Before “Annie” was revived on Broadway — heck, before “Annie” was on Broadway the first time — that lovable red-headed scamp from the funny pages was primarily played by Shirley Bell Cole on the “Little Orphan Annie” radio show, which was broadcast nationwide by NBC to the afterschool set from 1931 to 1942. Cole, a Chicago-born Jew, supported multiple immigrant Jewish families in her Chicago neighborhood with her salary, which reached a whopping $7,514 in Depression-era 1937. The Paley Center for Media has several archival episodes available to members and My Old Radio has dozens for free online. Ironically, according to her obituary, Cole hated the taste of Ovaltine, the show’s main sponsor. Leapin’ Lizards!
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