When Willard Waterman stepped into the role of The Great Gildersleeve, many people, from cast and crew to critics, were anxious. According to one review of the first Waterman show, however, no one had anything to worry about. This would be proven to be true as Waterman played the role until the show ended in 1957.
Not only did Waterman and Peary know each other from their days working in Chicago; but Waterman’s and Peary’s voices were almost an exact match. Yet while Waterman was able to effortlessly match Peary’s exact mannerisms and character tics when he assumed the role as Gildersleeve, he refused to recreate Peary’s signature laugh on and off the air because he believed that belonged exclusively to Peary.
Dropping the Gildersleeve laugh and many of the other gestures associated with the character, Waterman still captured the attention and affection of the audience and his fellow cast members. With their voices being so strikingly similar, some sources say most listeners didn’t know there had even been a change in cast. Waterman retained all the right aspects of Gildersleeve, including his propensity to be a windbag as well as his true, often hidden heart for people, and added enough of his own turn to the character that the transition happened with little to no issue.
The show itself was strong enough to withstand even a cast change as significant as the title character. Gildersleeve and his family and friends were so fully realized by this point that writers simply had to keep the stories fresh and new in content-the characters were almost alive enough to do that on their own. Even when a new actor took over the lead role, The Great Gildersleeve didn’t skip a beat for several years, continuing to turn out stories fans enjoyed and came back each week to hear.
Laughter in the midst of small town life makes The Great Gildersleeve one of the best shows of classic radio. Experience it for yourself with The Great Gildersleeve, Volume 40, complete with Kraft Foods commercials and restored to sparkling digital quality.
#529 New Year's Eve at Home With Leroy
Wednesday, December 30, 1953 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#530 Irene's Father Pushes for a Wedding
Wednesday, January 6, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#531 Gildy in the Doghouse With Irene
Wednesday, January 13, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#532 Leroy Going Steady
Wednesday, January 20, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#533 Bronco Mad at Gildy for Interfering
Wednesday, January 27, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#534 Evening Conference With Leroy's Teacher
Wednesday, February 3, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#535 Judge Hooker's Annual Dinner
Wednesday, February 10, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#536 Gildy the Budding Politician
Wednesday, February 17, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#537 Jolly Boys Election
Wednesday, February 24, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#538 Paula Winthrop Back in Town
Wednesday, March 3, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#539 Gildy Is Old Fashioned and Square
Wednesday, March 10, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft
#540 New Girl in Town - Marie Olsen
Wednesday, March 17, 1954 - 30:00 - NBC, sponsored by Kraft