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Old Time Radio Life of Riley

  The Life of Riley - What a Revoltin' Development this is! Life of Riley TV Shows    
William Bendix on Radio

In the early years of television, nothing was original. Since the viewing audience was very small, (very few people could afford a televison set) it was very easy to adapt radio scripts for television. As with many early TV shows, The Life of Riley got it start on radio. Starring William Bendix, the program aired on the Blue Network, later known as ABC, from January 16, 1944 to June 8, 1945. Then it moved to NBC, where it was broadcast from September 8, 1945 to June 29, 1951. The supporting cast included John Brown, who portrayed not only undertaker Digger O'Dell but also Riley's co-worker Jim Gillis. The Life of Riley radio show was extremely popular and ran for nine years. The sponsors included Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, The American Meat Institute, and Proctor and Gamble.

NBC wanted to bring the sitcom to television in 1949 with the intention of having William Bendix remain in the starring role of Chester A. Riley. But Bendix's RKO Radio Pictures movie contract prevented him from appearing on the television version. In 1949 he was starring in the film version of The Life of Riley.

So The Life of Riley TV show went on the air in 1949 with Jackie Gleason in the starring role of Chester A. Riley. The show lasted only one season, from October 4, 1949 – March 28, 1950. Jackie Gleason was just not a "Riley."

More information on The Life of Riley radio Show

William Bendix Trivia:
In 1922, when he was 15, Bendix was a bat boy for the New York Yankees, and became a favorite of Babe Ruth, who entrusted Bendix with various personal errands. Years later, in 1948, Bendix played Ruth in The Babe Ruth Story (1948).

Digger's Quotes:
It is I indeed, Digby O'Dell, the
friendly undertaker.

You're looking fine, very natural.

Cheerio, I'd better be shoveling off.

The second TV series ran for 6 seasons, from January 2, 1953 – May 23, 1958. This time, William Bendix was avaialble. He was supported by Marjorie Reynolds as wife Peg, Tom D'Andrea as schemer buddy Gillis, Gloria Blondell as Gillis' wife, Honeybee, Lugene Sanders as daughter Babs, and Wesley Morgan as son Junior. This Life of Riley series with Bendix, was a ratings hit, ranking at #16 in its first season, with 4 of its 6 seasons in the top 30, and ran for a total of 217 episodes. Sponsors of the TV show included Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (1949-50), Gulf Oil (1953-58) and Lever Brothers (1957-58).

Story Line: Chester A. Riley was the hard-working husband and father of an average American family living in suburban Los Angeles. Although most of the program took place within the Riley household, his job as an airplane riveter at the Cunningham Aircraft plant also was part of weekly episodes. Each week, Riley first became frustrated, then overwhelmed by seemingly minor problems concerning his job, his family, or his neighbors. And each week Riley seemed on the verge of disaster and would be rescued from the brink just at the last moment... usually by his friend Digger O'Dell, "the friendly undertaker." Riley's catch phrase--"What a revoltin' development this is!"--expressed his frustration and became part of the national idiom. His patient wife, Peg (originally played by Rosemary DeCamp, then by Marjorie Reynolds), managed to keep the family in order despite her husband's catastrophic blunders.

Purchased The Life of Riley with Jackie Gleason on DVD.

Purchase The Life of Riley with William Bendix on DVD
Life of Riley Radio Shows on CD.



Life of Riley slate

Riley Cast

Whatever happend to the cast:
William Bendix (Chester Riley) died in Los Angeles in 1964, the result of a chronic stomach ailment which brought on malnutrition and pneumonia.
Rosemary DeCamp (Peg) died of pneumonia in 2001. She was 90 years of age.
Marjorie Reynolds (Peg) collapsed and died in Manhattan Beach, California, while walking her dog February 1, 1997, at age 79.
Tom D'Andrea (Gillis and Digger O'Dell) passed away in 1996 of cancer.
Gloria Blondell (Honeybee) died March 25, 1986.
Lugene Sanders (Babs) is still living. Currently in Oklahoma City, OK.
Wesley Morgan (Junior) still living.


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