Gale Storm, best-remembered from her 1950’s program “My Little Margie,” died on June 27 at the age of 87.
Born Josephine Cottle, her career began in 1940 when she won a national talent contest called Gateway to Hollywood. The official prize was a movie contract RKO contract under the name Gale Storm. She fell in love with contest’s male winner, Lee Bonnell, who she married in 1941.
In the 1940s, Gale Storm appeared in many B movies but her big break came in 1952, when “My Little Margie” premiered as a summer replacement for “I Love Lucy.” Both shows were set in Manhattan and revolved around madcap women and their crazy schemes which often involved dress-up and deception, always backfired and both amused and exasperated the men in their lives.
But Margie was younger than Lucy and single, living alone in a Fifth Avenue penthouse with her handsome, widowed father, businessman Vern Albright. Many of the plots revolved around Margie’s attempts to advance her father’s career or protect him from romantic entanglements. When things fell apart, as they always did, Margie would do her classic “Margie gurgle” and Vern would say, “Well…that’s my little Margie!”
This program was never a critical favorite, but it was lively and popular, and I remember it well. I loved Margie’s glamorous lifestyle with her handsome, indulgent father. I thought her behavior was appalling, but loved her high spirits and was fascinated by the way she got away with the most outrageous antics just because she was so adorable.
“My Little Margie” was an unusual show because it began on television but crossed over into radio. The program ran from 1952-1955, and Gale Storm went on to new comedy, “The Gale Storm Show,” (known in syndication as “Oh, Susanna”) in which she played cruise director Susanna Pomeroy. Storm, who recorded several songs during the 1950s, sang on her new program, and three of her records from this period were commercial successes : “I Hear You Knocking,” “Teenage Prayer” and “Dark Moon.”
In later years, she continued to perform on the stage and in guest spots on television programs. Her 1980 autobiography, “I Ain’t Down Yet,” revealed her struggle and eventual success overcoming alcoholism.
Storm’s first husband died in 1987, and in 1987 she married former TV executive Paul Masterson, who died in 1996. Gale Storm and Lee Bonnell had three sons, Phillip, Peter and Paul, and a daughter, Susanna. Storm is survived by her children, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, plus a lot of fans for whom she will always be Our Little Margie.