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Fibber McGee and Molly - The Lost Episodes, Volume 3 - 10 hours [Audio CDs] #RA066
10 hours - Audio CD Set
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Fibber McGee and Molly: The Lost Episodes
"Sweety Face...that's my big ol' wife..."
As a child of television who was introduced to old-time radio via the nostalgia boom of the 1970s, this author discovered - through the magic of Saturday morning cartoons - that many of the voices he heard in these productions belonged to individuals blessed with lengthy radio careers as well: Alan Reed, Mel Blanc, Jim Backus, June Foray, Bea Benaderet, Paul Frees, etc. Indeed, the question that weighed constantly on my mind wasn't why Bugs Bunny had a drag fetish or what the Coyote saw food-wise in the Road Runner...but why Droopy and Touché Turtle sounded the same...
I eventually learned the answer to my query: both characters were voiced by an immensely talented individual named Bill Thompson. Touché Turtle was a character expressly created for television, however, while Droopy was featured in movie theaters at the same time Thompson was enjoying tremendous success on NBC's
"Fibber McGee & Molly"
. At the time Thompson voiced Touché for the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series, radio was practically a mist in the memory - but it was indeed gratifying to know that there were a few outlets available for these individuals to display their one-of-a-kind creativity.
William H. Thompson was born July 8, 1913 in Terre Haute, Indiana to a family of seasoned vaudevillians. There must have been something in the family's genes to inspire performers, because Bill made his stage debut at the age of two tap-dancing and later eked out a career billed as "Jackie Coogan's Double." Thompson got his big break in show business when a successful appearance doing a comedy sketch in which he played all ten characters with a dazzling array of dialects attracted the notice of NBC, who hired him to work network programs like "Jamboree" and Don McNeil's "Breakfast Club". It was during his stint with McNeil, in which he played a mush-mouthed character that served as a blueprint for Wallace Wimple, that he made the acquaintance of Jim and Marian Jordan, who were making a guest appearance on the show. The Jordan's instinctively knew an actor like Bill would prove invaluable to their newly launched comedy series, and hired him for the Johnson's Wax program.
Thompson's first appearance on "Fibber McGee & Molly" was on a January 27, 1936 broadcast that had him playing a heavily accented Greek restaurant owner named "Nick Porkenhoppolis." With each successive appearance, the character's name was changed slightly until he was finally christened Nick DePopolous, the first of Thompson's many comic creations. Nick's admittedly one-dimensional shtick consisted of malapropisms, a carryover from vaudeville and burlesque in which foreigners were often "difficult" to understand. Nick would refer to Fibber as "Fizzer" and Molly as "Kewpie," and while the character was funny, his popularity began to wane in the 1940s as audiences became disenchanted with such stereotyped characters. Thompson would eventually drop Nick from his repertoire, though he continued to use the dialect every now and then.
Another Thompson creation that later became a 1940s casualty was the cagey Horatio K. Boomer, also known briefly as Widdicomb Blotto, Wistful Vista's resident con man with a voice bearing a not-too-coincidental resemblance to that of comedian W. C. Fields. Thompson introduced the character in the spring of 1936, and Boomer soon became an audience favorite, frequently found searching in his seemingly bottomless pockets for some obscure item before signaling that the enterprise was useless with his catchphrase "...and a check for a short beer." When Fields began appearing on "Your Hit Parade" in the fall of 1938, Thompson obligingly put Horatio in mothballs, resurrecting him only when Fields' radio stint came to an end. (As to Thompson's expert impersonation, Fields' on-the-record response was "It's damned good!" -- so much so that Thompson was frequently pressed into service on Edgar Bergen's show to impersonate the Great Man after Fields' death in 1946. But in the early 1940s, both Thompson and writer Don Quinn felt they had taken the Boomer character as far as they could go, and Horatio soon enjoyed retirement with fellow Wistful Vista denizen Nick.
Thompson's enduring creations were much more three-dimensional, and as such had a bit more staying power on the program. Perhaps the best-known was a rib-tickling old codger referred to as "The Old Timer," who only heard half of what was ever said ("What say, Johnny?") and who referred to Fibber as "Johnny" and Molly as "Daughter." It's a testament to Bill's talent that while he didn't originate the character - The Old Timer first appeared in 1936, played by Cliff Arquette, and bore a more than passing resemblance to his later TV creation "Charley Weaver" - he made it his own, culminating in one of "Fibber McGee & Molly's" most popular catchphrases. Whenever Fibber would finish spinning a yarn with a corny old pun, the Old Timer would bellow, "Well, that's purty good, Johnny...but that ain't the way I heerd it...the way I heerd it, one fella says t'other fella...'Saaaayyyy...he says...'" He would then retaliate with an equally wheezy one-liner of his own. The Old Timer didn't seem to have a permanent means of support - he floated around from job to job - but he did have a girlfriend named Bessie who appeared on a handful of broadcasts...played by Cliff Arquette!
But the best was yet to come. On April 15, 1941, Thompson recycled his former "Breakfast Club" character and rechristened him "Wallace Wimple" for the Fibber & Molly program. "Wimp," as Fibber often called him, was a genuine milquetoast who spent a lot of time visiting at 79 Wistful Vista in an attempt to avoid his Gorgon-like spouse, "Sweety Face." Wimple had a passion for bird watching and would often respond to any situation with a cheerful "That's just peachy," but the highlight of his appearances was listening to him regale the McGees with tales of how he managed to get the upper hand on the daunting Sweety Face...if ever so briefly. (Thompson later recycled the Wimple voice for MGM cartoon canine star Droopy in a series of entertaining cartoons directed by animation great Tex Avery.)
The Jordan's began their network career in the early 1930s, performing on such popular programs as "Kaltenmeyer's Kindergarten" and, later, starring in their own series, "Smackouts." Thompson's versatility on "Fibber McGee & Molly" was nothing short of astounding. After Ransom Sherman had a crack at the role, he assumed the part of Molly's constantly inebriated Uncle Dennis before the show's writers decided Dennis was funnier when silent. He also essayed the part of Roebuck, the tweedy butler of Wistful Vista's high-society matron, Millicent Carstairs (played by Bea Benaderet), and had an endless repertoire of policemen (most of whom were Irish) and other public servants at the ready. One of the funniest of Thompson's characters was a nameless streetcar conductor, introduced in 1949, whose pronouncements were completely unintelligible to his passengers; this was explained because his father had been an auctioneer and his mother a long distance operator. Thompson was so integral to the program that his presence was sorely missed when he was inducted into the Navy in 1943, which meant that he took Wimple, The Old Timer, Boomer and Nick DePopolous with him.
Bill's vocal talents weren't just restricted to "Fibber McGee & Molly"; his work on the Droopy cartoons brought him to the attention of Walt Disney, who gave him plum roles in feature films like "Alice in Wonderland" (as the White Rabbit), "Peter Pan" (as Mr. Smee), "Lady and the Tramp", "Sleeping Beauty," and "The Aristocats". He also originated the role of Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore in a short series of Disney cartoon shorts in the 1950s. When NBC purchased the Fibber & Molly program and revamped its format to a five-day-a-week quarter-hour in the fall of 1953, the smartest move they made was to retain Bill's services. Even in the program's truncated form, he can still convulse old-time radio fans as both The Old Timer and Wallace Wimple - and you have the chance to find this out for yourself in this third volume of a new series of Radio Archives collections transferred from the long-lost original NBC Reference Recordings of the series. In this set, we invite you to listen to forty more full-length programs that, for the most part, have not been heard since they originally aired over fifty years ago. An additional bonus is their sparkling audio quality; thanks to the innovations of the digital age, these classic shows can now be heard at a level of clear and crisp high fidelity that far exceeds what was available to the average listener in 1954. The result is shows that sound - and are - just as bright, fresh, and entertaining as they were when first heard -- a real tribute to the time, talent, and devotion to quality that went into their production.
I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing
Thursday, June 10, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer
Friday, June 11, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
Strike While the Iron is Hot
Monday, June 14, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
Art for Art’s Sake
Tuesday, June 15, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Tums
Give Till it Hurts
Wednesday, June 16, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Arrid Deodorant
Thursday, June 17, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
Preparation H (The “H” is for “Hobby”)
Friday, June 18, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
As She Sews, So Shall She Weep
Monday, June 21, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
Tuesday, June 22, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Tums
Phonier Than a Five-Dollar Bill
Wednesday, June 23, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Carter’s Little Liver Pills
Whatever Floats Your Boat
Thursday, June 24, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
There’s Gold in Them Thar Rules
Friday, June 25, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
An Accident Waiting to Happen
Monday, June 28, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
Danger of a Stranger
Tuesday, June 29, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Tums
Friday, July 2, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sustaining
Green, Green Grass of Home
Monday, July 5, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
Tuesday, July 6, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Tums
Taking a Stand
Wednesday, July 7, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Carter’s Little Liver Pills
Thursday, July 8, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by L&M Cigarettes
For Their Benefit
Friday, July 9, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
No Good Seed Goes Unpunished
Monday, July 12, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
Tuesday, July 13, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Tums
Wednesday, July 14, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Arrid Deodorant
Party is Such Sweet Sorrow
Thursday, July 15, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by L&M Cigarettes
Mr. and Mrs. First Nighter
Friday, July 16, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
Monday, July 19, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
Tuesday, July 20, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Tums and RCA Victor
Paint Funny, McGee
Wednesday, July 21, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Carter’s Little Liver Pills and RCA Victor
Thursday, July 22, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by L&M Cigarettes and RCA Victor
The Biggest Gamble of All
Friday, July 23, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
The First 179 Years are the Hardest
Monday, July 26, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
Once More Into the Peach
Tuesday, July 27, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Tums
Wednesday, July 28, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Arrid Deodorant
It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humility
Thursday, July 29, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by L&M Cigarettes
In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening
Friday, July 30, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
Monday, August 2, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
Mind Your Manors
Tuesday, August 3, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Tums
You Oughta Be in Pictures
Wednesday, August 4, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by Carter’s Little Liver Pills
Movies are Bitter Than Ever
Thursday, August 5, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by L&M Cigarettes
Friday, August 6, 1954 - 15:00 - NBC, sponsored by RCA Victor
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