Listen to a Life of Riley Radio Show episode by clicking on a link below:
First Episode: January 16, 1944 (Plus a previous audition episode on July 25, 1943)
Last Episode: June 29, 1951
Number of Episodes: Approximately 320
Network: ABC Radio Network (1/16/44 to 7/8/45), NBC Radio Network (9/8/45 to 6/29/51)
Cast Members: William Bendix (Chester A. Riley), Grace Coppin (Peg Riley #1), Paula Winslow (Peg Riley #2), Jack Grimes (Junior #1), Scotty Beckett (Junior #2), Conrad Binyon (Junior #3), Tommy Cook (Junior #4), Sharon Douglas (Babs #1), Barbara Eiler (Babs #2), John Brown (Gillis and Digby “Digger” O’Dell), Shirley Mitchell (Honeybee Gillis), Francis “Dink” Trout (Waldo Binny)
Producer/Creator: Irving Brecher
Director: Don Bernard, Al Kaye
Announcer: Ken Niles
Sound Effects: Monty Fraser
Music: Lou Kosloff Orchestra
Writers: Alan Lipscott, Dick Powell, Ashmead Scott, Reuben Ship, Robert Sloane
Sponsor: American Meat Institute, Teel Dentifrice, Dreft, Prell Shampoo, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer,
Typical Episode Length: 30 Minutes
Chester A. Riley was a simple man, but his life certainly was not! He got into one jam after another and then would utter his famous line, “What a revoltin’ development this is!” The Life of Riley radio show was so popular that it inspired a feature film in 1949, a 1949/50 TV series (starring Jackie Gleason as Chester Riley) that failed due to poor ratings (although it did win the very first Emmy!), and another Life of Riley TV Show (with William Bendix back in the starring role) that ran for a whopping six seasons and 217 episodes during the 1950s!
Prior to this series, there was a Life of Riley radio program that ran during the summer of 1941 starring Lionel Stander as J. Riley Farnsworth. While the name was the same, there was no other real connection.
The phrase, “Living the Life of Riley” became popular in the U.S. shortly after the end of World War I. It means that one is “Living the good life” and can also mean living off someone else’s money. No one knows for sure but it is believed to have come from Irish immigrants. While that hardly applies to Chester A. Riley’s life on this radio show, the term had become so popular by the 1940s that it was often used in day-to-day speech so it also made a catchy, albeit sarcastic title for this radio show!
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