilyn's baby but does not officially adopt the child, and after she sings "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" one night, Marilyn returns with a lawyer and reclaims her baby, stating that Helen's heavy drinking renders her unfit to be a parent, and she is crushed. After some time, Helen falls "out of style" when the public grows tired of her heartbroken torch songs, and though a doctor advises Lulu about Helen's health, she goes on the road to perform, needing the money. She ends up back in Chicago and begins to sing "Why Was I Born" onstage, but collapses and later dies at age forty-one from alcohol-related cirrhosis. Her mother closes the story by noting that she had "everything and nothing," her sad life reflected in her gloomy songs. Includes commercials and promos.

Details

  • NETWORK: CBS
  • DATE: May 16, 1957 Thursday 9:30 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:00:00
  • COLOR/B&W: B&W
  • CATALOG ID: T77:0040
  • GENRE: Drama
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Biography
  • SERIES RUN: CBS - TV series, 1956-1961
  • COMMERCIALS: TV - Commercials - Bristol-Myers products^TV - Commercials - Theradan anti-dandruff formula^TV - Commercials - Vitalis hair grooming^TV - Commercials - Gas refrigerators^TV - Commercials - Bufferin pain reliever^TV - Commercials - Ban roll-on deodorant^TV - Commercials - Marlboro cigarettes^TV - Commercials - Furs by Hermans of Beverly Hills^TV - Promos - "Playhouse 90: Circle of the Day"^TV - Promos - "Playhouse 90: Without Incident" ^TV - Promos - "Playhouse 90: Clash By Night"^TV - Promos - "Playhouse 90: Winter Dreams"^TV - Promos - Columbia record album: "Bergan Sings Morgan"

CREDITS

    • Martin Manulis … Producer
    • George Roy Hill … Director
    • Leonard Spigelgass … Adapted by
    • Paul Monash … Adapted by
    • Luther Henderson Jr. … Conductor
    • Dana Wynter … Host
    • Dick Joy … Announcer
    • Lulu Morgan … As told by
    • Polly Bergen … Cast, Helen Morgan
    • Hoagy Carmichael … Cast, Marty Dix
    • Sylvia Sidney … Cast, Lulu Morgan
    • Robert Lowery … Cast, Roy Paterson
    • Reginald Denny … Cast, George White
    • Ronnie Burns … Cast, Bobby Talbot
    • Lili Gentle … Cast, Marilyn Flood
    • Benay Venuta … Cast, Texas Guinan
    • James Westerfield … Cast, Frank Piggin
    • Willard Sage … Cast, Forbes
    • Lewis Charles … Cast, Esposito
    • Grant Richards … Cast, Mike Baxter
    • Paul Lambert … Cast, Kozek
    • Eve McVeagh … Cast, Rita
    • Glenn Turnbull … Cast, Broomstick Elliot
    • Dan Frazer … Cast, Rally Speaker
    • Benny Carter … Cast, Himself
    • Robin Morse … Cast, Proprietor
    • Alfred Hopson … Cast, Customer
    • Jimmy Cross … Cast, Comic
    • Sidney Clute … Cast, Mike Monroe
    • Jim Nolan … Cast, Cop
    • Nicky Blair … Cast, Bootlegger
    • Lorence Kerr … Cast, Ralph
    • Mavis Palmer … Cast, Betty
    • Burt Nelson … Cast, Bouncer
    • Don Anderson … Cast, Stage Manager
    • William Forrest … Cast, Doctor