Monday, December 19, 2016

The Great Gildersleeve: Christmas Programs

The Great Gildersleeve (1941–1957), initially written by Leonard Lewis Levinson, was one of broadcast history's earliest spin-off programs. Built around Throckmorton Philharmonic Gildersleeve, a character who had been a staple on the classic radio situation comedy Fibber McGee and Molly. First introduced to FMAM on 10/3/39 ep #216. 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.
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 catchphrase.

The character was given several conflicting first names on Fibber McGee and Molly, and on one episode his middle name was revealed as Philharmonic. Gildy admits as much at the end of "Gildersleeve's Diary" on the Fibber McGee and Molly series (10/22/40).
He soon became so popular that Kraft Foods—looking primarily to promote its Parkay margarine spread — sponsored a new series with Peary's Gildersleeve as the central, slightly softened and slightly befuddled focus of a lively new family.

Actor Harold Peary was a much appreciated talent on the old radio series, "Fibber McGee and Molly". Over the course of time, he played a number of different characters, like a butcher or a delivery man. Eventually, the writers created the character of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve for Peary to portray. Stuffy "Gildy" was the next-door neighbor of the McGee's, so now Peary could portray the major plot point in some episodes. But even this major supporting role was not enough to contain the actor's talents. So in 1941, "The Great Gildersleeve" spun-off into his very own radio series.

With a dedicated program, Harold Peary and his writers greatly expanded the depths of the Gildersleeve character. The show ran for 13 years (1941-1954), with over 550 shows produced. There were also four "official" Gildersleeve movies, and Peary appeared as Gildersleeve in a number of other films. In the fifties there was a "Great Gildersleeve" TV series, which ran for one season and resulted in 39 episodes.

However, it was not Peary who appeared in the TV series. Back in 1950, Peary's agent saw an opportunity to better his client's deal. He moved Peary from NBC to CBS. Unfortunately, the agent didn't cover all the bases of the deal, as CBS found they could not put him on as "The Great Gildersleeve", NBC still owned the rights to the character. They got Peary but not "The Great Gildersleeve" program. So CBS created a different series for Peary to play in, titled "Honest Harold". Starting on September 6, 1950, Peary's old friend Willard Waterman continued the Gildersleeve character successfully for the remaining four years of its run, then onto the year-run of the television series. Harold Peary showed up two years after that as Mayor LaTrivia on the TV version of "Fibber McGee and Molly".

via Wikipedia and

The Great Gildersleeve: Christmas Caroling at Gildersleeve's -  December 25, 1946

The Great Gildersleeve: Leroy's Holiday Job -  December 1, 1948

The Great Gildersleeve: Disappearing Christmas Presents -  December 8, 1948

The Great Gildersleeve: Christmas Shopping -  December 15, 1948

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