Portia Faces Life
Portia Faces Life is an American soap opera first heard on radio from 1940 to 1953, and also telecast for a single season in the mid-1950s. It began in syndication on April 1, 1940, and was broadcast on some stations that carried NBC programs, although it does not seem to have been an official part of that network's programming. The original title was Portia Blake Faces Life.
The program starred veteran radio actress Lucille Wall, who had been on Your Family and Mine and other radio dramas since the mid-1920s. Stations airing the series included WNAC in Boston, WLS in Chicago, KRLD in Dallas, KGW in Portland, Oregon and KFI in Los Angeles, according to newspaper advertisements. On October 7, 1940, the program became part of the CBS Radio Network, and its title was changed to Portia Faces Life at that point. It was sponsored by General Foods (Post Bran, Post Flakes, Post Toasties).
Portia Faces Life continued on CBS until April 25, 1941. Three days later, it moved to NBC where it continued until March 31, 1944. It then returned to CBS as a summer series from April 3 to September 29, 1944. Heard on NBC from October 3, 1944 to June 29, 1951, the series continued until 1953, according to scripter Mona Kent who wrote every episode. General Foods remained the sponsor through all 13 years of the radio series.
Characters and story
Attorney Portia Blake (Lucille Wall) faced hardships as she fought corruption in the small town of Parkersburg. She was a widow with a ten-year-old son named Dickie; her husband Richard had been murdered, by criminal elements he had fought to expose. (Dunning, 550) The idea of a woman lawyer as a protagonist was unusual for the time, and newspaper advertisements described Blake as "a courageous woman attorney who battles forces of crime, injustice, and civic corruption" in a typical American city. Also part of the storyline was the character of crusading journalist Walter Manning (played by Myron McCormick), who was secretly in love with her. Manning was trying to expose the criminals responsible for the death of Portia's husband. (Dunning, 550).
In 1952, an Australian version of Portia Faces Life began transmission from the radio station 3UZ in Melbourne. It was introduced by an American expatriate named Grace Gibson. It starred Lyndall Barbour as the title character who was renamed "Portia Manning." It ran for 3,544 quarter-hour episodes until 1970 and every episode started with the introduction, "A story taken from the heart of every woman who has ever dared to love." The series also was broadcast from the ZB radio network in New Zealand. Following the conclusion of Portia Faces Life, Lyndall Barbour was cast as Portia again in four smaller shows: Partners in Jeopardy, The Silent Witness, The Haverlock Affair and The Seed of Evil. Portia Manning also had cameo appearances in Violets are Blue, Clayton Place and Thirty Days Hath September.
The drama was revived on CBS television for the 1954-55 season. A story of chaos in an enduring marriage, it starred Frances Reid as Portia Blake Manning. Reid was replaced by Fran Carlon July 5, 1954. The show was retitled The Inner Flame (Oliver, A8) in March 1955.
- "Woman's Thrilling Battle with Crime in New Series," Seattle Times, April 14, 1940, p. 13.
- Mona Kent Digital Library
- Clip from Portia Faces Life Australia
- Oliver, Wayne (March 20, 1955). "Heroine of Soap Opera Has Offstage Troubles, Too". The Times Recorder. p. 49.
- Dunning, John. Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
- Oliver, Wayne. "Offstage Troubles." Baltimore Sun, March 20, 1955, p. A8.
- "Woman's Thrilling Battle With Crime in New Series," Seattle Times, April 14, 1940, p. 13.