Amoeblog

Happy Birthday, The Life of Riley! - or - What a revoltin' development this is!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 16, 2012 12:22pm | Post a Comment
On this day, in 1944, The Life of Riley premiered on the Blue network (later known as ABC).

The Life of Riley began with an audition taping on July 25, 1943 after its creation by Irving Brecher. Over the course of roughly 320 episodes, it established itself as one of the most enduringly funny sitcoms on Old Time Radio. It's final episode on ABC aired on July 8, 1945. After moving to the NBC radio network, it aired again from August 8, 1945 until its final episode aired on June 29, 1951.

The main character, Chester A. Riley, was played by William Bendix. His wife, Peg, his son, Junior, and his daughter, Babs, were all played by more than one actor. Both his co-worker/neighbor, Gillis, as well as audience favorite, Digby "Digger" O'Dell (the "friendly undertaker") were both played by John Brown. At various times it was sponsored by the American Meat Institute, Teel Dentifrice, Dreft, Prell Shampoo, and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.

   

In 1949 it was adapted into a feature film that was co-written by Brecher and Groucho Marx. That same year it also debuted as a television series starring a pre-Honeymooners Jackie Gleason in the title role that ran for 26 episodes (Bendix's contract with RKO prevented him from appearing on NBC TV). It returned in 1953 with Bendix again in the title role and again with Marx as a writer. It proved much more successful and ran for six seasons until 1958, when it was also adapted into a Dell comic book.

The series followed the day-to-day doings of the working class, Irish-American Riley family, nominally headed by the bumbling Chester Riley, who supported his brood by working, like many post-War Southern Californians, at an aircraft plant, in this case as a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft. In reality, Chester Riley was the dimmest bulb in the drawer, and usually misinformed by Gillis. 

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Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx

Posted by Whitmore, October 2, 2007 06:25pm | Post a Comment

Several years back I went to a Halloween party dressed as Groucho Marx, specifically as his character Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the eccentric and barmy president of Huxley College from the classic 1932 film “Horse Feathers.”  I wore the cap and gown, a pair of baggy trousers, an ill fitted shirt, worn leather shoes; I painted on the moustache and the eyebrows. I did it up right. When I arrived at the party I found myself milling around the bar looking for some whiskey. Nearby was a crowd in their late 20’s or early 30’s dressed to the absolute nines. I suspect “glamorous perfection"  (rented perfection?) was the concept behind their costumes, whatever it was, they hit it right. I sort of knew them from another party; I also knew they worked as grammar school teachers. I said hey and hello, they said hey and asked me about my costume.  

“Are you a professor of some sort?” one of them asked.
“I’m dressed as Groucho Marx” I replied, cigar in hand.
They all blinked and dimly asked, ‘Who’s Groucho Marx?”

One of the saddest and most preposterous nights of my life, right at that moment I knew there wasn’t going to be enough whiskey or conversation or beautiful women to keep me at this shindig for long, or this pin-brained world. Soon I said my adieus and I wandered back home dazed, stunned by it all … and I wonder why I’m depressed sometimes!

Anyway, today, October 2nd, is the birthday to a comic cultural icon, and the inspiration behind those novelty glasses, Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx.  Happy 117th birthday Groucho!