Before Green Acres was on television, Granby's Green Acres was on radio, starring Bea Benaderet
Benaderet knew a thing or two about Green Acres, even before it became a hit rural comedy.
"Green Acres is the place to be! Farm living is the life for me!"
The memorable lyrics to the opening of Green Acres will stick with fans of the series forever. It joined the rustic comedies of Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies on CBS in September of 1965, highlighting a pair of social elites who move from the big city to the small farm.
The concept certainly fit the mold for what CBS was doing at the time, but the idea for the new series wasn't an original one. The inspiration for Green Acres came from the old days of radio. The creation of Green Acres and its many crossovers and Hooterville-universe interactions came full circle for the star of Petticoat Junction, Bea Benaderet. Here's why.
15 years before Green Acres hit the air, a radio sitcom called Granby's Green Acres was on network radio. In 1950, it was a replacement for Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband. The radio series featured a pair of city slickers that moved to the country for a simpler life. Sound familiar? It starred Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet as John and Martha Granby. The TV series was eventually inspired by the radio show, but it wasn't a carbon copy. Instead of being a lawyer, like Oliver Wendell Douglas, John Granby was a big-time banker.
The series ran for nearly two months, but years later was enough inspiration for an entire series on television. When the time came to add a third rural comedy to CBS in the mid-Sixties, the legendary Paul Henning handed things over to Jay Sommers, who brought the idea to the table.
"He came to me with a bound volume of radio scripts he had done called Granby's Green Acres and said he wanted to make them into a TV series," Henning, the creator of The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction, said in a 1990 New York Times article. "At the time, I had a commitment from (then-CBS Entertainment president) Jim Aubrey that if I would give him a third series, he would put it on without a pilot."
Originally, Gale Gordon was the pick to play Oliver, but he was committed to doing The Lucy Show, resulting in Eddie Albert stepping into the rat race ditching role. At this point, Petticoat Junction was already on the air, and star Bea Benaderet was eager for the new show to join the lineup.
"The casting was great," Benaderet said in a Macon News article from 1965. "The idea of Eva Gabor in Hooterville is very funny." Funny it was, and still is! Long before the rural comedies came to be, Benaderet began her network radio career in the mid-Thirties, creating "vocal characterizations that were popular among millions of radio listeners long before any of them knew what she looked like," according to the article.
"I worked for Jack Benny for years as the telephone operator on his show," she said in a 1965 article from The Dispatch. "I started when I was 12 as a singer on radio in San Francisco. I miss the friendships on radio. It was a social time in radio much more that in television. I also miss the ease of radio — TV should have come first and radio in my old age," she joked. She made it clear she loved her time on TV, too.
The Jack Benny Program led to several opportunities for Benaderet, which led to a shot on Granby's Green Acres. The multifaceted actress' successful career on radio crossed over smoothly to the screens of televisions across the nation.
Starring in Petticoat Junction, she was not only able to crossover to Green Acres the TV show, but in a way, she crossed back to her Granby's Green Acres days, a full circle moment for the radio and TV star.