Friday, July 3, 2009

Dark Moon Over a Perky Storm

The perky star of 50's TV, Gale Storm, died at age 87. She was one of the early stars who went from radio to movies, to radio again, to television, and ultimately to rock 'n roll.

The roles she played in TV--Margie Albright, daughter of a wealthy playboy investment banker in the television situation comedy "My Little Margie" and Susanna Pomeroy, social director of the S.S. Ocean Queen in "The Gale Storm Show: Oh! Susanna"--displayed her as a woman very much in control of the male characters in her life, and in control of her life well before women's liberation. Margie was her own person and did her own thing long before TV or society blessed this role for a woman.

In each episode, no matter what her father, Vern, (who tried to reign her in, in the same way he tried to run his business) and hapless boy friend Freddie wanted or expected her to do, Margie plotted her own course and that of her male counterparts. She had some similarities to the quirky lead characters in "I Married Joan" and "I Love Lucy," but Margie and Susanna were more in control. Her characters were fine role models for children growing up in the 50's. Ironically, "Margie" started as a summer replacement for the wildly popular "I Love Lucy," and in 1953 a poll listed Storm as television's most popular star following comedienne Lucille Ball. Margie usually had the last laugh, and we laughed with her.

Gale Storm was one of the earliest television stars to crossover to rock with her cover record of Smiley Lewis' "I Hear You Knocking," which hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts, followed in 1957 by "Dark Moon" that went to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. I have many pleasant memories of Margie and Susanna, and Gale Storm's hit records.

As the media pores over the talent and excesses of the immensely gifted Michael Jackson, another trailblazer passes on with little notice.

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