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Mr. & Mrs. Cugat: The Record of a Happy Marriage

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Anyone who has listened to My Favorite Husband will of course be aware that this is the book by Isabel Scott Rorick that (loosely) inspired the series. While Jess Oppenheimer largely expunged the radio show of most of its ties to the book, the early episodes in particular do bear a number of similarities to its source. 


Like the series, the book features Liz and George Cugat (changed to Cooper by Oppenheimer). He is a third-vice president at a bank, she is is "debutante" wife. Numerous characters mentioned or featured in the series, such as Cory Cartwright, Myra Ponsemby, The Sturms' and The Atterburys are featured in the book. There is also the Cugat's cook, Annie, who was reshaped into Katy the Maid for the radio series. Also, Mr. Atterbury's first name is Duncan in the book but was changed to Rudolph for the series.


I have only read the first two chapters so far, but the most glaring difference between the two is the tone. Mr. & Mrs. Cugat are very uppercrust and socially prominent in the book. Actually, the word I'd use for it is "stuffy". All the book characters are essentially high-society caricatures, and there is little of the type of humor that came to permeate the radio series. The early radio entries tried, unsuccessfully, to carry over the upper-class tone of the book while mending it with Lucy-ish humor. Oppenheimer was wise to eventually wipe that right off the table and make all of the characters more middle-class and relatable.


Taken on its own terms the book is enjoyable. If one were to read it knowing what it inspired, it'd be best to drop all knowledge of the radio show and just enjoy it for what it is. It was a huge hit at the time, otherwise they wouldn't have adapted it into a series.


Perhaps what will most shock the radio fans is how adult the book is. At one point the narrator, describing Liz's thoughts, calls one woman a "bitch". There are also little drawings peppered throughout that were illustrated by Floyd. A Hardy, and one of them shows Liz fresh out of the shower, with her breasts clearly visible above the towel. Also, at a party the Cugat's attend, one woman surmises that her husband is off bedding the help, remarking how incredibly "oversexed" he is. I was a bit taken aback by this at first, until I remembered that literature of the time was not subject to the same censorship rules that film, radio and television were.  


Plotwise, I haven't really detected any stories that were directly incorporated into the series. However, there is mention of Liz being jealous of George going off horseback riding with a woman she can't stand, which did become the general plot of a first season entry of the radio show. If I encounter any more as I continue with the book I will post them here.


Has anyone else read this book?

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The Liz Cugat character is very different from the character as developed for Lucille to play. She's an avid golfer, for one, which was retconned in the series by having George teach her how to play golf ala "The Golf Game". The funny thing, however, is that the character wouldn't have been a stretch for one of Lucy's movie roles. I definitely sense shades of The Big Street in how Lucy might have tackled this type of role onscreen. 

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