At Least She Got a Fridge

From 1951 until 1959, CBS telecast a live-action anthology series called Schlitz Playhouse. The show welcomed a variety of famous actors from the stage and screen to perform timeless stories.[1] At 9:30 p.m. EST on Friday, March 1st, 1957, “The Life You Save,” based on Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,”[2] aired. The cast included Gene Kelly, Agnes Moorhead, and Janice Rule as the main characters of Mr. Shiftlet, Ma Crater, and Lucynell, respectively.

After O’Connor sold the television rights to the story in the fall of 1956, entertainment news columns announced Gene Kelly as the lead. She feared the production would become a dancing musical.[3] Similar articles noted Kelly hoped the role would provide him more room to showcase his acting talents than his typical stage talents.[4]

A dancing musical it was not, but producers took liberties with the story resulting in a drastic change. The show ended just as O’Connor predicted it would; shifting to fit the flowery happiness and ideologies of mid-century entertainment. It was very much the opposite of Flannery O’Connor’s intentions. Milledgeville locals were in awe of their new celebrity. In a March 9th, letter to Betty Hester, also known as “A,” O’Connor notes the endless praise and congratulations her mother, Regina, receives and the adoration she encounters from children and dogs alike.[5]

O’Connor did not particularly enjoy the television show. However, she did appreciate the payment she received for selling the rights, calling it an effortless way to make money.  With her financial bonus, she bought Regina a new refrigerator. The brand new Hotpoint refrigerator came complete with automatic ice maker, shelving that pops out, and a lever that moves it away from the wall with a simple step.[6]

Andalusia Collection 2018.1.250

The Hotpoint refrigerator is one of many original artifacts on display in the Andalusia kitchen. If you have never read O’Connor’s letters, they are a fascinating look into her daily life here at the farm. She often refers to simple everyday items, like the refrigerator, making them a unique and intricate part of our history. Though it was easy money, O’Connor did not sell the rights to any of her other stories, making our completely standard refrigerator, one-of-a-kind.  

[1] “Schlitz Playhouse,” IMDB, accessed August 5, 2019,

[2] Flannery O’Connor, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” in A Good Man is Hard to Find, (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955), 53-68.

[3] Flannery O’Connor Letters of Flannery O’Connor The Habit of Being, ed. Sally Fitzgerald (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979), 186.

[4] Ibid., 191,

[5] Ibid., 207.

[6] Ibid., 175.

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