This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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Tuning in The Great Gildersleeve:The Episodes and Cast of Radio's First Spinoff Show 1941-1957 by Clair Schulz
Reviewed by Maury Cagle, ©2013
(From Radio Recall, June 2013)
McFarland, 2011 236 pages ($45)
800-253-2187 (Order line)
The question when considering buying a book
about Old Time Radio is often: "Is it worth the
price?" In this case, there are two answers. For
fans of The Great Gildersleeve, the answer is a
resounding "yes." For OTR fans in general. I would
argue the answer is still in the affirmative,
whether your interest is the history of the medium,
how cast members changed through time, the
vagaries of the radio business, or the interplay of
radio, the movies, and television.
The heart of the book is a 180-page episode
guide, which covers more than 500 programs in
circulation, and also 46 Scripts for which no
recordings exist. Each entry contains the air date,
title, cast, a plot summary, the writers, and a
comments section, with many little-known facts.
Many also have an"Allusions" section, noting
historical and literary references in the script.
The cast members appendix is very worthwhile,
and deals at some length with the difference
between Harold Peary, who played Gildy from 1941
to 1950 and Willard Waterman, who took over the
title role from 1950 to the end of the series in 1957
(Of the two, the author clearly prefers Peary.)
Harold Peary played the lead in all four motion
pictures about Gildersleeve: "The Great
Gildersleeve" (1942); "Gildersleeve's Bad Day"
(1943): "Gildersleeve on Broadway" (1943): and
"Gildersleeve's Ghost" (1944).
On the other hand, Waterman played
Summerfield's Water Commissioner on all 39
episodes on television, from September 1955 to
No one could have foreseen when
Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve left Wistful Vista in
1941 that he would have his own highly successful
show for 16 years, from before the U.S.
involvement in World War Two until the early days of
television. The publisher says the show
succeeded "because its likable and amusing
characters were appealingly fallible, much like the
folks each of us knew in our own hometowns."
Whatever the reason, The Great Gildersleeve
provided many years of pleasure, and homes
across America got to know the regular characters,
such as Leroy, Marjone, Birdie, Judge Hooker,
Floyd the Barber, Peavey the Druggist, and of
course, Leila Ransome, as if they lived next door.
The author Clair Schulz, served as archives
director at the Museum of Broadcast
Communications and is the author of two books
and numerous articles about old-time radio and
vintage films. He lives in Muskego, Wisconsin.