Friday, October 28, 2016

Radio Greats: Gildy's Halloween Party (Fibber McGee and Molly)

One of the most successful series of the entire Golden Age of Radio was Fibber McGee and Molly. Created by Jim and Mary Jordan, who played Fibber and Molly in the fictional Midwestern town of Wistful Vista, it ran for twenty-four years as a consistent favorite, thousands of episodes. The series was a masterpiece of running gags -- recurring jokes given slight twists and variations that entered into the comic vocabulary of the everyday life of its listeners. The most famous of these is the Hall Closet, the single most famous sound effect in the history of radio. They also were major pioneers in what became a common element in radio comedy -- instead of treating the midpoint commercial as something distinct, they integrated it into the show as Harlow Wilox, the announcer, would turn any subject of discussion into an enthusiastic endorsement of Johnson's floor wax. The list could be continued. Fibber McGee and Molly is arguably the most influential sitcom in the history of broadcasting.

"Gildy's Halloween Party", from 1939, is a good introduction to the people of Wistful Vista; while it's still early in the series, we get a good selection of some of the perennial favorites -- Mr. Wilcox, the Old Timer and Horatio K. Boomer (played by the same actor), Teeny ("Sis"), Abigail Uppington, and Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (who would eventually get his own very popular spin-off series). The mix of music and comedy scenes is more typical of early episodes than late episodes, which increasingly focus on the latter.

You can listen to "Gildy's Halloween Party" at Internet Archive (episode 52 on the list); also here (with a somewhat more inconsistent audio quality):

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