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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.

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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.

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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.

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Detective Radio Fibber McGee and Molly Old Time Radio Serial

The Shadow of Fu Manchu

A gong sounds and Gerald Mohr ominously intones “The Shadow…of Fooo ManChoo.”

There is a long period of eerie organ music at the beginning and end of each episode; this is because the show was recorded for Syndication. The long organ music is space for the local announcer to make his plug.

During the period following the Boxer Rebellion, the West was filled with fears of “the Yellow Peril.” The Rebellion had been pushed by a Secret Society, and there was a dread of these Societies gaining influence in the Chinatowns of American and European cities.

Author Sax Rohmer became familiar with the reputation of “Mr. King” in London’s Asian districts. Supposedly, Mr. King had a piece of the action in most illegal activities in the district; at the mention of King’s name, Chinese merchants became visibly terrified. Rohmer used Mr. King as the inspiration for his master villain, Fu Manchu.

Dr. Fu Manchu had an incredible intellect, and an incredible invisible empire. Dr. Fu had “all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources… of a wealthy government, which… has denied all knowledge of his existence… Dr. Fu Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.”

Fu Manchu would become the model for many arch villains: Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, Lo-Pan from Big Trouble in Little China, Dr. Yen-Lo in The Manchurian Candidate, and James Bond’s adversary, Dr. No.

The Fu Manchu stories would be serialized in Collier’s Magazine in 1913. The first of several radio incarnations of the stories would be on The Collier Hour over the Blue Network starting in 1927. Probably the most popular incarnation was the syndicated The Shadow of Fu Manchu, recorded in the winter of 1938-39. Lou Marcelle, the uncredited narrator of the film Casablanca, played the evil Doctor. The actor’s identity was hidden for many years, until identified by radio historian Elizabeth McLeod in 2002. Two well known character actors took the roles of Denis Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie: Hanley Stanford of Blondie and Baby Snooks; and Gale Gordon, Mayor LaTrivia of Fibber McGee and Molly and Principal Osgood in Our Miss Brooks. Paula Winslow played the lovely and seductive Karamaneh (one of Fu’s most dangerous agents, Karamaneh was sold as a slave to the Dr. as a child. She falls in love with Dr. Petrie and saves our heroes many times.) Gerald Mohr (The Adventures of Philip Marlowe) narrated and played several small roles.

Much of Fu Manchu seems less than politically correct, especially as China is becoming an important trading partner, and given the great contributions of Chinese-Americans. But the Fu Manchu stories are a product of their times.

In the end, The Shadow of Dr. Fu Manchu is diabolical fun in a grand criminal manner.

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Comedy Fibber McGee and Molly Old Time Radio

Fibber McGee and Molly: Broadcast 63 years ago today…

Some people would argue that Fibber McGee and Molly were the Golden Age of Radio because of the show’s very long successful run (1935-1959). But more than just staying power, the show at 79 Wisful Way showcased terrific comic and musical talent. Throughout its run, the show was a reflection of its time in the American scene.

(Source: http://FibberMcGeeAndMolly.com/)

This Fibber McGee and Molly website is dedicated to the comedic folks at 79 Wistful Way including new episodes every week.

Enjoy this episode of “Waiting for a Bus” from Jan 28, 1947:

http://fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/fm470128%20Waiting%20For%20A%20Bus.mp3

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

Christmas in Wistful Vista: Part 2

Today we continue our trip down Christmas Radio Shows Nostaliga Lane with our favorite old time radio comedy, Fibber McGee and Molly: On Dec 24, 1940 there is confusion in the McGee household when they receive a package addressed to Gildy, an expensive radio/phonograph combo. Of course Fibber breaks the expensive gadget, and the McGee’s desperately try to replace it before Gildy finds out, only to discover that it is Gildersleeve’s present to them.

http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/fm401224-0267-Radiophonograph-OTRCAT.com.mp3

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