Archive for situation comedy

Keeping Up Appearances: The Comic Genius of Patricia Routledge

Posted in Comedy, Sit Coms, Television, Women with tags , , , , on February 17, 2017 by travsd


Today is the birthday of the brilliant British comic actress Dame Patricia Routledge (b. 1929). What a testament to the importance of luck in the creation of performance magic is Routledge’s career. Her resume is stuffed with substantial credits: a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, winner of an Olivier Award and a Tony. I’d previously seen her in films many a time without particularly noting her.  She’s in To Sir With Love (1967), Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968) and If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969). Her list of credits is much much longer than this, and she is much better known to British audiences to American ones, through tv, film and theatre.


But talent and experience are only part of what makes for greatness. Sometimes the right actor gets the right part at the right time and alchemy occurs. Such is the case with Routledge’s role as the ever-striving (upward) housewife Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s pronounced “Bouquet’!”) on Keeping Up Appearances (1990-1995). I was instantly smitten with this comic creation the first time I saw it. Hyacinth is a middle class provincial woman  who makes life hell for everyone around her with her insufferable pretensions.


Meanwhile, reality is always giving the lie to her schemes. Her origins are in the lower classes. Her crass relatives are always showing up to her embarrass her. She’s always being appalled, chagrined, exasperated.  And she herself is never quite up to what she attempts. She mispronounces words. Her attempts at a posh accent and manners are transparently silly. Her efforts to claim her modest home and surroundings are somehow grand are at once heroic, sad, and obvious. In her denial of the world around her, she is definitely a spiritual heiress to Don Quixote. And Routledge has the prodigious talent, skill and intelligence to play it that way. She has the range to give us the pretentious elocution and rolled “R”s, but at the same time she’ll go for broke and rob the character of ALL dignity, and just go into utter slapstick in her desperate attempts to keep her subterfuges going. She pulls funny faces, and falls into the mud. She’s constantly peeking from behind things to see how her plans are playing out — and not liking what she sees.


Along for the ride is her long suffering husband Richard (Clive Swift), a minor local official whom she is forever trying to turn into a big shot. If Hyacinth is Quixote, Richard is less like her Sancho than her Rocinante, the pathetic, elderly horse who passively accepts his miserable lot in life. He grumbles but he doesn’t fight Hyacinth’s plots and schemes. He just does what she tells him, always with full knowledge of impending disaster. Her constant cycle of failure gives the show a poignancy, and elevates Hyacinth to one of the great modern comic creations.


Credit must be given to the show’s writer/creator Roy Clarke (obviously not the country singer) who conceived and built this perfect comic engine. Not only does it contain everything Routledge needed to give full-on broadly comical performances, but there’s something inherently, timeless, eloquently English about the theme of class-jumping and the clash between reality and fantasy in Hyacinth’s head. She wants to be “somebody”. She is not to content to be herself. The theme is also modern and universal, which is why Keeping Up Appearances has proven to be the BBC’s biggest export. It certainly resonates here in America. It struck an enormous chord with this correspondent.

A few months ago, the BBC launched a prequel series called Young Hyacinth, without Routledge’s participation. She’s 87 today; she’s earned a rest. Happy birthday Dame Patricia. How glad Hyacinth would be to know that she’s being portrayed by one of the nobility!


 For more on  slapstick comedy please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc


R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore

Posted in Comediennes, Comedy, Dance, OBITS, Sit Coms, Television, Women with tags , , , , , , on January 26, 2017 by travsd


We would certainly be remiss if we didn’t lay down a few words in honor of the late Mary Tyler Moore.

As I tweeted yesterday, she influenced many of us not just as a comedienne but as an example and a role model. I’m a white working class male, and she influenced my world outlook immensely. The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran during highly impressionable years of my life (1971 through 1977, and thereafter in syndication). I knew it was seminal only in retrospect. Growing up watching her, I always took it for granted that it was the most natural thing in the world that a single woman should choose to pursue a career and that she should be respected in the workplace. Unlike Marlo Thomas in That Girl (1966-1971), there was no fiance constantly waiting the wings and her career goals weren’t pie in the sky. She dated men, and sometimes it was even hinted that they stayed the night.  But her career seemed to be her priority. She later backtracked some on this takeaway, but really that is the message her show sent.

Of course, that message is what most people celebrated yesterday, but now I want to talk about her as a comedian. She was a great one. I seem to recall her saying that her teacher in playing comic scenes was her old co-star Dick Van Dyke, and I started to watch her performances with that in mind, and you can see it. (Apart from her crying routines — the debt there is probably to Lucille Ball. And I have to say, of the two, I vastly prefer MTM’s more subtle and true comic performances over Lucy’s. Lucy only had a sledgehammer in her arsenal, Mary had a full tool kit.)

Recently, when watching 30 Rock I had the revelation that Tina Fey’s show is kind of a mash-up The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. On the one hand, it’s set behind the scenes at a tv comedy show; on the other hand it’s about a single, female tv producer. 30 Rock is way more absurd and surreal, but the core of the situation echoes those pioneering shows, and I would imagine it’s not accidental. Fey is a formidable comic architect, and quite encyclopedic in her knowledge of comedy.

Like Van Dyke, Moore was an incredible dancer; it’s kind of her jumping off point as a performer. It informs both their comedy — and it’s fairly insane that, apart from some variety show appearances, they didn’t co-star in a LOT of musicals. With their array of talents that could potentially have been amazing. But something interesting happened to Moore — and it happens to a lot of actors and comedians when they get very big. Moore wasn’t just a comedian, she became a producer. And with her husband Grant Tinker, she was responsible for a large number of hit tv shows: Phyllis, Rhoda, Lou Grant, The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, The White Shadow, Hill St. Blues, St. Elsewhere. When you are powerful, you acquire dignity and self-assurance. She was no longer young or fresh or goofy by the 1980s. She had gravitas and was even (as she was in Ordinary People) intimidating and scary. She tried many later tv series: The Mary Tyler Moore Hour (1979), Mary (1985-86), Annie McGuire (1988), New York News (1995). None flew, I think partially because you see the show business titan beneath the performer. It’s not uncommon — think of Bob Hope’s last movies.

She’d gone conservative in recent years, I hear. I wonder what she thought of the millions who attended the Women’s March on Sunday, so many of whom she influenced. She’s leaving us at another time of change, when even the mild gains women have made are under serious threat. I already get melancholy and nostalgic when I watch tv. Now there’ll be some added bittersweetness when I see this and think of more innocent times:


Forgotten Shows of My Nonage #94: The New Odd Couple

Posted in African American Interest, Comedy, Forgotten Shows of My Nonage, Sit Coms, Television with tags , , , , on November 27, 2016 by travsd


I’ve touched on this subject once before, and had originally intended to do more two weeks ago (November 13) for all sorts of reasons. In fact, I probably would have hit it in two posts. November 13 is “Odd Couple Day” (the date was mentioned in the opening narration for the original television program as the date Felix Ungar’s wife throws him out). The original Odd Couple tv show was hugely influential on me, so please know that a post on that show is forthcoming! Also (not coincidentally, I’m sure) November 13th was the late Garry Marshall’s birthday. He passed away a few months ago, and it occurred to me at the time that, love him or hate him, Marshall was a comic auteur, and deserving of a blogpost about his legacy, which I had also intended for November 13.

Unfortunately, this year that date fell five days after Black Tuesday. I was still in a serious funk and in no mood to write about frivolous things like situation comedies and the pop geniuses who write them. So look for those planned posts about Marshall and the original Odd Couple series next November 13.

My spirits have now revived somewhat, and I find that I have space in my brain BOTH for helping save the country, and my usual pursuits. And we write about The New Odd Couple today because we learned that Ron Glass passed away a couple of days ago.


So! This potentially promising, but ultimately ill-conceived and indifferently executed experiment aired during my senior year in high school. As I’ve already more than hinted, I was an enormous fan of the original series starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, which ran from 1970 to 1975. The original series closed out just in time to focus on Marshall’s new project, the smash hit Happy Days, which then spawned Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy.  So Marshall seemed like a veritable television Midas long about 1982. And you know what happened to Midas — he got too greedy.

Wearing a producer hat, you can identify all sorts of reasons why The New Odd Couple (1982-1983) ought be successful in theory.  1) It was already a proven property with Garry Marshall’s now gold-minting name attached to it. 2) African American sit-coms (mostly from the Norman Lear factory) were very popular at the time (Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Jeffersons, That’s My Mama, What’s Happenin’ et al). and 3) It showcased two popular black sit com stars, Demond Wilson from Sanford and Son as Oscar; and Ron Glass of Barney Miller as Felix. And those two gents seemed pretty well cast. After all, Wilson’s previous character Lamont Sanford worked in a junkyard, a fitting association for Oscar. And Glass’s Barney Miller character Harris was kind of dapper and prissy, which would make him natural to step into Felix. And they were both funny guys.

This is totally the same kitchen

This is totally the same kitchen

Hence I tuned into this show with high hopes. But….the resulting product was too lazy. Even as a teenager, I could easily identify why I was dissatisfied with the show. The whole enterprise was transparently cynical. Yes, they cast black actors, but they didn’t rethink them as black characters. They just took old Odd Couple scripts, tweaked some of the lines, and filmed them with a new cast. They even used the same theme song, with a funkier arrangement. They hadn’t even bothered to give the show its own name. The irony is, the thing they were attempting was not unprecedented and it had been done with great success. It wasn’t even far away. Sanford and Son had been based on a British sitcom called Steptoe and Son. But, other than the basic situation, the entire set-up had been completely reimagined as a vehicle for Redd Foxx from the ground up. The writers weren’t black but Foxx had enough juice to inject his show with authentic touches. In The New Odd Couple the actors even seem to be wearing leftover costumes. And are asked to give the same line readings. On the same set. With the same inserts of an exterior of their apartment building. Check it out for yourself. There are some episodes on Youtube. (16 episodes were filmed; it ran for only one season),


Sorry this is not the best way to remember Ron Glass! He was excellent on Barney Miller! And also on the cult sci-fi western mash-up Firefly! And for the record, I am not a fan of the current Odd Couple reboot either, though it also stars two top notch comic actors. The best Marshall-produced Odd Couple reboot is of course Laverne and Shirley. The best overall? Perhaps, Perfect Strangers (1986-1993). Who cares about sloppy vs. neat? Why is that a necessary component? The true essential element is two mismatched friends with terrific chemistry.

The Munsters vs. The Addams Family

Posted in Comedy, Horror (Mostly Gothic), Sit Coms, Television with tags , , , , , on October 26, 2015 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Jackie Coogan ( see my full biographical blogpost here). As they often do, TCM is celebrating his birthday today by showing some of his earlier triumphs such as The Kid and Oliver Twist. As well they should, for they are classics. But in the end, as we all know, it all comes down to Uncle Fester. For all of us. We may all start out as adorable, irresistible babies…but we end up as bald, pop-eyed denizens of dusty old houses full of antiques.

Like many, I am a huge fan of the ABC sit-com The Addams Family (1964-1966). But I am also equally a fan of the CBS sit-com The Munsters which ran at the exact same time (1964-1966). “What’s the difference?!,” my best friend in high school used to rant, “They’re both shows about a family of monsters!” He used to take the position that the latter was just a rip-off of the former. As it happens, that wasn’t the case.

Both shows were developed independently, less a factor of coincidence, I think than zeitgeist. Charles Addams had been drawing his dark cartoons for The New Yorker since the late 1930s. Vampira began hosting old horror movies on television in 1954, and many similar corny comical horror hosts followed in her wake at local tv stations across the country. E.C. Comics published a long line of horror titles and, perhaps more significantly Mad Magazine. And American International Pictures, long known for low-budget horror, was beginning to camp it up with surf musicals and a new cycle of films starring Vincent Price, including horror-humor hybrids such as The Comedy of Terrors (1964). There is no doubt that Addams came first at his drawing board in the chronology I just laid out. BUT, as I shall demonstrate, The Munsters is very different.


The Addams Family universe evolved organically out of 25 years of Addams’ cartoons. Inspired by Addams’ sensibility and guided by producer Nat Perrin (who’d written for the Marx Brothers), the show is elusive, sophisticated and very much a sui generis. It gives us a world not really too distant from this one. What on earth can I possibly mean, you wonder? Two words — they’ll mean something to you or they won’t: Grey Gardens. We are talking about a family of old money, so old that no one seems to know or care where it came from. In the case of The Addams Family the origins seem vaguely European, although it shares much in common with Southern Gothic. The family has clearly occupied its decaying mansion for generations, living in unwholesome isolation, and clearly inbreeding. The show isn’t even subtle about this ambiguity. Who is related to whom and how? It seems clear to me that Gomez (John Astin) and Morticia (Carolyn Jones) are related in ways other than, and previous to, husband and wife — cousins at the very least. No one works, their lives are spent entirely on time-killing hobbies and projects, often of a subversive (or perversive) nature. They are cheerfully eccentric and anti-social, preoccupied with thoughts of murder, destruction and doing the opposite of what’s expected. There is a Beatnik energy to the proceedings. They are cultured in a way that is most “un-American”. They recite poetry, do Yoga, and are gourmets and wine aficionados in a way that recalls Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft. They are in a literary tradition. And while they surround themselves with monsters (Lurch, Thing, Cousin Itt, and the children’s various toys and pets), for the most part the Addams Family are just morbid people, with Uncle Fester and Grandmama (a witch) at the outer fringes.


Conversely, true to their name The Munsters are monsters. In fact, literally so — all of the characters are based around, modeled upon, the Universal Studios horror franchises with patriach Herman (Fred Gwynne) clearly modeled on Frankenstein, and Grandpa (Al Lewis), Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) and Eddie (Butch Patrick) modeled on Dracula. Grandpa’s basement workshop (the “dungeon”) is a mad scientist lab. And the family periodically receives visits from other Universal monsters like The Invisible Man, the Mummy and The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

While The Addams Family couldn’t possibly be more East Coast Establishment, The Munsters is totally West Coast, with its surfer theme music, its parody of Hollywood movies AND its satire of the American family as filtered through other sit-coms (My Three Sons springs immediately to mind, although probably more of the moment is the fact that the show’s producers were Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, whose previous tv hit was Leave it to Beaver.) Unlike the Addams Family, the Munsters strive to be a “normal” American family, or at least their version of it. Herman (much like another star of a similar parody of the time, Fred Flintstone) goes to work every day with his lunch box and punches in with his time card. Yes, he works at a funeral parlor, but he works. Unlike the Addams Family, the Munsters aren’t disengaged from the world around them, they aspire to be involved. They’re always answering and placing ads for things, joining clubs and so forth. People wind up at the home of the Addams Family by accident; the Munsters bring home new friends. They fail at fitting in for the most part, but unlike the Addams family they at least aspire to Keep Up with the Joneses. They are even automobile lovers with the “Munster-mobile” paving the way for other campy sit-com roadsters such as the Batmobile and Monkee-Mobile. Just a bunch of regular old American consumers.  One of the most eloquent aspects of this set-up is the character of Grandpa, the immigrant from “the Old Country”, an ingenious device, I think. For what were second and third generation hyphenated Americans doing in the mid twentieth century but trying to FIT IN?

And further, I would contend that The Munsters is satire as much as simple parody. For example, I consider Fred Gwynn’s work on this show a masterpiece of comic acting. “The big strong American male” is constantly revealed to be this simpering softy, hen-pecked (borderline Oedipal), and infantile in the extreme, literally jumping up and down and stamping his feet when he doesn’t get the toy that he wants (“I want it, I want it, I want it!”). Here’s a study in contrasts: whenever Morticia Addams speaks French, Gomez doesn’t even bother to conceal his frank, leering lust – – he attacks her on the spot, and she likes it. Herman Munster’s style is to give Lily a bashful peck on the cheek (as he does in the show’s credit sequence) and then rapidly change the subject. He’s not a man; he’s an overgrown boy and his wife is an uncomfortable authority figure. The character (and the situation) is definitely heir to stuff found in Laurel and Hardy comedies and The Honeymooners….and an ancestor, for sure, of Homer Simpson.

Which of the two shows is my favorite? Unless it isn’t already plain, I could never ever choose. Let us agree to divide the universe: we’ll watch The Munsters by day….and The Addams Family by night.

In Which We Wax Rhapsodic About “The Beverly Hillbillies”

Posted in AMERICANA, Crackers, Sit Coms, Television with tags , , , , , on October 17, 2015 by travsd

The credit sequence, lifted whole cloth from “The Grapes of Wrath”

Today is the birthday of the great Irene Ryan. Today she is best remembered for playing Granny on the hit CBS sit com The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971), although she had long career in vaudeville, radio and films prior to that (go here for my full biographical post about her).

But the time is well past for me to sing the praises of this highly influential tv show, which I grew up watching almost daily in reruns. It was cancelled from prime-time when I was six years old but its presence (at least in our home) only increased in syndication. The show’s country humor was greatly appreciated by my father. Though he was from the Smokey Mountain region and the fictional Clampetts were from the Ozarks, a hillbilly is a hillbilly, and anyway many of our extended family had moved west to Arkansas (where the Clampetts were supposed to be from) and Missouri (where the show’s creator Paul Henning was from).

Prior to creating The Beverly Hillbillies, Henning had written for Fibber McGee and Molly and Burns and Allen on radio, as well as the tv shows The Real McCoys, The Andy Griffith Show and (his own creation) The Bob Cummings Show. There was much precedent in American pop culture for Henning’s kind of humor, from vaudeville and radio’s “Arkansas Traveler” to rural “Toby Shows” to the Ma and Pa Kettle film series to the comic strip Li’l Abner. Henning’s genius was to mash the rural folk humor up with contemporary movie star culture. The culture clash generated comedy; the comedy appealed to both rural and urban audiences, traditional and modern alike. Some found it “corny”; I’ve always found it witty. It’s vaudeville comedy through and through. Henning also composed the irresistible theme song.

Irene Ryan of The Beverly Hillbillies 3/5/1963

We often related our own southern grandmother to Granny though she was nothing like that character. Ryan’s portrayal was her finest screen work. I often think of her characterization as being very similar to Donald Duck. Very quick to anger and easy to agitate, always hopping up and down, and swatting people with brooms and pointing shotguns at them. She won well deserved Emmys for this work.

“Eee, doggy!”

As family patriarch Jed Clampett, show biz veteran Buddy Ebsen seemed to mine his entire past as a performer. (Among countless rural characters he was perhaps best known at the time for having played Davy Crockett’s frontier sidekick. Easygoing, cheerful, unflappable, he usually got to deliver the best verbal jokes on the show, constructed out of his misunderstanding of the sophisticated characters he encountered as a nouveau riche oil millionaire. There’s one that has always stood out in my mind for some reason:

OTHER CHARACTER: Jethro went to Eton?!

JED: Sure! Why, I reckon Jethro went to eatin’ just as soon as he was born!


Beefcake nephew Jethro Bodine was played by Max Baer, Jr. son and nephew of two of the country’s best known heavyweight boxers. Over-exuberant, naive and possessed of superhuman strength, he was always getting into the same kind of trouble as Baby Huey and Herman Munster: always breaking things, running and tripping, and picking up pretty girls (literally, as though they were puppies or bags full of Halloween candy). On occasion, in the early seasons when they wanted to go truly lowbrow (which was often) Baer would also play his twin sister, Jethrine. The less said about that, the better.


On the other hand, genuine eye candy was provided by Jed’s daughter Ellie May (Donna Douglas, who sadly passed away just this year). The comic idea behind Ellie May was almost identical to Li’l Abner’s Daisy Mae, with the sexuality toned down a good deal for tv watching families. Rather than cut-offs, she wore full length blue jeans with a rope for a belt like Jethro. The joke was that here was this gorgeous girl but only outsiders (and the folks watching at home) would ever notice.


In the early seasons, Bea Benadaret, formerly of The Burns and Allen Show, and also the voice of The Flinstones’ Betty Rubble would visit from time to time as Jethro’s trouble-making mother Pearl.


Other memorable recurring guests included the bluegrass duo  of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs who would play themselves on the show, and also played on the theme song. This meant something in our house; we have every one of Flatt and Scrugg’s records.


Then there was the family’s excitable, nervous, sycophantic banker Milburn Drysdale (Raymound Bailey), and his bird-watching, vanilla, sex-starved assistant Miss Hathaway (Nancy Kulp). These were the ones who always had to get the Clampetts out of whatever trouble they were in. (Half the time the Clampetts never realized they were in any trouble).

The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the most popular shows on the airwaves during its original nine year run. In the wake of its success, Henning also created the popular (and similar) shows Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. None was to last past the early 70s when the new fashion in television was set by the edgy, topical All in the Family. Since that show was just as influential on me (in other ways) I can hardly complain. Besides, there are always re-runs.

For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Forgotten Shows of My Nonage #86: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Posted in Comedy, Forgotten Shows of My Nonage, Sit Coms, Television, Women with tags , , on November 28, 2014 by travsd


Today is the birthday of television and film actress Hope Lange (1933-2003). Already I hear you saying, “Good God, man, have you gone insane? How does television and film actress Hope Lange rate a post on this excellent blog?!” Well, first she already has. She was in the Elvis movie Wild in the Country, which we blogged about here.  Plus, her father was Flo Ziegfeld’s musical director! But secondly. as the title indicates, she starred in the short-lived tv sit-com, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1968-1970).

The show was based on the eponymous 1947 film which had starred Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison and was in turn based on a 1945 novel by R.A. Dick. The show is interesting in being a sort gender reversal of the usual magic fantasy formula we associate with Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie and Nanny and the Professor. Much like Doris Day in her sit-com (which launched the same year) Lange played a widow and mother…only this one is haunted by a 19th century Maine sea captain (Edward Mulhare). As in the other magical shows, there is some romantic tension of a sort, with the family-friendly time-space barrier preventing any consummation…at least in this world. To properly update this series I’m afraid the producers of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir would have to go here. 

But they didn’t. And despite two Emmy awards for Lange (and the presence of Charles Nelson Reilly), the series didn’t click with audiences. NBC cancelled it after its first season. ABC picked it up and then cancelled it again after its second season. And then, much like the ghost of Captain Gregg, it lived on…in re-runs, which is how I first saw it a few years later.

Stars of Vaudeville #881: Jim and Marion Jordan (a.k.a Fibber McGee and Molly)

Posted in Comedy, Comedy Teams, Crackers, Radio (Old Time Radio), Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2014 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Jim Jordan (1896-1988). Together with his wife Marion Driscoll Jordan, he was creator and star of the groundbreaking radio sitcom Fibber McGee and Molly.

Originally from rural Illinois, Jordan married Driscoll in 1918 and performed in small time vaudeville both solo and with his wife from the late teens through the early 1920s. Their big break in radio came in 1924, when they auditioned on a dare, vowing that they were better than the stars. They began working in local radio, gradually evolving situation comedy characters (in collaboration with writer Donald Quinn) that would become Fibber McGee and Molly: he, the boastful, impractical dreamer, she the hilarious no-nonsense truth-teller.

Their national radio program debuted on NBC in 1935, and began to swell in popularity a couple of years later, remaining on the air until 1959, long after television had supplanted radio as the nation’s dominant entertainment medium. The show was so popular it launched some of the first “spinoffs”, including Hal Peary’s “Great Gildersleeve” and Beaulah, the black maid, originally voiced by Marlin Hurt (a white man!), and later played in various radio and tv incarnations by Hattie McDaniel, Lillian Randolph, Amanda Randolph, Ethel Waters and Louise Beavers. Other notable actors on the show included Gale Gordon (best known for his long association with Lucille Ball) and Bea Benaderet (Blanche on The George Burns and Grace Allen Show, Pearl in early seasons of The Beverly Hillbillies, and perhaps her character with the widest ongoing reach — the voice of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones.)

The Jordans also appeared as their characters in a handful of movies through the 1940s. The translation was less than perfect. Film is literal; radio relies on your imagination. Case in point, this adaptation of one of the show’s most well-known running gags, the overstuffed hall closet. There’s no way a visual version could ever measure up to the audience’s idea of what that closet must be like. It could only fall short:

Marion Jordan (who had suffered from health problems for many years) died two years after the show went off the air. Jim Jordan was retired, but emerged briefly to appear in a 1976 episode of Chico and the Man and do a voiceover in the 1977 Disney movie The Rescuers. 

Here’s a random episode of the team at their peak, doing what they did best:

To learn more about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.


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