A Bit of Nostalgia—Fibber McGee and Molly
Greetings friends and blog followers. I recently came into the possession of some old radio broadcasts of an era long gone, but not forgotten. Last night I had the pleasure of traveling back in time to the 1940s, where I spent time with Fibber McGee and Molly. When I was a youngster, we, as a family used to sit in the living room and spend the evening before bedtime listening to the radio. The radios in those days were large and were part of the living room furniture, as is observed by the photo to the left.
The Fibber McGee and Molly radio show was sponsored by only one company. The same was true for all the other network radio shows, also. It was a half-hour show with only three commercials; one at the beginning letting the audience know who was sponsoring the show. The line went something like: “This program is brought to you by Johnson Wax,” and that was all there was to that commercial. They simply mentioned that Johnson was the sponsor. There was another short 15 or 20 second commercial in the middle, and a last mention of the sponsor was at the end of the show before the next following show came on. That was it! No big eight minute block of commercials every five to six minutes like we have to put up with on TV and radio today.
The show was broadcast live and it was really funny. For Instance, there was Fibber’s closet. Remember that closet? Their neighbor, Gildersleeve was most often the hapless victim of that closet. On every show, he would have reason to open that door, before Molly’s frantic warning could stop him, and there was a crash and commotion that rattled the rafters, and brought the house down creating genuine honest laughter. “McGee,” Gildersleeve would shout, “When are you going to clean out that blasted closet?” That closet sparked the catch phrase (this is as bad as Fibber McGee’s closet)that is still used today whenever one runs into a cluttered closet or pantry, or any room that is in total disarray. Another catch phrase accredited to that program, and one that I still hear sometimes today, is: “T’ain’t funny, McGee.”
The comedic timing of the actors was good and the laughs were real, no phony laugh tracks like we hear in so many of the shows today. I swear, some of the shows today are so dull and devoid of real comedy, that if it weren’t for the laugh tracks, the entire show would go to the end without one laugh.
The thing I liked most about those old radio shows is that they played to the theater of the mind. As we listened, we could create our own mind pictures. Listening to the commotion created by the sound effects, we could actually see the mess of that closet when Gildersleeve opened the door. We could actually picture the home and the street at 79 Wistful Vista where Fibber and Molly lived.
Some interesting trivia I discovered about this show. It morphed through many titles and concepts before it became Fibber McGee and Molly. When they first started out, Tim and Marion Jordon (the stars of the show) were vaudevillians. They later decided they would like to try radio. They were featured on local radio stations around the area where they lived during the late 1920s and early ’30s. Their salary at the time was $10.00 per week($200.00 in today’s dollars). It wasn’t until the mid 1930s that they began to get traction with their audience. In the mid ’30s NBC picked up their show which at that time, after many name changes and concept changes, finally became Fiber McGee and Molly. Their early salary for these early national network years started out at a whopping $250.00 a week(about $5,000.00 of today’s dollars) and eventually moved up as their popularity increased, to $2,650.oo per week(about $43,000.00 in today’s dollars).
Something else I learned was that the producers wanted to name one of the earlier concepts of the show Free Air—but they discovered Sinclair Lewis had written a published piece by that name. He allegedly wanted $50,000. 00 ($857,000.00 in today’s dollars)for the rights to that title, so they scrapped it in favor of Fibber McGee and Molly. The law must have since been changed, because it is my understanding that titles today cannot be copyrighted. I see several books listed on amazon.com carrying the same title.
The last Fiber McGee radio show aired in 1957 after being on the air for twenty-two years.
Now, after having written the above about the past, I’d like to bring you back to…the future, maybe? and talk about my latest novel SHADOW REVOLUTION. You can read a short synopsis on the flyer below. The novel is available for purchase at amazon.com and barnes&noble.com in both print and e-reader versions. It’s also available on all five e-reader devices as well. Give it a look-see.