For 24 1/2 years, Husband and Wife Jim and Marion Jordan played Fibber McGee and Molly over the radio as it became one of the most recognizable and iconic shows of radio’s golden age. From that show, span off Harold Peary as the Great Gildersleeve, a role he held down for eleven years, two as a supporting character on Fibber McGee and Molly.
However, what many people don’t is that these radio legends made a series of movies. In 1937, Fibber McGee and Molly had bit parts in This Way Please and followed up with three more movies in prominent roles in Look Who’s Laughing, Here We Go Again, and Heavenly Days. Only Look Who’s Laughing has been released and that as part of a Lucille Ball RKO pictures collections.
Peary appeared in two of these films as Gildersleeve. Gildersleeve also had parts in three other films in the late 1930s and early 40s before four Gildersleeve were made between 1942-44.
Of course, they weren’t the only beloved radio comics to get shorted in DVD released. Lum and Abner had a career on radio running from 1931-54, with a few breaks here and there. They made seven films in the process. Four of the Lum and Abner films have lapsed into the public domain. However, the last three, Goin’ to Town, Partners in Time, and Lum ‘n Abner Abroad remain far more difficult to obtain.
Finally William Bendix made a name playing Chester Riley on The Life of Riley. The radio series is widely available, however television show availability is far more spotty without an official release. In addition, The Life of Riley movie hit theaters in 1949 towards the tale end of the radio run. One show writer/producer who lived into the 21st had made a big deal about radio fans sharing episodes of the radio series, yet seemingly took no steps to get an official release of either TV shows or Movies on to DVD. What a revoltin’ development.
Then we have Our Miss Brooks. The movie version starring Eve Arden has finally been released as an archive DVD. Great! Will we soon see the four seasons released for fans to enjoy on an official release with great video quality?
Perhaps, most neglected radio show that moved to television is the Burns and Allen program. No official DVD release of the show’s mostly copyrighted filmed run has occurred. Mostly what is available are somewhat badly restored episodes from the kinescope runs.
Here’s hoping for better care and availability of our comedy heritage in years to come.
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