Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Meet Millie's Mama

If you enjoyed Night Court in the 1980s, you probably remember Florence Halop (1923-1986), who played bailiff Florence. But did you know that this talented actress had by then been playing funny, quirky older ladies for 30-some years?  I recently read a 1954 interview with her, when she was playing lovable Mama Bronson on CBS' Meet Millie. 

Halop out of costume, 1950s.
In reality, Florence was only a little older than TV "daughter" Elena Verdugo. Already a respected radio actress, Florence first tried out for the lead role, but was instead asked to play Mama. That involved quite a transformation each week. She donned "an old-fashioned bathing suit with a little padding in front and a lot in back," she explained. "I go from a size 10 to a size 16." Not everyone would relish being dowdied up for the TV cameras, but Halop said she enjoyed it. She reported getting lots of mail "from teenage boys -- they think Mama Bronson is cute."

That's Florence, as Mama, at left.
Sadly, it's difficult to see Meet Millie all these years later. While the show, which originated on radio, was successful enough to last from 1952 to 1956 on TV, it was broadcast live, rather than being filmed. At right is a cast photo with Florence as Mama, Marvin Kaplan (later featured on the long-running sitcom Alice) as Alfred, and Elena Verdugo as Millie. Fortunately, a few episodes of this series are preserved in museums and archives such as the Paley Center for Media, and some Old Time Radio vendors offer transcriptions of radio broadcasts. Go here to see a breakdown of one TV episode in the Paley Center's collection.

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