Tag Archives: Fibber McGee & Molly

6 April: The Gamble who pays off big for the McGees

Arthur Q. Bryan (right), the irrepressible Dr. Gamble, with Jim and Marian Jordan. (Photo: NBC.)

Arthur Q. Bryan (right), the irrepressible Dr. Gamble, with Jim and Marian Jordan. (Photo: NBC.)

It takes Elmer Fudd not just to step into a World War II breach on Fibber McGee & Molly seventy years ago tonight, but to instigate one of old-time radio’s most memorable in-show rivalries. All because two key cast members were leaving to go to war.

Gale Gordon as Mayor La Trivia has proven invaluable in replacing spun-off Harold Peary’s Gildersleeve as the pompous among Fibber McGee’s deflationists, though La Trivia, almost invariably, would end an encounter in a choked-blustery fuddle. And Bill Thompson, arguably the cast’s most valuable player, has held down three characters of near-equal value, if not near-equal popularity: the tall-tale-dragger Old Timer, the locquacious and half-indecipherable Nick Depopolous, and the smarmy Horatio K. Boomer.

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4 April: The McGees didn’t always have it easy

The Jordans, at the height of their career. (Photo: NBC.)

The Jordans, at the height of their career. (Photo: NBC.)

At least twice upon a time the First Couple of 79 Wistful Vista and their nonpareil writers have been compelled to compensate on the air for a serious illness suffered by each partner. It speaks much that they were able to do it almost seamlessly, especially the first time around.

In 1937-38, about the most anyone associated with Fibber McGee & Molly felt compelled to say when Marian Jordan took a long leave of absence early in the season was that she suffered “nervous exhaustion.” As would be revealed only decades later, Marian Jordan—under enough pressure from the radio show, the frequent personal appearance demands, and trying to raise two children—suffered a long battle with the bottle, and at long last she surrendered and had herself hospitalised.

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5 March: Opening The Closet

The Jordans launch a classic sonic running gag . . . (Photo: NBC)

The Jordans launch a classic sonic running gag . . . (Photo: NBC)

What do you get when you combine four badly-worn Brunswick bowling pins; three pairs of shoes at minimum; two baseball bats; one wood tennis racket; one large pinewood box; one washboard; and, one wicker basket full of miscellaneous bric-a-brac, including but not limited to a fireplace poker, a metal platter, a steel box, and a few odd kitchen implements; not to mention a reputed snowshoe, two muffin tins, one metal baking tray, two coffee cans (with or without is anyone’s guess), one slender golf bag with three or four clubs, and a large footlocker at the top of the mount?

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14 November: Shirley Mitchell, RIP—”Awww, Thrawwwk-mawwtinnnnn!”

Shirley Mitchell as Leila Ransom, bewitching and befuddling hapless Harold Peary as Gildersleeve. (Photo: NBC.)

Shirley Mitchell as Leila Ransom, bewitching and befuddling hapless Harold Peary as Gildersleeve. (Photo: NBC.)

Shirley Mitchell was thatclose to giving up on Hollywood entirely when she landed the old-time radio supporting role of a lifetime in the early 1940s.

Aawww, Thrawwwck-mawwtinnnnn!

The Toledo, Ohio native—who died of heart failure on Veteran’s Day, a week after she celebrated her 94th birthday—suddenly found herself a valuable supporting player as Southern widow Leila Ransom, who couldn’t seem to decide whether to marry or mangle The Great Gildersleeve. Indeed, Leila became (in John Dunning’s words) “such a strongly negative character that at one point a California women’s club picketed NBC, urging Gildersleeve with their signs not to marry her.”

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23 September: Wistful Vista the hard way

Fibber McGee & Molly:
Anything to Get Out of Scrubbing the Back Porch
(NBC, 1935)

 

The Jordans: They didn't just turn up at Wistful Vista overnight . . . (Photo: NBC)

The Jordans: They didn’t just turn up at Wistful Vista overnight . . . (Photo: NBC)

By now scattered, clumsy-minded, but bighearted Fibber McGee and his salt-of-the-earth, sweetly acid, patiently loving wife, Molly, have settled at 79 Wistful Vista. It’s probably easy to forget what old-time radio’s crown couple (if they’re not, they’re at least among the top three finalists) did before they got here.

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