The first Life of Riley radio show aired on CBS from April 12, 1941 - September 6, 1941. This show didn't have much of a resemblance to the more famous Life of Riley radio show with William Bendix.
J. Riley Farnsworth (Lionel Stander)
Maude, an old maid (Grace Coppin)
Davie, her nephew (Jackie Grimes)
Peggy, daughter of the richest man in town & Riley's love interest (Peggy Conklin)
Announcers, Jackson Wheeler, George Bryan
Directors, Leonard Bercovici, Marx Loeb
Writers, Bercovici, Sidney Harmon
(aired from January 16, 1944 - June 8, 1945 on the Blue Network/ABC)
(aired September 8, 1945 - June 29, 1951 on NBC)
William Bendix as Chester A. Riley, the airplane riveter with a heart of gold, got himself and his family into the funniest craziest misunderstandings. This show lead into the television version that started in 1949 and ended in 1958. Numerous actors played the radio characters over the years.
The Life of Riley came from The Flotsam Family that was connected with Groucho Marx. The sponsor didn't accept him in the role. So producer Irving Brecher got the idea of using William Bendix for the part when he saw him in The McGuerins of Brooklyn. He looked rugged and blue collar. Bendix got the part after he auditioned. The character was renamed Chester A. Riley and Life of Riley became a hit show.
Sometimes, when Riley got in trouble, he received advice from coworker Gillis and Digby "Digger" O'Dell, the friendly undertaker. Digger's frequent lines were "You're looking fine, Riley-very natural" and "Cheerio-I'd better be shoveling off". Both of these characters were played by John Brown.
Bendix started in the acting profession at age 30 when the grocery store he was running went out of business because of the 1930s Depression. His film career began in 1942.
Bendix was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1906. His films include Wake Island (1942), The Glass Key (1942) with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, Lifeboat (1943), The Blue Dahlia (1945), Time Of Your Life (1948), Detective Story (1951) and Law Of The Lawless (1963).
When the show was moved to television in 1949, Bendix was unavailable contractually so Jackie Gleason got the job. Rosemary DeCamp played Peg, Lanny Rees was Junior and Gloria Winters appeared as Babs. John Brown with his Digger character was the only Life of Riley radio cast member to transition to TV's Life of Riley with Jackie Gleason. This run of the show ended soon in 1950. The Life of Riley radio version with Bendix was still airing until 1951. Bendix returned in the more successful TV version of Life Of Riley, 1953-1958.
Creator-Producer, Irving Brecher
Chester A. Riley (William Bendix)
Jim Gillis, Riley's neighbor & Digby "Digger" O'Dell, the friendly undertaker (John Brown)
Peg, Riley's wife (Grace Coppin, Paula Winslow, Georgia Backus)
Uncle Baxter (Hans Conried)
Junior, Riley's son (Jack Grimes, Scotty Beckett, Conrad Binyon, Bobby Ellis, Tommy Cook)
Babs, Riley's daughter (Peggy Conklin, Sharon Douglas, Barbara Eiler)
Olive "Honeybee" Gillis, Jim's wife (Shirley Mitchell)
Waldo Binney, Riley's neighbor (Francis "Dink" Trout)
Uncle Buckley (Charlie Cantor)
Directors, Al Kaye, Don Bernard
Writers, Alan Lipscott, Reuben Ship, Ashmead Scott, Robert Sloane, Dick Powell
Sound Effects, Monty Fraser
Announcers, Jimmy Wallington for Pabst, Ken Carpenter for P&G, Ken Niles
Music, The Lou Kosloff Orchestra
Sponsors, American Meat Institute, Proctor & Gamble for Teel, Prell, Pabst Beer
The Internet Archive: The Life Of Riley 1944-1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950-1951
Life of Riley [Audio CD] Irving Brecher (Creator)
Life of Riley radio shows radiospirits.com
Life of Riley radio shows Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio
Radio of Yesteryear, Original Old Radio Presents Life Of Riley
Return to the beginning Life Of Riley page
Life of Riley Radio Show last updated 3/16/12