Jim & Marian Jordan

Jim & Marian Jordan

It's been 85 years since the debut of Jim and Marian Jordan most famous radio series, Fibber McGee and Molly.

The show was broadcast from April 16th 1935 to 6th September 1959. It was a very long-running series, but didn’t have high ratings until 1940, and then became the top-rated radio show in the United States by 1943.

Jim Jordan, who played Fibber, was born on an Illinois farm in 1896. Marion Driscoll, who played Molly, was a coal miner’s daughter born two years later in Peoria, Illinois. They were married and both began careers in small acting jobs. For years they traveled around the country together and finally came to Chicago in 1924.

In Chicago they performed on many shows as voice actors and developed 145 characters with different voices. They starred on shows such as Luke and Mirandy and The Smith Family playing popular characters. They teamed up with Donald Quinn in 1931 to create Smackout, a 15-minute show that was picked up nationally in 1933 and ran until 1935.

In 1935 they began Fibber McGee and Molly. This show was different than many of the time. It was one of the first to use recurring characters. It also had running gags and punch lines that were used over and over again. You never knew when to expect one of these jokes, but they were always met with favor. The closet was one of the most well known running gags on the show. 

Molly would warn Fibber not to open the closet, and he would anyway. What would follow was the clang and crash as the closet spilled out onto his head.  This was such a popular segment that it appeared over and over again with different people opening the door.

The show connected well with Americans who were weary from the depression. They felt a common bond with the characters who didn’t have much, but always seemed to make what they had work. 79 Wistful Vista was their famous address and millions of people tuned in to hear what was happening there each week.

The show was so popular that it even spawned two spin-offs – The Great Gildersleeve and Beulah. Jim and Marian Jordan occasionally made guest appearances on them. You can also hear them as they appear as guests on the Dinah Shore Show, on the Amos and Andy Show, the Screen Guild Theater Revue, and also in their performance on Family Theater.

Marian Jordan passed away in 1961 and Jim Jordan lived another 27 years, passing away in 1988. The show Fibber McGee and Molly was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1989. It continues to be popular among modern listeners of old time radio.

Happy listening my friends,

Ned Norris