Bumbling Humor and The Great Gildersleeve

The Great Gildersleeve premiered on August 31, 1941 on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) radio network. Sponsored by Kraft Foods, the show was actually a spin-off of another popular series, Fibber McGee and Molly. Throckmorton Philharmonic Gildersleeve, or Gildy as he was called, first appeared on the Fibber McGee and Molly show on October 3, 1939. Gildy was the pretentious, pompous and humorous next-door neighbor of Fibber McGee and Molly . Actor Harold Peary’s interpretation of the character was so successful and popular that by 1941, NBC created a show based on Gildersleeve.

During the character’s run on the Fibber McGee and Molly show, he sometimes made remarks about his wife; however, the new character was transformed into a bachelor on The Great Gildersleeve. Nevertheless, the bachelor uncle comedy became a hit. In an unusual move for the times, The Great Gildersleeve series centered on Gildy’s life as a bachelor with two young wards. The show took a lighthearted, comedic look at the life of a single man suddenly thrust into the role of parent. Along the way, the characters continued to mature and grow up without losing sight of the humor.

Harold Peary continued to play Gildersleeve until 1950, when a network change prevented him from taking the character to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) network. On September 6, 1950, Willard Waterman took over the role of Gildersleeve; however, by this time the show’s popularity was steadily declining. The networks of the 1950’s began to compete for headliner talent, while television began to overtake and replace the popular radio shows. In 1954, the series dropped from a thirty minute broadcast to fifteen minutes, where it remained until its final broadcast in 1957.  The series featured many great guest appearances from stars including Kay Starr and Mercedes McCambridge.

The Great Gildersleeve did enjoy popularity as a short television series, airing thirty-nine episodes during the 1955-56 season. The writers of the popular radio series also left a legacy that would continue on television. Co-writer of the series was John Whedon. His son, Tom Whedon would go on to write for the Electric Company and the Golden Girls series. Later, his grandson Zach Whedon would pick up the pen to become the scriptwriter of Deadwood, while his brother Joss became the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Please feel free to enjoy The Great Gildersleeve episode Christmas Caroling at Home: http://www.otrcat.net/otr6/Great-Gildersleeve-Christmas-461225-Christmas-Caroling-at-Home-OTRCAT.com.mp3

Great Gildersleeve Christmas: Part 2

The Great Gildersleeve was one of the first households in broadcasting to feature a nontraditional family- two children being raised by an uncle with no father of mother. This doesn’t make Christmas any less special.

Christmas Day, 1946 would fall on a Wednesday, the night The Great Gildersleeve was broadcast. And it is going to be a wonderful traditional family Christmas, Except that Gildy has convinced himself that the Bullard’s across the street are having marital problems. Worse, Leroy’s friend Craig Bullard will be forced to spend the holiday alone. Of course Gildersleeve would never spread rumors unless he was absolutely sure, would he?

http://www.greatgildersleeve.com/mp3/GG461225%20Christmas%20Caroling%20at%20Home.mp3

The 1948 season is special with the addition of the “Mystery Baby” plot arc. Christmas that year is going to be extra special with a baby in the house. The Christmas season begins with a mystery as Christmas presents and other treasures begin to disappear from the house. There is fright and confusion, even the Summerfield police department becomes involved. Everyone including Leroy (Walter Tetley) and Bea Benaderet has forgotten that there is a curious baby in the house…

http://www.greatgildersleeve.com/mp3/GG481222%20Family%20Christmas.mp3

Two week later the family is happily making preparations for the baby’s first Christmas Eve. That is when Judge Hooker presents the baby’s missing father. There won’t be a dry eye around the radio as we hear Gildersleeve say good bye to the Baby that has brought so much joy to his world.

The genuine love and happiness we hear in the Gildersleeve Christmas Radio Shows household makes the holidays even more special for the rest of us.

Great Gildersleeve Christmas

Just like at your house, Christmas in Summerfield is a special time. Of course sponsor Kraft Foods would insist that Gildy’s Christmas be extra special!

During the first season of The Great Gildersleeve the 15th episode would occur on Dec 7, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. That year would also have the excitement of Gildy’s first Christmas in a new home. The years in Wistful Vista won’t be forgotten. As Gildersleeve is preparing to send Fibber a cheap present that he found in the discount bin, a large and mysterious package arrives from Wistful Vista marked “Do Not Open Until Christmas, signed Fibber McGee.” Now embarrassed by the small gift he was going to send, Gildy hurries to find a better gift for Fibber. Soon Judge Hooker hears about the new present and thinks it is for him. A series of “Gift Inflation” occurs with hilarity until Fibber‘s package is opened to reveal the old lawn mower Fibber had borrowed from Gildy months ago.

http://www.greatgildersleeve.com/mp3/GG411207%20Cousin%20Octavia%20Visits.mp3

In 1945 Gildersleeve is determined that there will be a “Traditional Family Christmas” at home, but the kids have other ideas. Eventually Gildy has his sweet family Christmas, but not until there is a great deal of confusion and “Gift Inflation.” And we can’t forget adventures involving Mrs. Ransom and the mistletoe!  Walter Tetley also appears as the lovable Leroy.

http://www.greatgildersleeve.com/mp3/GG451223%20Christmas%20at%20Home.mp3

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.

Christmas in Wistful Vista: Part 1

Any radio sitcom that lasts more than one season is likely going to do a Christmas Radio Shows. I think it may be an FCC rule. It is fun to think about, especially for pre-recorded TV Sitcoms that are probably shot the previous summer.

The Grand daddy of all radio sitcoms, Fibber McGee and Molly had many wonderful Christmas Radio Shows over their 24 year run. Many shows seem to be OK with just one nod to the holidays every season, but Fibber McGee and Molly had many years where they had a Christmas themed radio show most weeks in December. Whether this is because stars Jim and Marian Jordan were an actual couple raising kids who would have wanted more Christmas cheer, or if writer Don Quinn was just a big kid at heart is purely up for guess. Maybe Harlow Wilcox and the Johnson Wax company had a Santa Complex.

In the coming days we hope to feature some of our favorite Fibber McGee and Molly Christmas Radio Shows.

On Dec 10, 1940, Fibber McGee and Molly try to mail their Christmas packages, not only do they have to deal with long lines at the post office, but Fibber is talked into mailing Gildersleeve’s packages as well. Then they find out Fibber has stood them in the wrong line at the post office!

http://www.fibbermcgeeandmolly.com/mp3/fm401210-0265-Mailing-Christmas-Packages-OTRCAT.com.mp3

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