Synopsis by Hal Erickson
One of the earliest filmed syndicated comedy series in the United States, Life With Elizabeth was a showcase for actress Betty White -- a full-fledged star two decades before The Mary Tyler Moore Show and three decades before Golden Girls. The series originated as a series of short comic sketches, telecast live on a local basis from the Los Angeles studios of KLAC-TV beginning in 1952. Originally telecast as part of the station's daily, five-hour variety show Hollywood on Television, Life With Elizabeth concerned itself with the marriage of heroine Elizabeth (White) and her husband Alvin (played by L.A. announcer and future Jerry Lewis movie regular Del Moore). The stories covered a variety of familiar domestic situations, from bringing the boss home to dinner to building an addition to the porch. In some episodes, Elizabeth and Alvin were newlyweds; in others, they had been united in the bonds of holy matrimony for several years. Whatever the case, the KLAC announcer traded quips with the two main characters at the beginning of each sketch, in fine "golden age" radio fashion; and at the end of each playlet, Elizabeth and Alvin would turn to the cameras and bid the viewers at home a fond goodbye. This basic format, right down to the breaking of the traditional "fourth wall," was retained when Life With Elizabeth was committed to film beginning in 1953, then syndicated by producer Don Fedderson (The Millionaire, My Three Sons) on behalf of Guild Films. Stars Betty White and Del Moore were joined by such featured players as Lois Bridge, cast as the couple's neighbor Chloe Skinridge; Ray Erlenborn, as Alvin's boss; Dick Garton as Alvin's dimwitted buddy Richard; and veteran radio personality Jess Kirkpatrick, who was usually cast as one of Elizabeth's relatives. Rounding out the cast were the couple's pets, Stormy the St. Bernard and Bandie the Pekinese. Prolific game show MC Jack Narz was the announcer, while the series' head prop man was none other than future film director Sam Peckinpah! In the spirit of its local L.A. original, the filmed version Life With Elizabeth contained three unrelated sketches per half hour episode. This was done because star Betty White was worried that her character was not strong enough to sustain a full half-hour story every week. The "fragmentation" of each of the series' 65 half-hours proved beneficial to some local TV stations, who ran Life With Elizabeth as a daily 10- to 15-minute "filler," thereby having 195 separate "episodes" at their disposal. The series remained in production until 1955, and in active syndication for at least ten years thereafter. As popular as Life With Elizabeth was in the United States, it was even more so abroad; at one time it was Australia's highest-rated filmed sitcom.