Day: February 17, 2024

Dragnet: .22 Rifle for Christmas (EP4316)

Todays Mystery: A boy disappears before Christmas with his present – a .22 rifle.

Original Radio Broadcast Date: December 22, 1949

Originating from Hollywood

Starring: Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday; Barton Yarborough as Sergeant Ben Romero; Herb Butterfield; Peggy Webber; William Johnstone

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Join us again on Monday for another detective drama from the Golden Age of Radio.

Audio Drama Review: The Great Gildersleeve, Volume 7

The seventh volume of The Great Gildersleeve from Radio Archives features twelve episodes that aired between November 29, 1942 and April 4, 1943. This stretch of episodes continues along the same lines as previous volumes, with its typical cast of characters including his niece Marjorie and nephew Leroy, the cook Birdie, and key characters from around town, such as Judge Hooker, Mr. Peavey, and Floyd the Barber. Gildersleeve’s budding off-again on-again romance with Leila Ransom takes center stage. It also introduces the bashful and easily manipulated boyfriend of Marjorie, Ben (played by future Dragnet co-star Ben Alexander.)

Highlights of the season including a lovely Christmas episode, less with a centralized plot but more with a series of vignettes that capture someone trying to celebrate Christmas with good cheer even while being patriotic and operating on a limited budget.

The series also has a formal crossover with Fibber McGee and Molly (Jim and Marion Jordan), with radio’s most iconic comedy couple traveling from Wistful Vista to Summerfield, which is a nice moment for fans, as the Gildersleeve character started on Fibber McGee. This crossover occurs after Gildersleeve and his nephew Leroy (Walter Tetley) appear on the post-Christmas episode of Fibber McGee and Molly, in which the Jordans had been unable to appear due to a health issue.

The episode “Income Tax Time” is a fine patriotic episode about the importance of everyone reporting their income tax, as Gildersleeve struggles with whether to report his interest income. The great part of the episode is that through all the sincere patriotism, the episode has a hilarious twist ending that’s comedy gold.

On the war front, there is also an episode warning about the danger of over-vigilance and assuming the worst and getting paranoid, as Gildersleeve accidentally starts spreading a rumor about sabotage and creates all kinds of problems.

There’s nothing wrong with this set in terms of its audio quality. It collects the episodes that Radio Archives was able to lay its hands on with the highest quality available. Missing episodes are a fact of life for old time radio listeners but they’re especially felt here. The collection covers 19 weeks but there are only twelve episodes available. This leads to some changes occurring perhaps in missing episodes or off-screen. For example, Gildersleeve’s super-competent secretary disappears without explanation, and is replaced by barely competent help whom Gildersleeve keeps meaning to fire but never gets the time. In addition, the engagement between Leila and Gildersleeve is called off in one episode but apparently things are patched by the time the circulating episode was released four weeks later.

Probably the biggest challenge for many modern listeners to enjoy is the Gildersleeve-Leila Ransom relationship. While Leila fits into a comedy trope of the time, she’s messed up. She uses flattery to get men to do what she wants and to keep them competing with one another for her affection. She’s prone to over-the-top jealousy, and any deviation of plans to do something else is met with a manipulative, pouty statement like, “Well, Throckmorton, if working late because you’re in a job that oversees infrastructure in the middle of the War is more than me, that’s fine.” Lelia is well-played by a really talented actress, Shirley Mitchell, who played many of these sorst of characters. She does her best with the material given. Still, a bit of Leila can go a long way, and some of these episodes have a little bit too much.

Still, despite Leila’s antics, this is an enjoyable set. Ben is fun, and the barbershop setting helps to give the show a sense of rhythym. The show in its second season is clearly moving in the right direction.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5