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Jim Jordan, Radio’s Fibber McGee, Dies

April 2, 1988

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Jim Jordan, whose likeable but bumbling Fibber McGee character delighted millions who tuned into radio’s classic comedy ″Fibber McGee and Molly″ for 22 years, is dead at age 91.

Jordan died Friday at Beverly Medical Center about a week after suffering a blood clot in the brain following a fall at his home, said family friend and broadcast personality Fran Allison.

″His show was one of the greatest continuing radio shows that ever existed,″ said Miss Allison, who starred in early television’s ″Kukla, Fran and Ollie″ show.

″Fibber McGee and Molly″ was on the NBC radio network from 1935 to 1957. It spawned such maxims as: ″Tain’t funny, McGee,″ ″Heavenly days,″ ″You’re a hard man, McGee″ and ″Dad-rat the dad-ratted ...″

Familiar routines included McGee’s overstuffed closet, which always unloaded mercilessly on Jordan’s character whenever it was opened.

Even the McGee’s address, 79 Wistful Vista, became a place on America’s cultural roadmap.

Each Tuesday night, Jordan welcomed to his home such unforgettable characters as Wallace Wimple, The Old Timer, Beulah the Maid and Myrt, McGee’s omnipresent telephone operator.

″Even though he had become very frail, his mind and his humor were as fresh as ever. We all adored him,″ said Lenore Kingston, a vice president of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters. Jordan had served as chairman of the radio veterans’ group.

Like the couple in the ″Fibber McGee and Molly″ scripts, the show’s stars were married. Jim and Marian Jordan came to radio out of vaudeville to formulate with writer Don Quinn the quintessential situation comedy.

″We don’t like - I mean, people don’t like - humor that suggests anything repulsive,″ Jordan said in an interview during the show’s height. Anatomy gags, jibes about marriage and mothers-in-law were kept out.

″It is typically American humor, neither the Broadway type nor Hollywood influenced,″ Hubbard Keavy of The Associated Press wrote in 1940. ″They get their humor from simple things like fixing the brakes or playing checkers. They never just tell jokes. They never step out of character.″

The situations in the show turned on such simple items as Fibber deciding, against Molly’s advice, to tune the piano. His bumbling effort was invariably interrupted by the ″bong-bong″ of the door chimes.

The McGees’ neighbors were a classic set of American humor characters.

Hal Peary played the rumbling, pompous Throckmorton Gildersleeve; Cliff Arquette was the cantankerous Old-Timer; Bill Thompson was henpecked Wallace Wimple and Gale Gordon, later a regular on ″The Lucy Show,″ was Mayor La Trivia.

After the show ended in 1957, a television version was attempted in NBC’s 1959-1960 season. Of the original cast, only Peary remained and he played Mayor La Trivia, not Gildersleeve.

Jordan, a native of Peoria, Ill., met Marian Driscoll at choir practice when both were in their teens. They married in 1918.

The couple began appearing on radio in 1925, but still worked vaudeville because the new medium paid so little. In 10 years of trial-and-error work, they created Fibber McGee and Molly.

Mrs. Jordan died of cancer in 1961. Jordan married Gretchen Stewart the following year. She survives him.

Other survivors include a son, Jim Jr., and daughter, Kathryn, from his marriage to Marian, as well as several grandchildren.

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