Ezra Stone was an actor and director in films, radio and television. He is most remembered as radio's long-suffering Henry Aldrich, a woeful teenager whose plaintive cry of "Coming, Mother!" became an anthem in American living rooms. Stone also helped stage Irving Berlin's legendary "This Is the Army" revue during World War II.
Stone had been acting since he was 7 years old, when he started doing radio and local stage productions near his home in Philadelphia. The character for which he will always be known grew out of "What a Life," a play produced by George Abbott in 1938. It was written by Clifford Goldsmith, and its success moved Goldsmith into the top echelon of radio writers at $3,000 a week. It was in the play that Stone first created the cacophonous, cracking voice that became a symbol of the pain of adolescence.
He was only 19 when he first played Henry and, by the following year, he would direct his first play — Milton Berle's "See My Lawyer."
From Broadway, Stone and "The Aldrich Family," as they came to be known, moved into national radio as an interlude on the Rudy Vallee show.
In 1939, the family had become so popular that Henry, who remained age 16 through the 14-year run of the show, and his family evolved into their own time slot on NBC, where his mirthful mayhem was heard first on Tuesdays and then Thursdays.
At least once each week, Henry's mother, played by Lea Penman, would call out for her son: "Hen-Ree! Henry Aldrich." His throaty response of "Coming, Mother!" brought forth laughter that almost always overwhelmed the next few words of dialogue both at home and in the audience.
During World War II, Stone joined the Army Special Services unit, although he was frequently permitted to fulfill his radio obligations. During the war, Stone, Gary Merrill and Josh Logan — under Berlin's direction — produced a musical revue of 300 soldiers to entertain their fellow servicemen.
Later, he staged morale boosters for IBM salespeople and directed many episodes of popular TV series. Among them were "I Love Lucy," "Lost in Space," "Laredo," "Julia," "Lassie" and "The Munsters."
Stone, who late in life could still entertain friends with Henry Aldrich's wailings, was a widower. He died at age 76.