Comedy Great Gildersleeve Kay Starr Mercedes McCambridge Old Time Radio

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: 

Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

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?

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…

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.

Charlie McCarthy Comedy Edward Bergen Great Gildersleeve Mae West Old Time Radio

Ba-da-boom, It’s Mae West!

Before the sexual revolution of the 1960s, there was Mae West. The entertaining, sometimes mischievous, always provocative and controversial Broadway performer and film star began her career in vaudeville. Born Mary Jane West in Brooklyn, New York on August 17, 1893, West made her professional debut in 1907 at the age of fourteen. In 1911, she landed a role in a Broadway play and by 1918; she was the cover girl for the Ev?rybody Shimmies Now sheet music.

Shortly after her Broadway success, West began to write and direct her own plays. Her sexually charged and sexually themed plays captivated audiences. In 1927, she was arrested for the production of her play entitled, Sex. Community leaders were outraged by her sexual openness and the content of the play. She was charged with corrupting morals and sentenced to 10 days in jail. However, she never allowed the jail sentence to interfere with or silence her views on sexuality.

Mae West later found success in films, where she appeared alongside such notable actors as Cary Grant, W.C. Fields, George Raft and Jimmy Stewart.

Mae West‘s playful sexual attitude hit the old time radio airwaves in a 1937 Chase and Sanborn Hour broadcast. She participated in a skit with Edgar Bergen and in another that featured Don Ameche. Unfortunately, her use of sexual innuendo led to a national uproar. Religious groups, political organizations and individual listeners accused the Chase and Sanborn Coffee company of promoting obscenity. Mae West was held responsible and banned from radio.

Twelve years passed, before West returned to the air in a 1950 broadcast of The Chesterfield Supper Club. Throughout her life, Mae West continued to write, act and promote sexual openness. West was well known for numerous much younger suitors and her vocal support of gay rights. Mae West died on November 22, 1980 at the age of 87.

Christmas Christmas Radio Shows Comedy Great Gildersleeve Old Time Radio

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.

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.