“Someday,” Don Quinn will tell a 1965 panel of American comedy writers, three years before he will die himself, “I hope to write the definitive work on comics, comedians, and humourists . . .”
A comic is a strange and fascinating breed; almost always from the wrong side of the tracks; no education—anything for a laugh . . . A cut above him, the comedian, who’s a little more literate, a little more educated . . . And, above the comedian, is the humourist. They fall pretty well into categories.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Quinn will never quite produce the book about which he spoke. But tonight we have four comedy episodes from Quinn’s two signature old-time radio developments that prove he, his vehicles, the performers with whom he collaborated, and their characters for whom he wrote, were humourists above and beyond most mere comedians.
SPECIAL CHANNEL SURFING: YOU’LL NOT HEAR NOTHING LIKE THE MIGHTY QUINN
Fibber McGee & Molly: Raking Leaves (NBC, 1939)—It’s a thankless job for the Squire of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) . . . who’d thank Molly (Marian Jordan, who also plays Teeny) to let him put it off yet another day, as usual, but Gildersleeve (Harold Peary)—who’s annoyed at the leaves spilling over onto his lawn—is another matter entirely. The Old-Timer/Mr. Decropolis: Bill Thompson. Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, Donald Novis. Writer: Don Quinn.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Tapping a Tree for Maple Syrup (NBC, 1944)—The Sap of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) would rather die than eat his breakfast wheat cakes without maple syrup, and it just so happens he has a maple tree in the front yard—which may guarantee a gusher of trouble when he decides to tap into it. Molly: Marian Jordan. Beulah: Marlin Hurt. Alice Darling: Shirley Mitchell. Doc Gamble: Arthur Q. Bryan. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Director: Max Hutto. Writer: Don Quinn.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Snapshot Contest (NBC, 1950)—Yes, it’s still a little jarring to hear Harlow Wilcox hawking Pet Evaporated Milk, after all those years with Johnson’s Wax (who’ve dropped their longtime sponsorship), but this is still Fibber McGee & Molly and they’re still very much at the top of their game: Fibber (Jim Jordan) ponders entering a local photography contest in spite of being armed with a modest camera he can’t even find until poor Teeny (Marian Jordan, who also plays Molly) is fool enough to open The Closet where it was in the first place. The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Doc /Oule: Arthur Q. Bryan. Counterman: Cliff Arquette. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, the King’s Men. Director: Max Hutto. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.
The Halls of Ivy: The Student Council Election (NBC, 1951)—The news of a longtime friend (and former teacher) of Hall (Ronald Colman) retiring his local judgeship collides with the judge’s verbose nephew (Sidney Miller) running for Ivy student council president, since Hall fears the young man is too prone to shady campaigning—especially against a female candidate (Virginia Gregg) who may have a chance to become Ivy’s first female student council president—to make it the kind of fair election for which both Hall and the judge usually stand. Vicki: Benita Hume Colman. Wellman: Herbert Butterfield. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Henry Russell. Director: Nat Wolff. Writers: Don Quinn, Arthur Ross.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
Quiet, Please: And Jeannie Dreams of Me (ABC, 1948)—The classic romantic tragedy in which a disillusioned man (Ernest Chappell, who narrates), haunted since boyhood by dreams of a real-life “Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair,” discovers upon manhood that meeting the now-grown-up—and literal—girl of your dreams (Claudia Morgan) may not mean your eternal happiness . . . even if she claims concurrently to have dreamt of you. Small wonder there might be those believing this show’s mastermind, a master psychological dramatist, is at heart a hopeless romantic. Mother: Anna Maude Morath. Music: Albert Buhrmann. Writer/director: Wyllis Cooper.