Monday, March 13, 2017
Duffy's Tavern was a popular American radio situation comedy which ran for a decade on several networks (CBS, 1941–1942; NBC-Blue Network, 1942–1944; NBC, 1944–1951), concluding with the December 28, 1951 broadcast.
The program often featured celebrity guest stars but always hooked them around the misadventures, get-rich-quick schemes and romantic missteps of the title establishment's malaprop-prone, metaphor-mixing manager, Archie, portrayed by Ed Gardner, the writer/actor who co-created the series. Gardner had performed the character of Archie, talking about Duffy's Tavern, as early as November 9, 1939, when he appeared on NBC's Good News of 1940.
In the familiar opening, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," performed either solo on an old-sounding piano or by a larger orchestra, was interrupted by the ring of a telephone and Gardner's New Yorkese accent as he answered, "Hello, Duffy's Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the manager speakin'. Duffy ain't here—oh, hello, Duffy."
Owner Duffy was never heard nor seen, either on the radio program or in the 1945 film adaptation or the short-lived 1954 TV series. Archie constantly bantered with Duffy's man-crazy daughter, Miss Duffy (played by several actresses, beginning with Gardner's real-life first wife, Shirley Booth), and especially with Clifton Finnegan (Charlie Cantor, later Sid Raymond), a likeable soul with several screws loose and a knack for falling for every other salesman's scam. Eddie the Waiter was played by Eddie Green; the pianist Fats Pichon took over the role after Green's death in 1950. Hoping to take advantage of the income tax free status of Puerto Rico for future projects, Gardner moved the radio show there in 1949.
Radio's Duffy's Tavern didn't translate well to film or television. Burrows and Matt Brooks collaborated on the screenplay for the 1945 film, Ed Gardner's Duffy's Tavern, in which Archie (with regulars Eddie and Finnegan) was surrounded by a throng of Paramount Pictures stars playing themselves.
The 1954 syndicated TV series, co-produced by Hal Roach, Jr., lacked leading name guest stars and, according to writer Larry Rhine, it was weighted by Gardner's inability to adapt to camera work: "He couldn't act, and he wouldn't learn camera... He thought he could do TV, so he left radio, but he was a bad actor and knew it." The series failed to gain viewer support.