More Details About Selena Mead

Writing The Strange Case of “Selena Mead” meant I had to opportunity to read several of Patricia McGerr’s short stories featuring Selena Mead. The ones I read were all published in This Week although I believe additional stories were included in issues of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Here’s a list of the stories I’ve come across:

  • “Legacy of Danger” (Published October 6th, 1963)
  • “The King Will Die Tonight!” (Published October 27th, 1963)
  • “Question, Mr. President!” (Published December 8th, 1963)
  • “Grand Prize for Selena” (Published February 23rd, 1964)
  • “Holiday for a Lady Spy” (Published April 5th, 1964)
  • “View by Moonlight” (Published April 19th, 1964)
  • “Gift for the First Lady” (Published May 3rd, 1964)
  • “Latin Lesson” (Published June 21st, 1964)

This Week suggested that “Gift for the First Lady” would be Selena’s “most dramatic story” [1]. In it, the Premier of a newly established African republic has brought a music box to the White House as a gift for the First Lady. Section Q is worried the box — which disappeared from the airport for an hour — has been tampered with by the Soviets. Selena is asked to inspect the box in a last ditch effort to discover whether it’s anything more than a lovely gift.

There was drama behind the scenes, too. According to an editorial note:

[“Gift for the First Lady”] was completed and mailed on the morning of November 22 [1963], a few hours before President Kennedy’s assassination. Quite naturally, we immediately put the story away, but enough time has now elapsed so we feel it will be read simply as an especially exciting suspense story and an amazing literary coincidence [2].

The editors included a photocopy of a letter Patricia McGerr wrote them on November 23rd, 1963 in which she states, “Needless to say, the story I sent you yesterday was written before the tragedy. It still seems incredible, impossible that such a thing could happen” [3].

When production (or pre-production) on Selena Mead was underway, a hairstylist named George Masters was brought in to “design” the hair style Polly Bergen would wear as Selena Mead. According to The New York Times, he would be paid $250 each week while the show was on the air, despite not being involved on a day-to-day basis, and “will thus attain the ultimate hairdresser’s status symbol–he will be paid for doing nothing” [4].

I’d love to know if any scripts were completed before Selena Mead was dropped.

1 McGerr, Patricia. “View By Moonlight.” Los Angeles Times. 19 Apr. 1964: U8.
2 McGerr, Patricia. “Gift for the First Lady.” Los Angeles Times. 3 May 1964: A5.
3 Ibid.
4 Bart, Peter. “On Mopping Up.” New York Times. 29 Nov. 1964: X11.

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3 Replies to “More Details About Selena Mead”

  1. “SELENA MEAD” was “pencilled in” on Monday nights at 9:30pm(et) for the fall of 1965, with General Foods as sponsor, and would have followed either “THE LUCY SHOW” or “THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW” {both of which had their times “flip-flopped” for the 1964-’65 season, on cheif programmer James T. Aubrey’s orders, which caused Lucille Ball to comment, “I cannot live with this man!” {she couldn’t stand him because he didn’t care about her status at CBS- he could be a very ruthless and “cold” person; this is why John Houseman, who had his own ill-fated experience with Aubrey on producing “THE GREAT ADVENTURE” for the network in 1963-’64, famously referred to him as “The Smiling Cobra”}.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately, for “SELENA MEAD”), Aubrey was ousted as CBS president/programmer at the end of February 1965. John Schneider, the new head of programming, “undid” most of his proposed changes for the 1965-’66 season, including “SELENA MEAD”. Someone suggested that, since Shirley Booth’s “HAZEL” had just been cancelled by its sponsors, Ford and Bristol-Myers (and NBC), and that she had a year to go on her five-year contract with Screen Gems/Columbia for the series, why not bring her over to CBS as a perfect “companion” for “THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW” on Monday nights that fall? General Foods, however, “backed out” of the 9:30 time period they’d sustained on CBS’ Monday schedule for the past 14 years at the end of the season, so “HAZEL”‘s final season was co-sponsored by Philip Morris and Procter & Gamble. Nobody ever heard of “SELENA MEAD” again….

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