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Country Western Music Detective Radio Dragnet Escape Fibber McGee and Molly Gunsmoke Have Gun Will Travel Horror Show Inner Sanctum Mysteries Old Time Radio Radio Detective Suspense X Minus One Yours Truly Johnny Dollar

Recommended Series For First Time OTR Listeners

There are so many facets to the world of Old Time Radio, it is hard to know where to start enjoying it. The truth is there is so much to enjoy in OTR, it is easy to imagine that almost anything you pick out will delight you.

But that still leaves you with the difficult job of choosing! Lets look at a few of the options: Most OTR fans get started by choosing a genre of shows they enjoy. There are Adventure programs for action fans, for those who enjoy a good puzzle there are a number of great Detective and Mystery shows. If your day isn’t complete without a few good laughs there are several comedy programs, ranging from sketch driven variety programs to character rich situation comedies.

The great thing about enjoying OTR today is that there are so many ways and places you can enjoy it. For many of us there is nothing that makes a commute enjoyable than following an exciting adventure serial program. At the end of the day it helps to remove the stress of the work day by trying to solve a mystery along with a hard boiled detective during the drive home. Time spent working in front of the computer goes a lot better listening to the songs and jokes of a variety show. With a good set of noise-reducing earbud speakers attached to our pocket MP3 player or cellphone, some of us are even known to enjoy listening to the cowboys in Western programs while mowing the lawn!

Many purveyors of Old Time Radio try to sell their programs on the nostalgia appeal. Sadly, most of the people who are nostalgic for these shows are no longer with us. Most of the series and shows are very enjoyable in their own right, but we feel that knowing a little bit about the actors and the programs make them even more enjoyable. Hopefully they will whet your appetite to know more about these great shows.

Some of our favorite genres and and shows include:

Mystery and Horror:

These are the late-night shows that make you want to pull the bedsheets up over your eyes! Most will agree that the most blood-curdling ghost story is even more frightening on radio!

Mystery In The Air features one of the creepiest voices and personalities ever to grace the screen, Peter Lorre.

The Whistler is a collection crime stories where the justice always comes to the villain, but not a way that he or the listeners would expect!

Suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat with nearly a thousand episodes of “Radio’s Outstanding Theater of Thrills!”

Lights Out! was one of the original late night thrillers with stories written by two of radio’s greatest talents, Wyllis Cooper and Arch Oboler.

Inner Sanctum Mysteries is like having Halloween every week with creepy stories, dark jokes, and creepy thrills.

Weird Circle brings us a collection of classic ghost stories.

Adventure:

These shows will take our imaginations to the far corners of the world.

Escape! features some of the greatest stars Hollywood, Broadway and radio in some great original and adapted stories.

Cloak and Dagger is based on true stories of the Operatives of the OSS, predecessor of the CIA.

The Adventures of Superman. Much of the legend of the original comic book hero was actually developed on the radio.

 

Comedy:

There can never be enough things for us to laugh at, and Radio brings us some of the best!

You Bet Your Life, developed as a sort of game show, the program was really a chance for Groucho Marx to simply be Groucho!

Fibber McGee and Molly is nothing but good-hearted fun featuring a well meaning schemer who seems to have never held a steady job and his long suffering but happy wife along with his friends and neighbors.

The Jack Benny Program is a collection of music and skits built around a character who was everything that the real Jack Benny wasn’t, vain, cantankerous, and cheap!

Crime and Detective:

Whether we are following the wits and bravery of hard working policemen and brave private eye, or pitting our wits against one of the great detective, everyone enjoys Crime and Detective stories.

Dragnet starring Jack Webb is a series of exciting stories based on true cases of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tales of the Texas Rangers brings us more true crime stories from the Oldest and Most Well known law enforcement agency in North America.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar is the story of an investigator for insurance companies with an “action-packed expense account”.

The Adventures of Nero Wolfe is a humorous collection of the cases of a rather eccentric but incredibly intelligent crime solver whose effectiveness isn’t hampered by his girth.

Drama:

More serious stories, but still greatly entertaining, our dramas include tales from literature, great movies, and even “serial dramas”.

Academy Award Theater, adaptations of Hollywood’s best movies, all Oscar Winners.

Dr Christian was one of the great wash-tub-weepers that kept house wives entertained with their continuing stories and weekly cliffhangers.

Lux Radio Theater brought the stories of the best movies to the radio, featuring a full orchestra, and usually the film’s original stars performing before a live audience.

 

Science Fiction:

Sometimes condemned as “kid stuff”, several radio programs treated Sci Fi as serious literature.

Dimension X and X Minus One had stories from the pages of great SciFi magazines and the best and most influential SciFi writers.

Space Patrol was meant for kids, but the space-opera was based on the best scientific knowledge of the time.

 

 

Westerns:

Some of these are kid shows, and others are serious adult drama, while others are treasures of great country music!

Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel were serious drama that never allowed the gritty reality of the rough and tumble West get in the way.

The Six Shooter featured the acting talent of the great James Stewart and some of the best written stories of any radio genre.

Melody Ranch featured the music of one of the screens great singing Cowboys, as well as a story or two of genuine ranch life.

 

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Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Fibber McGee and Molly Jack Benny

Christmas Radio Show Favorites

Vintage-Christmas-Card-Christmas-2008-christmas-2795244-472-299Every year before I even think about going up to the attic to get the Christmas decoration boxes, I make it a point to dust off my collection of OTR Christmas Programs. There will be plenty of time to sit in front of the TV or computer to watch all of my family’s favorite Christmas movies and TV specials, but there is just something about the Christmas programs on the Radio that set the holiday mood.

OldDesignShop_BoxOfHollyChristmasPCToday, Christmas seems to start just before Halloween, when the stores begin putting up red and green end bases. The shopping fury of the day after Thanksgiving is almost a bigger deal than the morning after Santa arrives. Back then, Christmas seemed to last longer, building in intensity for the whole month of December, beginning at your school desk as you waited for Christmas vacation to start, and then being extra good to make up for the rest of the year when you may have been on the naughty list, until the climax when all those colored packages appear under the tree.

One of the great things about OTR Christmas is that you can enjoy the shows while you are doing other Christmas things. You can listen to your favorite characters and their holiday tribulations and still have your eyes and hands free to make fudge, string the lights, bake cookies, trim the tree, or drive to the in-laws.

Christmas-Vintage-wallpaper-vintage-33115960-1024-768Maybe it was because the Jordan’s had kids of their own during a good portion of their run, but Fibber McGee and Molly took a different path for the holidays than we see on TV sitcoms. On TV, the writers come up with a single Christmas themed episode to air the week before the Big Day and that is about it.

Holiday preparations in Wistful Vista usually started two or three weeks before Dec 25. Every year there were Christmas cards to get sent, presents to buy and a the perfect tree had to be found. The week before Christmas in 1945, Fibber decides that Molly should have a white Christmas tree, and his solution is to spray paint the tree he bought. Of course, everyone else in town can tell him what a bad idea that is, but Fibber has to find out for himself.

--tvtimesbenny1960aThe highlight of the Christmas day program (or the last broadcast before Christmas) is Teeny (voiced by Marian Jordan, who also played Molly) giving a rendition of Twas the Night Before Christmas with the Kingsmen.

During all his years on radio, whether he was creating Jello Holiday Desserts or wrapping carton of Lucky Strikes to place under the tree, Jack Benny knew what was important at Christmas: parties and shopping! Jack always had plenty of help from his gang at his Christmas parties, even when he had Rochester splurge for a whole box of crackers, but his real troubles came at the department store. It takes a delicate balance to find the perfect present and not spend too much money on it.

christmasSome radio shows did take time to spread a more spiritual message. Andy takes a job as a department store Santa on Amos ‘n’ Andy so that he can buy his daughter Ardabella a special doll, but the highlight is when he explains the Lord’s Prayer to the child as only Andy could tell it. The Lord’s Prayer bit became a tradition on the show for years.

Of course, there were plenty of Christmas traditions in OTR, from Bing Crosby’s annual rendition of “Adeste Fideles” to Lionel Barrymore playing Scrooge from the Christmas Carol. Perhaps tradition is the most important part of the Christmas season, because it reminds us that the world is still a good place to live.


Categories
Eve Arden Fibber McGee and Molly Gale Gordon Lucille Ball Lux Radio Theater Old Time Radio Our Miss Brooks

Happy Birthday, Gale Gordon

On Feb 20, 2015, we celebrate the 109 birthday of the beloved character actor Gale Gordon.

gale gordonGale Gordon was born Charles T. Aldrich in New York in 1906, the son of vaudevillian Charles Aldrich and his English actress wife, Gloria Gordon. The couple took their one year old son to Great Britain where they worked on stage, and the boy spent the next eight years absorbing the English reserve that would define his professional persona. Young Gordon underwent a delicate operation to repair a cleft palate while in England. The family returned to America when the boy was nine, settling in New York’s Forest Hill’s area. Gale returned to England to complete his education at the Woolbridge School in Suffolk at the age of 17.

Gale Gordon got his acting start in a 1923 Canadian production, working with stage and silent screen great Richard Bennett. To earn extra cash, Gordon also worked as Gale-Gordon-5Bennett’s dresser. The great actor must have seen potential in the young man, and he endeavored to teach Gordon the elements of acting and the craft of stage work. By 1925, Gordon found himself in Hollywood, taking what acting jobs he could find. In 1926,  he got a call to come to a studio to try his hand at a new thing called radio. “I sang and accompanied myself on ukelele. You might say I almost killed radio before it was born” Gordon later remembered.

By 1933, Gordon was the highest paid radio actor in Hollywood. He played the male lead on serials opposite Mary Pickford and Irene Rich. He appeared on most of the big shows on the air, from Lux Radio Theater to Stories From the Black Chamber. He even played the cockney-accented Inspector Lestrade opposite Basil Rathbone on Sherlock Holmes and was the first actor to play Flash Gordon.

Gordon met Virginia Curley while appearing on Death Valley Days in New York. The couple was married two days after Christmas in 1937. For at least the next twenty years, the 27th of each month was celebrated as an anniversary.

In 1941, Gordon appeared as Molly McGee’s former boy friend. The fit was so good that the part of Mayor LaTrivia was created for him, and Gordon became part of the Fibber McGee and Molly family for the next 12 years, with a break while he served in the Coast Guard. In 1948, Gordon landed the role of Principal Osgood Conklin on Eve Arden’s Our Miss Brooks, a role that would carry him into TV fame. The Conklin character was slightly refined to become banker Rudolph Atterbury on the Lucille Ball vehicle My Favorite Husband. galegordon2

Lucy and Gordon had been friends for a long time, first working together on Jack Haley’s Wonder Show in 1938-39. When My Favorite Husband made the move to TV as I Love Lucy, Gordon was Lucy’s first choice to fill the role of Fred Mertz. Gordon, however, remained committed to Miss Brooks and eventually moved to TV with the program.

On TV Gordon perfected his famous “slow burn” persona. He realized that his characters were funnier if he lost his temper by degrees rather than exploding all at once. Although his characters were full of bluster, in real life Gordon was a “pipe-smoking homebody”. In 1949, Gordon and wife Virginia bought a 150 acre ranch in Borrego Springs, 175 miles from the craziness of Hollywood. An incurable handyman, Gordon built the house himself and became one of the leading growers of carob beans in the US.

Gordon continued to have commitments on other shows, and was not able to become a regular part of a Lucille Ball TV show until the 1963-64 season of The Lucy Show. TheGale_Gordon_Jay_North_Dennis_the_Menace_boxing_1962 bombast between Gordon and Lucy became an important part of the red-head’s shows until they both “retired” from weekly TV in 1974, but their roles were recreated in annual specials for several years.

Of Lucy herself, Gordon commented “her attitude has never changed. Every show she did was the most important show of her life. And I think that is the secret of her success.”

The secret of Gale Gordon‘s success may have been to find roles he enjoyed, but mostly to enjoy life beyond the studio.

Categories
Fibber McGee and Molly Great Gildersleeve

Fibber and Molly Go To Gildersleeve’s Halloween Party

FMcG&MThe holiday at the end of October was actually the lead into All Saints Day, November 1, and All Souls Day, Nov 2. The religious feast is a time to remember those Saints who don’t already have a feast day of their own, and then to remember the recently departed. In ancient times they often said Feast when what they really meant was sitting in church for hours praying. Not an appealing prospect for kids who realized that the harvest was in and there would be precious few nice days left before the hardships of winter set in.

To help burn off some of this youthful energy, wise parents and community leaders began to encourage the celebration of All Hallows Eve, what we now know as Halloween. What they may not have counted on was that the kids are not the only one’s who enjoy an evening of autumnal merriment.

It is hard to find a supposed grown up who is a bigger kid than Wistful Vista’s own Fibber McGee. In 1939, Fibber and Molly receive an invitation to the party next door at the Gildersleeve’s house.

For those of you keeping track of Beloved Characters, The Great Gildersleeve first appeared before the Johnson’s Wax microphone in June of 1939, when Howard Peary appeared as a dentist treating Fibber’s tooth ache. The dentist in the episode is Dr. Wilber Gildersleeve, sowe can see that writer Don Quinn was still developing the character (some have raised the theory that Dr. Wilbur may in fact have been Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve’s brother).

By Halloween, Throckmorton had established himself as the McGee’s pompous neighbor. If there was anything that the Fibber McGee and Molly crew loved as much as watching Fibber go through the motions as town busy body, it was deflating pomposity. As we will see, sometimes even the most pompous can get the last laugh on Fibber.

great-gildersleeveThe evening starts out innocently enough, with Fibber enjoying a fine cigar, which Gildersleeve must have meant for his guests to enjoy. After all, he left them sitting in the bottom of his dresser drawer where anyone could find them! The evening is filled with traditional Halloween games and activities, like Mrs. Uppington telling fortunes and Harlow Wilcox telling a ghost story (you get three guesses to determine whether or not the ghost walked across a floor treated with Johnson’s Glo Coat).

Halloween would not be complete without a prank or two. What is Fibber doing in Gildy’s garage? Surely it is harmless fun… Wait, isn’t Gildy’s car at the mechanics? Where is Fibber’s car? Would some one have moved it off the street for safe keeping? Listen here to learn more :

http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/Fibber-391024-Gildersleeves-Halloween-Party-OTRCAT.com.mp3

 

Categories
Fibber McGee and Molly

Fibber And Molly’s Lasting Appeal

Twenty four years is a long time to do anything, especially to have America come visit you at home every Tuesday night. That is just what Jim and Marian Jordan did from April 1935 until Sept 6, 1959, playing the beloved Fibber McGee and Molly.

In the TV world, a show that lasts more than four seasons is considered a classic. The characters on such a classic will have evolved dramatically in that time, but the Fibber who was still getting laughs at the twilight of his career on NBC’s Monitor had not changed all that much from the Fibber who drove his jalopy to the seashore on April 16, 1935.

As much as any situation comedy, Fibber McGee and Molly found a workable formula and pretty much stuck with it. Some of those elements changed in the later years of the run, which reflected the real lives of the players. The successful formula took a while to be fully developed, but when it did come together, it was one of the most successful in radio.

For the audience, the foundation of that success was Fibber and Molly themselves, played by real life couple Jim and Marian Jordan. A marriage bond as strong as the one enjoyed by the Jordans, especially in the pressure cooker world of show business, will strike us as exceptional today. Jim and Marian’s success, both in marriage and show business, are reflections of their mid-western values.

As important as the characters and the actors who play them are to the success of a comedy program, they would not last without great scripts to work from. This was important enough that from the beginning the fees paid for Fibber McGee and Molly were split three ways- a share apiece for Jim and Marion, and the third full share for their writer, Don Quinn. Quinn was not the most disciplined of writers; often he would wait until the last minute before actually writing the script, and in the final hours would lock himself in his office with a typewriter, a big plate of sandwiches, a big pot of coffee and two cartons of cigarettes. What emerged was usually comic genius, rarely in need of revision.

For most of the years Fibber and Molly were on the radio, the program stuck to a regular framework in its half hour format. The show never forgot that Johnson’s Wax was paying the bills. To that end, Quinn became a genius at working the sponsor’s plug into the storyline. Announcer Harlow Wilcox became more than the guy who introduced the show and read the commercials, he was an important character who always had a comment for Fibber’s foible of the week. For Fibber’s part, he was always amazed at Wilcox’s ability to sneak a plug for the Wax Company into any conversation, and commiserated with the audience who knew the commercial was coming.

Fibber McGee and Molly followed a format that lent itself to running gags. Some of these were the supporting characters themselves, most of whom could get a laugh just by walking up to the microphone. These included Mr. Old Timer, whose amazing powers never quite matched his aged persona, Wallace Wimple who lived in constant fear of his wife, Mayor LaTrivia who Fibber would reduce from civility to a near nervous breakdown on a regular basis, and pompous neighbor Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve who proved popular enough to get his own show. Another spinoff from Fibber and Molly was Beulah, who started as the McGee’s maid; Beulah always got a laugh in the studio, not just for her character, but because she was played by a white male actor.

Fibber McGee and Molly are more than a reflection of a simpler time. They were part of a world which never existed but which we all know as well as we know our own home town. How else could Fibber have gone 24 years with no job other than town busy-body? The time we spend in Wistful Vista is more than a visit home, it is a time to laugh and forget about the trouble of the real world.

 

Categories
Fibber McGee and Molly Old Time Radio Omar Wizard of Persia

Mysteries of Old Time Radio

One of the charms of investigating Old Time Radio shows is the element of mystery that often crops up. We aren’t talking about Mystery Programs necessarily, (although they can be a lot of fun in their own right) but mysteries about the surviving shows them selves.

Much of the mystery comes from the nature of surviving OTR shows. In some cases, beloved shows are well preserved because some one directly involved with the program thought to hold onto recordings of the show. This is the reason that Fibber McGee and Molly has survived; the sponsor, Johnson Wax, made it a point to keep a recording of each show they sponsored.

It needs to be remembered that for most of the radio era, audio recording was rather primitive. Shows that were put into syndication had to be recorded in a robust media, like a vinyl disk, but for the most part, if a recording was made, it would usually be made on a fragile acetate disk. Not only were they fragile, but they were relatively bulky, and when storage became scarce they were often destroyed or disposed of. In a few cases an enthusiast manged to get their hands on the recordings before they were destroyed, but even when this occurred, there may have been little or no information about the recording except for a small note scribbled on a faded label.

Recently I enjoyed listening to what appears to be a syndicated serial from the mid 1930s, Omar, the Wizard of Persia. Most sources make note of the popularity of Omar Khayyam as a symbol of oriental mysteries. But there is very little information about the show itself. One source says that it played for 200 installments over the Mutual Network. The recordings that are known to exists have the sound of a syndicated production; chiefly the long musical interludes at the beginning and end of each episode. The last of the known recordings appears to wrap up the story, ending with “Our mission is complete!” But there are a lot of unanswered questions, and the story had only progressed from the US to a bazaar in Damascus, not Persia, where it would have been expected to go.

I have a theory but unless there is an OTR enthusiast out there with more information, I don’t think I will be able to prove it one way or the other. My guess is that scripts for Omar were written for a 200 episode run, and they may have been performed over Mutual under the sponsorship of Taystee Bread. And the program may have been popular enough to try to sell in syndication. But it would have been difficult to sell a total of 200 episodes, so the 13th episode “quick close” was put together so that the smaller package could be sold.

Similar tactics have been noted for programs like Cruise of the Poll Parrot, which was designed to sell as an advertising vehicle for individual shoe stores.

If you have any further knowledge about Omar, Wizard of Persia, we’d love to hear from you

Categories
Fibber McGee and Molly WWII

Fibber McGee And Molly on the lookout for “German Spies”

Radio Espionage is deadly serious business, no matter how much fun popular culture and the media had fictionalizing the exploits of spies. The ancient Chinese text, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, which is required reading at West Point and Annapolis, dedicates its thirteenth chapter to the importance of spies. Victories in all wars, but especially the Second World War, often depended upon having certain information,particularly information that one side didn’t know the other possessed.

As deadly serious as the espionage game is, it never stopped Radio from having fun with it. Few programs had as much fun with the notion of spies as Fibber McGee and Molly. For a show with such a relatively simple concept, Fibber McGee and Molly attracted a very loyal audience. Listeners could certainly identify with the Molly’s good natured suffering through Fibber’s many schemes. Fibber’s good natured but loose grasp on reality may have gotten him shunned in real life; however, it was great fun on the air.

As beloved as Jim and Marian Jordan’s characters were the real genius of the show was writer Don Quinn. Not only was Quinn a marvelous talent at writing the dialogue and situations that made the show as funny as it was, he became the darling of the Office of War Information. As the World War II went on, hardly a show went by without Fibber learning an important lesson about the importance of rationing, or doing something to ease the burden of our fighting men. Of course, nearly every episode had an appeal for War Bonds.

Just like real life, thoughts of the War completely took over Fibber McGee and Molly. While Home-Front warrior Fibber did all he could fighting the Battle if Wistful Vista, not all of his efforts were especially effective, particularly in the area of counterespionage. In the early months of the War, on May 12, 1944, Fibber is convinced that there is a Foreign Agent following him around town. The Agent is obviously watching Fibber while trying to make it appear as though he isn’t. Most damning of all is the camera that the Agent keeps half hidden, always taking pictures of what ever Fibber looks at, “Click, click, click!” Fibber’s observations do raise some alarm in Wistful Vista, especially with Mrs. Uppington, who is afraid to wind up in a concentration camp (“I have such a hard time concentrating.”)

http://otrcat.net/otr6/Fibber-420512-0325-Spy-OTRCAT.com.mp3

Later in the war, on April 18, 1944, Fibber is very worried about the neighbor across the street, Frank Schmaltz. As far as Fibber is concerned, all the signs that Schmaltz is a Nazi spy are obvious, the German haircut, the accent, the mysterious letters (which Fibber found while nosing through the mail man’s bag). Most damning of all is the fact that Schmaltz won’t loan Fibber his lawn mower! Somehow this fails to convince the rest of the Wistful Vista crew, until the cops show up and actually arrest Schmaltz for spying!

http://otrcat.net/otr6/Fibber-440418-0400-German-Spy-OTRCAT.com.mp3

Categories
Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

Christmas in Wistful Vista: Part 4

Skipping down Christmas Nostaliga Lane we return to our favorite old time radio comedy, Fibber McGee and Molly:

On Christmas Eve 1946 becomes special; it is one of the few times the show is broadcast on Christmas Eve.  Teeny, the young girl that Marian plays in addition to Molly has convinced Fibberto fix some broken toys for less fortunate children. Of course toys that are broken become toys that are destroyed when Fibber tries to fix them! To be sure the kids have a good Christmas Fibber spends all of the McGee’s Christmas money on new toys. Teeny, with the help of the King’s Men finishes the show with a lovely rendition of Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas.  Enjoy the following Christmas Radio Show:

http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/fm461224 Fixing Broken Toys For Needy Children.mp3

This episode is from Old Time Radio’s Fibber McGee’s Christmas Collection.

Categories
Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

Christmas in Wistful Vista: Part 3

In our continuing journey down Christmas Nostaliga Lane from last year with our favorite old time radio comedy, Fibber McGee and Molly:

In Christmas Radio Show episode from 1941, Fibber is determined not to spend money on a Christmas tree, so on Dec 16 he goes into the woods to cut his own. Of course it turns out that he avoids spending a couple dollars on a tree by losing his watch and hatchet in the snow, plus having to fix the tire on the family car! At this time America has been fighting WWII for less than two weeks, and the changes the war brings is on everyone’s mind.

http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/fm411216-0305-Fibber-Cuts-His-Own-Christmas-Tree-OTRCAT.com.mp3

This episode is from Old Time Radio’s Fibber McGee’s Christmas Collection.

Categories
Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Great Gildersleeve NAACP Old Time Radio

Fibber McGee and Molly’s Beulah: A Female African American Role on Radio played by a White Man

Beulah first appears at 79 Wistful Vista on Jan 25, 1944. At her first utterances there are peals of laughter from the studio audience, almost before she has said anything funny. Fibber McGee and Molly hire Beulah for one day a week. On Tuesdays Beulah will cook, clean, wash, and respond to Fibber’s wise cracks. The McGee’s are so pleased with Beulah’s services that they intend to do more entertaining on Tuesdays. Tuesday is of course the night that they are on the air.

The new domestic help is in her 30s, perhaps a little over fond of her own cooking, a little bit man crazy, and tends towards short skirts and high heels. When she speaks for the first time during an episode, she gets more than her share of laughs. When she is called she replies with “Somebody bawl fo’ Beulah?” and answers McGee’s witticisms with “Love that Man!”

Beulah deserves most of the laughter for her comic lines and delivery. Many of the laughs are the studio audience’s surprise at seeing Beulah in the flesh for the first time. This black lady is played by a white male actor, Marlin Hurt.

Beulah became popular enough to be spun off to her own program, The Marlin Hurt and Beulah Show in 1945. Hattie McDaniel was the first black actress to play the part on the renamed Beulah Show beginning Nov 24, 1947. The NAACP praised the selection of McDaniel. When McDaniel became ill in 1952 she was replaced by Lillian Randolph, who would in turn be replaced the next season by her sister, Amanda Randolph.

Beulah was adapted for TV in 1950 for three seasons. Along with the TV version of Amos ‘n’ Andy, the program was criticized for perpetuating stereotypical black characters. Actress Lillian Randolph, who along with Beulah played Birdie Lee Coggins, the cook for The Great Gildersleeve, replied to the criticism in the pages of Ebony magazine. It was Randolph’s contention that the roles were not harmful to the image or opportunities of African Americans; the roles themselves would not go away, but the ethnicity of those in them would eventually change.

Enjoy this episode of the first appearance of Beulah on Fibber McGee and Molly:

http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/Fibber-Mcgee-Molly-440125-0388-Dining-Out-OTRCAT.com.mp3