Fibber McGee and Molly: On the Air 1935-1959
by Clair Schulz, ©2013
(From Radio Recall, August 2013)
Bear Manor Media, 2013
531 pgs. Softcover, $ 29.95 plus $6 for S & H
800-253-2187 (order line)
Reviewed by Jeff Whipple
Order direct from author at $34.95 and receive
an autographed copy of the book as well as a a
caricature of Fibber McGee and Malty on
11x14 cardstock, suitable for framing:
Clair A Schulz
S67 W13702 Fleetwood Road
Muskego, WI 53150
Since the first edition of Fibber McGee and
Molly: On the Air 1935-1959 was published in
2008, many of the 15 minute episodes from 1953
through 1956 have become circulated in the Old
Time Radio community. This revised edition
includes synopses of all of the 15 minute shows, in
fact every episode from the time of Molly's return to
the show on April 18, 1939 until the shows final
daily episode in March, 1956, as well as the existing
Monitor recordings from 1956 -1959.
In the instances where copies of the radio
episodes have not survived, Mr. Clair Schulz was
able to find scripts through the Wisconsin State
Historical Society Library and provide his summary
from them. His book starts out with about two
dozen pages of text, including an overview of the
series and some photos. This is followed by the
bulk of the book, some 430 pages, consisting of
summaries of all episodes. Appendix A is an
alphabetical listing of episodes by title and
Appendix B contains the show's Hooper/Nielsen
ratings by year.
Mr. Schulz has also included two new
appendices. Appendix C contains a chronological
listing of their most famous gag, the opening of the
half closet. The reason for the closet's opening is
also shown in the list. Appendix D is the more
interesting to me and a great addition to this edition
(Insert Fibber and Molly pun here trying to get the
appropriate word usage). For a collector of the radio
shows, it is a short cut to many of the first and lasts.
There are many lists including cast members,
characters, and running gags (such as the
aforementioned hall closet or Fibber's "Gotta get
them brakes fixed."). The downside of this is that
Mr. Schulz lists only the first and last episode the
gag aired and not every episode that contains the
gag, as he does for the hall closet in Appendix C.
But this also brings me to the problem with
books such as this - for lack of a better term
In the June 2013 issue of Radio Recall, Mr.
Schulz's book on The Great Gildersleeve (Tuning in
The Great Gildersleeve: The Episodes and Cast of
Radio's First Spinoff Show, 1941-1957) was
reviewed by Maury Cagle. Mr. Cagle's asked a very
poignant question "Is it worth the price"?
I have a much bigger and unfortunately stickier
question, "Who is the intended reader?"
It you own or listen to the radio shows, why do
you need someone else's synopses of the shows?
While the appendices are great, are they alone
worth the price of the book? If you do not or have
not listened to the shows, well shame on you. Or
are books such as this really written to aid someone
in research many years in the future when OTA is
just a faint part of history?
What a person considers humor has always
been a personal preference. What I find funny is
not necessarily what others find funny. I would
never be able to pull out of the book some of my
favorites from Fibber McGee and Molly such as the
episode from January 20, 1948. To me the
funniest part of this episode is listening to Wallace
Wimple bid on Molly's pickles. This is not even
mentioned in his synopses.
For comedy shows such as this, even the
scripts may not read well; the humor was truly in the
voice inflections, sound effects and comic timing of
the actors. To summarize the comedy or plot does
not give the comedic element the justice it
deserves. In fact, if you just read the synopses Mr.
Schulz has provided and never actually heard the
show, it would be hard to believe this was a top ten
comedy for many years.
It is books such as these that make me yearn
for an OTR Data Base similar to the Internet Movie
Data Base (IMDB). While a chronological list is nice
how do you find an episode you only vaguely
remember? Being able to find specific shows
among several hundreds of episodes is daunting at
best. Computers make finding some things (not all)
possible based on key words.
The utopia would be a database based on the
script so if you only remembered a phrase from the
show you could find it. If we want anyone to know
what the radio shows we all like and listen to are
about a hundred years from now, books like this
must become searchable web sites (with links to
the shows and scripts themselves where possible)
and unfortunately not printed tomes such as this.