Situation Comedy (1940 - 52)
Duffy's Tavern was first heard in 1940 and became
a regular feature. It was hailed from the start by critics
and whole neighborhoods of working-class listeners alike
duo that doesn't often see eye-to-eye!
Duffy's Tavern was a place on Third Avenue and 23rd
St. in New York City, where the "elite meet to eat,
Duffy ain't here, Archie the Manager speakin'
Anyone who loved old time radio probably knows that phone
patter by heart! Ed Gardner played Archie, the manager of
Duffy's Tavern, and he was as "real" sounding
as any character on radio, as he had grown up in the Big
Apple. His use and abuse of language was "exempulary"
- the same type of local "parlese" that made The
Damon Runyan Theater a favorite with New Yorkers everywhere.
Gardner was a theatrical veteran, whose wife, Shirley Booth,
well-known stage and screen actress, began on the show with
Life with Luigi
used a letter to Mama to start the show. Archie would always
seem to get a phone call at the beginning of each Duffy's
Tavern broadcast. The show might be a star vehicle,
or a situation comedy of errors, or just a semi-sweet story
about a regular that could almost tug on the heartstrings.
Stars dropping in made sense, as Duffy's Tavern was
in New York City, even if a little south and east of Broadway.
Audience and music were used, but an intimate tavern atmosphere
was always maintained. Archie was ever the understanding
host in Duffy's absence.
Regulars on the show included Duffy's slightly feather-brained
daughter, Miss Duffy, first played by Shirley Booth, and
later a host of youngsters. Clifton Finnegan, the classic
barstool jockey, was played by Charlie Cantor. Also featured
were Eddie the waiter (Eddie Green) and Clancy the cop (Alan
Reed.) You never knew who might drop by Duffy's for a quickie.
There was Boris Karloff,
Shelley Winters, Dinah Shore, Lucille Ball (radio's My
Favorite Husband), Tito Guizar, Alan Ladd (of radio's Box
13), Mickey Rooney, Vincent
Price (radio's The Saint),
and believe it or not, even Marlene Dietrich. And lest we
forget, Pierre the talking dog!
Great writing on the show was moonlighted by many of the
top Broadway and TV veterans, including Abe Burrows, Larry
Marks, Larry Gelbart, and Dick Martin - but Ed Gardner was
final script editor. In fact, Gardner previously had radio
director credits for several major old time radio shows, including
It or Not, Burns and
Allen, and the The Rudy Vallee Hour.
The show was done live in New York until 1949, when the
sharp Gardner moved offshore for tax advantages, and the
entire cast lived and worked in Puerto Rico recording the
shows there! None of the estimated eight million listeners
knew the difference, and, of course, now Duffy had a real
See also Dennis Day Show and for more missing protagonist comedy, see also: Wednesdays with You.