Quiz 5 – Irene (and Tim) Ryan
October 24, 2013
If you've just checked our blog, we're playing a game on our Facebook “Media Heritage, Inc.” and “Big Broadcast” pages. If you'd like to play, “like” one or both of those Facebook pages and on Mondays, we'll post a photo of an old radio “second banana”…a secondary or character actor from the 1930s through '50s. You'll be instructed to email a guess as to the identity to our email and from the correct answers, we'll pick a winner for a prize each week on Wednesday night! Then check back here at the blog, later in the week, for the answer.
Long before she achieved fame portraying “Granny” for nine seasons on television's Beverly Hillbillies, Irene Ryan enjoyed a solid career in film and on radio. Born in Texas in 1902, Irene Noblette grew up in San Francisco and performed in local theater there. When she turned 20, Irene married Tim Ryan and they formed a vaudeville comedy team called, not surprisingly, “Tim and Irene” that was very similar to another vaudeville couple: George Burns and Gracie Allen. Like Gracie, Irene played what's known as a “Dumb Dora” character. The couple made a couple short films and was the summer radio replacement for sponsor Jello's Jack Benny in 1936. In 1942, the couple divorced and Irene kept her married name, working as a solo comedienne. She landed a regular “second banana” role on The Bob Hope Show in 1948-1950 as a “sad faced chatterbox,” replacing Vera Vague's character. She also toured with Hope overseas. During the 1950s, Ryan remained active in film and early television playing a variety of character roles, but always with that distinctive voice. In 1961, producers were casting for a new comedy, The Beverly Hillbillies, as a vehicle for Buddy Ebsen. Veteran actress Bea Benaderet was offered the role of Daisy “Granny” Moses, but turned it down because she was so busy with other projects. (Benaderet would go on to play Cousin Pearl, Jethro's mother, on the show). Irene Ryan was then cast as Granny at age 58, five years older than Ebsen. As Granny, Ryan achieved much popularity and was nominated for Best Actress Emmy Awards in 1963 and '64. After The Beverly Hillbillies was cancelled in 1971, Ryan appeared on Broadway in Pippin, where she received a Tony Award nomination. It was while performing in Pippin in 1973 that she suffered a stroke and died shortly after at the age of 70. With no children and an estate in the millions, the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship was created through the Kennedy Center, and young actors and actresses benefit from the award to this day. This photo, from the late-1930s, features both Irene and Tim Ryan.