Gloria McMillan, an actress who worked primarily during radio's Golden Age, died this week at age 88. Old fans best remembered Gloria from the 1950s television sitcom, Our Miss Brooks starring Eve Arden. During her radio career, she appeared on a variety of top shows, including Big Town, Dr. Christian, Meet Corlis Archer, and many others.
I had the chance to act with Gloria about five years ago. Act, you say? Well, yes. Since I seem to be attracted to various enterprises for which I have no innate talent (e.g., writing best-selling books), about six years ago I decided to try my chops at acting—something for which I have no training at all (unless one counts elective office).
In 2017, I was honored to rejoin a troupe of great professional actors at the Pantages Theater of the Long Beach Veterans Hospital to recreate (on the 70th anniversary of the original broadcast) the original 1947 Lux Radio Theater's old time radio production of It's a Wonderful Life. Amazingly, it was on that very stage 70 years earlier to the day that James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore performed and broadcast the original radio show. The Pantages Theater, by the way, hosted many of the great old radio shows during the World War II era, such as Jack Benny and Bob Hope,
When we did our broadcast, we had a wonderful cast join in for the recreation, including Gloria. Among my other co-stars (I count myself in that category very loosely: in the broadcast I played Nick the Bartender—the mean guy who tosses George Bailey and Clarence the Angel out onto the snow-covered sidewalk) were Paul Petersen (The Donna Reed Show), and fabulous actors from OTR's (old time radio's) heyday—Stuffy Singer, Ivan Cury, and Tommy Cook--Tommy played one of the Bailey children in that original broadcast seven decades earlier! In our production, he took over Lionel Barrymore's role as the mean Mr. Potter. It was great fun, and the elderly vets for whom we performed could not have been a more wonderful audience.
During our read-through rehearsals, throughout the broadcast, and post-broadcast, Gloria McMillan was charming, warm, and filled with stories from her days in radio and early television. She was a pure delight to meet and work with that day.
Rest in peace, dear Gloria. It was an honor performing alongside you you that day in Long Beach.
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