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Encyclopedia > The Great Gildersleeve
You're a brii-ii-iight boy, Leroy!—Harold Peary at the height of his popularity as classic radio's Great Gildersleeve.

The Great Gildersleeve, (1941-1957) first written by Leonard L. Levinson[[1]] was arguably the first spin-off program, as well as one of the first true situation comedies (as opposed to sketch programs) in broadcast history. Built around a character who had been a staple on the classic radio sit-com Fibber McGee and Molly, The Great Gildersleeve enjoyed its greatest success in the 1940s. Actor Harold Peary played the character during its transition from the parent show into the spin-off, and later in a quartet of feature films released at the height of the show's popularity. Image File history File links HaroldPeary. ... For the movie, see 1941 (film). ... Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ... A spin-off (or spinoff) is a new organization or entity formed by a split from a larger one such as a new company formed from a university research group. ... A situation comedy, usually referred to as a sitcom, is a genre of comedy programs which originated in radio. ... Jim and Marian Jordan were featured in 1947 NBC promotional art by Sam Berman. ... Harold Hal Peary (born Harrold Jese Pereira de Faria, July 25, 1908 - March 30, 1985) was an American actor and comedian in radio, film, television, and animation, best known as the original portrayer of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, aka The Great Gildersleeve. ...


From Wistful Vista to Summerfield

On Fibber McGee and Molly, Peary's Gildersleeve was a pompous windbag who became a consistent McGee nemesis ("You're a haa-aa-aa-aard man, McGee!" became a Gildersleeve catch phrase). But he also became a popular enough windbag that Kraft Foods — looking primarily to promote its Parkay margarine spread — sponsored a new series with Peary's Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (the character was given several conflicting first names on Fibber McGee and Molly, and on one episode of that show revealed his middle name as Philharmonic) as the central, slightly softened, and slightly befuddled focus of a lively new family. Kraft Foods Inc. ... Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Orchestra at City Hall (Edmonton). ...

Premiering on NBC on August 31, 1941, The Great Gildersleeve moved the title character from the McGee's Wistful Vista to Summerfield, where Gildersleeve now oversaw his late sister's estate and took on the rearing of his orphaned niece and nephew, Marjorie (originally played by Lurene Tuttle and followed by Louise Erickson and Mary Lee Robb) and Leroy (Walter Tetley) Forester. In a striking forerunner to such later television hits as Bachelor Father and Family Affair, both of which are centered on well-to-do uncles taking in their deceased siblings' children, Gildersleeve was a bachelor raising two children while, at first, administering a girdle manufacturing company ("If you want a better corset, of course it's a Gildersleeve") and then for the bulk of the show's run, serving as Summerfield's water commissioner, between time with the ladies and nights with the boys. Indeed, The Great Gildersleeve may have been the first broadcast show to be centered on a single parent balancing child-rearing, work, and a social life, done with taste and genuine wit, often at the expense of Gildersleeve's now slightly understated pomposity. NBC (a former acronym for National Broadcasting Company) is an American television network headquartered in the GE Building in New York Citys Rockefeller Center. ... Lurene Tuttle (b. ... Mary Lee Robb Cline (15 February 1926 — 28 August 2006) was a radio actress during the 1940s and 1950s. ... Walter Tetley (b. ... Sitcom starred John Forsythe and debuted in the Fall of 1957 on CBS. The setup of the show was a wealthy attorney and bachelor named Bentley Gregg is living in Beverly Hills and must assume the responsibility of raising his niece, Kelly, whose parents died in an auto accident. ... // Family Affair Family Affair was a situation comedy television series that aired on CBS from September 12, 1966 to September 9, 1971. ...

The key to the show was Peary, one of the most gifted voice actors of his generation (and several others), whose booming voice and facility with moans, groans, laughs, shudders, and inflection was as close to body language and facial suggestion as a voice could get. Peary was so effective, and Gildersleeve became so familiar a character, that he was referenced and satirised periodically in other comedies and in a few cartoons. (No small irony there: Peary in later life included cartoon voicings in his work after his radio stardom.)

Family and neighbors


Aiding and abetting the periodically frantic life in the Gildersleeve home was family cook and housekeeper Birdy Lee Coggins (Lillian Randolph). Although in the first season, under writer Lenard L. Evenson, Birdie was often portrayed as saliently less than bright, she slowly developed as the real brains and caretaker of the household under writers John Whedon, Sam Moore and Andy White. In many of the later episodes Gildersleeve has to acknowledge Birdie's common sense approach to some of the predicaments he finds himself in. By the early 1950s, Birdie was heavily depended on by the rest of the family in fulfilling many of the functions of the household matriarch, whether it be giving sound advice to an adolescent Leroy or tending Marjorie's children. In doing so, the show was definitely avant garde when it came to race relations (Birdie was black) within American society. Lillian Randolph (December 14, 1898 - September 12, 1980) was an African American actress and singer, a veteran of radio, film, and television. ... The Love of Zero 35 mm film by Robert Florey 1927 Avant-garde (pronounced ) in French means front guard, advance guard, or vanguard. ...

By the late 1940s, Marjorie slowly matures to a young woman of marrying age. During the 9th season (Sept 1949-June 1950) Marjorie meets and marries (May 10) Walter "Bronco" Thompson (Richard Crenna), star football player at the local college. The event was popular enough that Look Magazine devoted five pages in its May 23, 1950 issue to the wedding. After living in the same household for a few years with their twin babies Ronnie and Linda, the newlyweds move next door to keep the expanding Gildersleeve clan close together. Richard Donald Crenna (November 30, 1926 - January 17, 2003) was an American actor. ... ...

Sam Berman's The Great Gildersleeve caricature for NBC's 1947 promotional book
Sam Berman's The Great Gildersleeve caricature for NBC's 1947 promotional book

Leroy, aged 10-11 during most of the 1940s, is the "All-American Boy" who grudgingly practices his piano lessons, gets bad report cards, fights with his friends and can't seem to remember not to slam the door. Although he is loyal to his "Uncle Mort", he is always the first to deflate his ego with a well-placed "HA!!!" or "What a character!" Beginning in the Spring of 1949, he finds himself in junior high and is at last allowed to grow up, establishing relationships with the girls in the Bullard home across the street. From an awkward adolescent who hangs his head, kicks the ground and giggles whenever Brenda Knickerbocker comes near, he transforms himself overnight (Nov 28, 1951) into a more mature young man when Babs Winthrop (both girls played by Barbara Whiting) approaches him about studying together. From then on, he branches out with interests in driving, playing the drums and dreaming of a musical career. Image File history File linksMetadata No higher resolution available. ... Barbara Whiting Smith (May 19, 1931 - June 9, 2004) was an actress in movies and on radio and television, primarily in the 1940s and 1950s before she gave up her career to be a wife and mother. ...

Neighbors and friends

Outside the home, Gildersleeve's closest association was with the cantankerous estate executor Judge Horace Hooker (Earle Ross), with whom he had many battles during the first few broadcast seasons. After a change in script writers from Leonard L. Levenson (August 1941 to December 1942) to the writing team of John Whedon and Sam Moore in January 1943, the confrontations slowly subside and a true friendship slowly blossoms. Earle Ross was born March 29, 1888. ...

Joining Throckmorton's circle of close acquaintances during the second season (September 1942) are Richard Q. Peavey (Richard LeGrand), the friendly neighborhood pharmacist, whose famous line "Well now, I wouldn't say that" always elicited giggles from the studio audience, and Floyd Munson (Arthur Q. Bryan), the rough-around-the-edges neighborhood barber. This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Arthur Q. Bryan, as seen in one of his few film roles, from the 1941 film The Devil Bat Arthur Q. Bryan (May 8, 1899 - November 18, 1959) was a United States comedian and voice actor. ...

In the fourth season, (Oct. 8, 1944) these three friends, along with Police Chief Donald Gates (Ken Christy), form the nucleus of the Jolly Boys Club whose activities revolve around practicing barbershop quartet songs between sips of coke.

Adding spice to Gildersleeve's life are the women who come and go: the Georgia widow Leila Ransom (Shirley Mitchell), whom he almost marries (June 27, 1943), and the school principal Eve Goodwin (Bea Benaderet), who was another close call at the altar of matrimony (June 25, 1944). After almost being trapped a third time (1948-49 season) to Leila's cousin Adeline Fairchild (Una Merkel) Throckmorton learns his lesson and makes sure his future involvement with women is much more circumspect. He dates the sisters of his surly neighbor from across the street, Ellen Bullard Knickerbocker (Martha Scott) and Paula Bullard Winthrop (Jean Bates), as well as Nurse Katherine Milford and school principal Irene Henshaw (both played by Cathy Lewis) in an on-and-off fashion over many years, making sure the situation doesn't progress beyond the just friends state (although he's always after that special kiss). Shirley Mitchell was born in Toledo, Ohio on November 4, 1919. ... Bea Benaderet (IPA: ) (April 4, 1906—October 13, 1968) was an American actress, born in New York City and raised in San Francisco, California. ... haha im related to her yeah and kyle says hey Una Merkel (b. ... Martha Scott (September 22, 1912 - May 28, 2003) was an American actress. ... Cathy Lewis, birth cited as 12-27-1916, 1-1-1917 or generically as 1918 in Spokane, Washington. ...

To add adversity to Gildersleeve's world is the aforementioned surly neighbor from across the street: the retired millionaire Rumson Bullard, after initial portrayals by another actor, was portrayed definitively by (Gale Gordon) who was more pompous than the earlier version of the Gildersleeve character. Bullard was the focus of a continuity error: he began as a happily married man with two children and inexplicably became a widower with sisters and nieces living with him periodically. In numerous episodes, Mr. Bullard alternates between being chummy with "Gildy" (in order to get something he wants) to calling him a "nincompoop water buffalo". The two often court the same women (particularly Katherine Milford). Gale Gordon (February 20, 1906 – June 30, 1995) was an American character actor. ...

Decline and fall

Beginning in 1950, the show's momentum changed as the legendary CBS talent raids of the time began to take their toll. The most painful result of the raids was the jump of Jack Benny and Burns and Allen to CBS, forcing NBC to offer more lucrative deals to Fred Allen, Phil Harris, and Alice Faye in order to keep them from defecting. Harold Peary was convinced to move The Great Gildersleeve to CBS, but sponsor Kraft refused to sanction the move. Peary, now contracted to CBS, was legally unable to appear on NBC as a star performer, but Gildersleeve was still an NBC series. This prompted the hiring of Willard Waterman as Peary's replacement. Peary, meanwhile, began a new series on CBS which was a rather obvious attempt to reproduce the Gildersleeve show with the names changed. Despite occasional dear moments, The Harold Peary Show (often mistakenly called Honest Harold, the title of a fictitious radio show within the show hosted by Peary's new character) lasted only one season. CBS is one of the largest radio and television networks in the United States. ... Jack Benny (February 14, 1894 in Chicago, Illinois – December 26, 1974 in Beverly Hills, California), born Benjamin Kubelsky, was an American comedian, vaudeville performer, and radio, television, and film actor. ... George Burns & Gracie Allen Burns and Allen were an American comedy duo consisting of George Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen. ... He has eyes like Venetian blinds and a tongue like an adder — radio/television critic John Crosby about humourist Fred Allen, portrayed here by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. ... Phil Harris and Alice Faye Phil Harris (born Wonga Philip Harris) (June 24, 1904 – August 11, 1995) was an American singer, songwriter, jazz musician and comedian. ... Alice Faye, from her official Website, http://www. ... NBC (a former acronym for National Broadcasting Company) is an American television network headquartered in the GE Building in New York Citys Rockefeller Center. ... Willard Waterman (b. ...

Waterman and Peary were longtime friends from Chicago radio; Waterman had replaced Peary as the Sheriff in The Tom Mix Ralston Straightshooters in the 1930s. His voice was a near-perfect match for Peary's, though he refused to use Peary's signature laugh. Peary reportedly sued unsuccessfully to retain the right to both the Gildersleeve character and vocalisms, but Waterman agreed with Peary that only one man held the patent on the Gildersleeve laugh.

Starting in mid-1952, some of the program's long time characters (Judge Hooker, Floyd Munson, Marjorie and her husband) would be missing for months at a time. In their place were a few new ones (Mr Cooley the Egg Man and Mrs. Potter the hypochondriac) who would last only a month or so. By 1953, Gildy's love life took center stage over that of his family and friends. His many love interests were constantly shifting, and women were coming and going with such frequency that the audience had a hard time keeping up. His adversary, meanwhile, shifted from Mr. Bullard, who disappered completely from the cast of characters, to Dr. Clarence Olsen (George N. Niese).

1954 saw a drastic change in the show's format. After missing the fall schedule, it finally appeared in November as 15 minute episodes that aired 5 times a week, Sunday through Thursday from 10:15 to 10:30 p.m. Only Gildy, Leroy and Birdie remained on a continuing basis. All other characters were seldom heard and gone were Marjorie and her family as well as the studio audience, live orchestra and original scripts.

The radio show also suffered from the advent of television. A televised version of the show, also starring Waterman, premiered in 1955 but lasted only 39 episodes. During that year, both the 15 minute radio show and the television show were being produced simultaneously. The radio series was taped on days when the TV production was inactive. Because of the grueling schedule for everyone involved, the program quality suffered and only a few examples of the quarter hour shows have survived. By the time the radio show entered its final season, The Great Gildersleeve's remaining radio audience heard only reruns of previous episodes. Rerun van Pelt is the name of Linus and Lucys younger brother in the comic strip Peanuts. ...

The TV version is considered now to be something of an insult to the Great Gildersleeve legacy. Gildersleeve himself was sketched as less lovable, more pompous, and a more overt womanizer, an insult amplified when Waterman himself said the key to the television version's failure was its director not having known a thing about the radio classic.


The Great Gildersleeve was not the only radio classic to be sent to the movies, but it may have been one of the better executed of the breed. After joining his old co-stars Jim and Marion Jordan (as Fibber McGee and Molly) and fellow radio favorite Edgar Bergen in Look Who's Laughing (1941) and Here We Go Again (1942), Peary finally received top billing for a series of RKO films. The Great Gildersleeve (1942) also carried Randolph from the radio cast to the screen, with Nancy Gates as Marjorie and Freddie Mercer as Leroy. Walter Tetley, who played Leroy on radio, couldn't be seen on screen as Leroy because he was actually a child impersonator. Sam Bermans caricature of Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen for 1947 NBC promotion book Edgar John Bergen (February 16, 1903 – September 30, 1978) was an American actor and radio performer, best known as a ventriloquist. ... RKO could stand for: RKO Pictures The R.K.O. - finishing manoever (and initials) of WWE professional wrestler Randy Orton. ...

Gildersleeve on Broadway followed, in 1943; the story is centered on Leroy as the odd boy out as everyone around him is falling in love. Gildersleeve's Bad Day (1943) followed the mishaps around Gildy's call to jury duty; and, Gildersleeve's Ghost (1944) brings Gildy's relatives Randolph and Johnson up from the dead to help his campaign for police commissioner.

Peary went on to continue his career (often billed as "Hal Peary") in films and television well into the 1970s. He died of a heart attack in 1985.


Many of original episodes were co-written by John Whedon, the father of Tom Whedon (who wrote The Golden Girls), and grandfather of Zack Whedon, Deadwood script writer and Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly). Tom Whedon is the father of Joss Whedon, the creator of the successful television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. ... The Golden Girls is an American sitcom that originally aired Saturday nights on NBC from September 14, 1985 to May 9, 1992. ... Zack Whedon is a production assistant in television work. ... Deadwood is a weekly HBO television drama that premiered in March 2004. ... Joss Hill Whedon (born Joseph Hill Whedon[3] on June 23, 1964 in New York) is an American writer, director, executive producer, and creator of the well-known television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. ... Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a two-time Emmy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated American cult television series that initially aired from March 10, 1997 until May 20, 2003. ... Firefly is an American science fiction television series that premiered in the United States and Canada on September 20, 2002. ...

Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve's middle name was "Philharmonic." Gildy admits as much at the end of "Gildersleeve's Diary" on the Fibber McGee and Molly series (10/22/40).

In full Gildersleeve character, at the height of the show's popularity, Harold Peary recorded three albums reading popular children's stories for Capitol Records, in heavy-bookleted four-disc 78 rpm record albums (the way albums were configured before the invention of the long-playing record). Stories for Children, Told in His Own Way by the Great Gildersleeve, was released in 1945 and was Capitol's first-ever such release for children. With orchestral accompaniment, it featured "Puss in Boots," "Rumpelstiltskin," and "Jack and the Beanstalk." The second album, Children's Stories as Told by the Great Gildersleeve, in 1946, featured "Hansel and Gretel" and "The Brave Little Tailor," again with orchestral accompaniment. The third and final album in the series, reverting to the title of the first and released in 1947, included "Snow White and Rose Red" and "Cinderella," once more with full orchestral accompaniment. The music was done by Robert Emmett Dolan. And to make sure stories would be unmistakably Gildersleevian without compromising their core integrity, Capitol brought in The Great Gildersleeve's chief writers, Sam Moore and John Whedon, to adapt them to Gildy's unmistakable bearing. Capitol Records is a major United States-based record label, owned by EMI. // The Capitol Records company was founded by the songwriter Johnny Mercer in 1942, with the financial help of movie producer Buddy DeSylva and the business acumen of Glenn Wallichs, (1910-1971) (owner of Music City, at the... An album or record album is a collection of related audio or music tracks distributed to the public. ...

The Gildersleeve character was parodied in the 1945 Bugs Bunny cartoon Hare Conditioned, in which the rabbit distracts a menacing taxidermist by telling him that he sounds "just like that guy on the radio, the Great Gildersneeze!" The taxidermist responds with "Really?!" followed by Gildy's famous chuckle. The Gildersleeve voice in this cartoon was likely done by voice artist Danny Webb. Bugs Bunny is an Academy Award-winning fictional animated rabbit who appears in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of animated films produced by Warner Bros. ... Hare Conditioned is a 1945 Warner Bros. ...

In an early episode of The Great Gildersleeve, Throckmorton was given the key of the city to Gildersleeve, Connecticut, a village in the town of Portland, Connecticut. Portland is a town located in Middlesex County, Connecticut. ...

The Great Gildersleeve is referenced in "The Day the Earth Looked Stupid", a segment from the 2006 Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror XVII". Simpsons redirects here. ... Treehouse of Horror XVII is, as the name indicates, the seventeenth Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons. ...

Listen to

Further reading

The Great Gildersleeve by Charles Stumpf and Ben Ohmart, 157 pp, illustrated, ISBN 0-9714570-0-X BearManor Media, PO Box 71426, Albany GA 31708 BearManor Media

  Results from FactBites:
The Great Gildersleeve - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (815 words)
The Great Gildersleeve (1941 through 1957) was the arguable founding father of the spin-off program, as well as one of the first true situation comedies (as opposed to sketch programs) in broadcast history.
Gildersleeve himself was sketched as less loveable, more pompous, and a more overt womanizer, an insult amplified when Waterman himself said the key to the television version's failure was its director not having known a thing about the radio classic.
The Great Gildersleeve was not the only radio classic to be sent to the movies, but it may have been one of the better executed of the breed.
OTR Memories from Stratus Media Great Gildersleeve, The: 508 Episodes On 5 CD's (MP3 Format) (5035 words)
Gildersleeve - 481117 - 302 - Engaged To Leila and Adeline
Gildersleeve - 500322 - 357 - Picnic With The Thompsons
Gildersleeve - 520924 - 463 - Hooker and Peavy Are Fueding
  More results at FactBites »



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