12 September: Love, marriage, McGees

The Jordans, early in their Fibber McGee & Molly years. (Photo: NBC.)

The Jordans, early in their Fibber McGee & Molly years. (Photo: NBC.)

Jim and Marian Jordan are actually married 21 years when tonight’s broadcast is delivered. The marriage of these childhood sweethearts probably testifies most to their perseverance, since her parents were far less than thrilled about their daughter’s dreams of life in the theater and her romancing by a farm kid who shared those wild-eyed dreams. To say they came up the hard way is perhaps the understatement of the hour.

Five days after the marriage, and after a few weeks on a round of touring with the revuew A Night with the Poets, Jim Jordan was drafted for World War I. In a stroke that could have served as a classic Fibber McGee & Molly plot line, he arrived in Europe just in time for the Armistice. He joined a French troupe and toured Europe before returning home, taking rounds of menial jobs while his wife taught music.

It was Marian Jordan’s suggestion that they try working as an entertainment team. They hit the road off and on for four years, all while having two children, before going broke in 1923 and returning home with a little help from both partners’ parents. They plugged away still, though at one point Jim worked in a department store selling toys—which, according to numerous histories of the couple, he couldn’t afford to give his own children.

By 1924, Jim Jordan was in Chicago for performances and Marian joined him for a visit, when they spent an evening with his brother listening to a radio singing act and Jim piped up that he thought he and Marian could do far better on the air than what they were hearing. Acting on his brother’s bet that they couldn’t—Byron Jordan bet $10 on it—the Jordans high tailed it to the station they were listening to and convinced a programmer to let them have at it.

It won the Jordans a contract for a weekly nighttime slot sponsored by Oh! Henry candy. They became The Oh! Henry Twins for 26 weeks. For the next few years, they sang on the Chicago air and eased into comic talk that included their developments of several different voices and characters, their fateful meeting with writer Don Quinn, and laying the real groundwork for what would become—with a little further development and a few more format detours—a radio institution that would resonate for decades after the couple finally left the air in 1960.


Fibber McGee & Molly: 15th Anniversary (Elopement) (NBC, 1939)

The First Couple of 79 Wistful Vista have the last laugh, minus six years, reminiscing about their original elopement, prompting McGee to suggest the couple elope all over again to celebrate—even if they’re almost arrested by a local cop (possibly Harold Peary) who thinks McGee is robbing the place and kidnapping Molly when they’re spotted on a ladder.

Considering what Marian Jordan endured for eighteen months prior to April 1939, taking time off the show to battle with alcoholism (which was put to the public as a nervous breakdown at the time), the couple is probably celebrating an awful lot more than a fictional wedding anniversary.

The Farmer/The Old-Timer/Horatio Boomer: Bill Thompson. Mrs. Uppington: Isabel Randolph. The Little Girl: Marian Jordan. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra, Donald Novis. Director: Possibly Cecil Underwood. Writer: Don Quinn.


Further Channel Surfing . . .

The Green Hornet: Murder Trips a Rat (crime drama; NBC Blue, 1942)
The Charlie McCarthy Show: Guest—Humphrey Bogart (comedy; NBC, 1943)
The Great Gildersleeve: War Bond Drive (comedy; NBC, 1943)
Vic & Sade: Fred’s Car Repairs (comedy; NBC, 1944)
Words at War: One Man Air Force (dramatic anthology; NBC, 1944)
Escape: Evening Primrose (adventure; CBS, 1948)
Broadway is My Beat: The Michael Austin Murder Case (crime drama; CBS, 1953)
Gunsmoke: Prairie Happy (Western; CBS, 1953)

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