Life Of Riley
In memory of the cast of The Life of Riley
Life Of Riley videos and audios
Where did the phrase, living the life of Riley, come from?
The Riley family dog is named Rex according to this
This article from the New York Times says "What a revoltin? development" is something Jimmy Durante used to say.

This is a correction to that New York Times article about the Life of Riley catchphrase. It's down away on the page.
"Is That Mr. Reilly?" by Pat Rooney was popular in the 1880s. The song described someone who had struck it rich. One of the lines stated "A hundred a day would be small pay". Some of the other lines are:

Is that Mister Reilly, can anyone tell?
Is that Mister Reilly that owns the hotel?
Well, if that's Mister Reilly they speak of so highly,
Upon my soul Reilly, you're doing quite well.

It is believed this is where the term living the life of Riley came from, even with the difference in the spelling.
At least some episodes of The Life of Riley were broadcast in color. On page 120 of the book, Window to the Future The Golden Age of Television Marketing and Advertising, by Steve Kosareff, there is an ad that says NBC color brightens up The Life of Riley. There is a color picture of William Bendix in that ad.
There was a pilot show for the "Life of Riley" that starred Lon Chaney, Jr., but it never aired.
LIFE OF RILEY (pilot show aired 4-13-48 on NBC-TV)

Herb Vigran was Chester A. Riley (This MTV webpage has information on Vigran.)
Alice Drake was Peg (Riley's wife)
Lou Krugman was Gillis (Riley's neighbor and co-worker)
Jo Gilbert was Honeybee (Gillis' wife)
Life Of Riley (movie released 4-16-49)

An Irving Brecher Production, based on the radio program The Life Of Riley, written and directed by Irving Brecher

Chester A. Riley is an American everyman type of guy who works at Stevenson Aircraft as a riveter. He's married to his lovely wife Peg, and they have two wonderful kids, Junior and Babs. His good friend and coworker is Gillis. Digger O'Dell is the friendly undertaker.

Riley appears to come up short when compared to his friend, Sidney Monahan. With Junior's help, Riley barely scrapes together enough money to pay the bill when he takes the Monahans out to dinner.

Burt is Carl Stevenson's son and both are from Stevenson Aircraft. Burt has a big debt to pay off. He's broke but his trust fund has the money. But to get money out of the trust fund, he needs to be married.

Burt gives Riley a promotion and a raise. Burt tells Babs, the only way he got Carl, his dad, to agree to this, was to tell him he was marrying her. Babs knows if Riley doesn't get this promotion he'll never get over it. She tells everyone she's marrying Burt. But, the problem is she loves Jeff.

John Brown played DIGBY "DIGGER" O'DELL (the friendly undertaker) in the Jackie Gleason TV episodes of the Life of Riley and in the Life of Riley movie.

Digger's Quotes from the Life of Riley movie

(The electricity has gone off in the Riley house.)
Riley: No, I'm gonna sue 'em (the electric company), if they get away with this, it'll be over my dead body.
Digger: I knew this was the right house.
Riley: Who's that, who's there?
Digger: It is I, Digby O'Dell, the friendly undertaker.
Riley: Oh, hello, Digger.
Digger: I was passing by, and I saw the candle burning, so naturally I rushed right in.
Riley: Yeah, we were talking and suddenly everything went black.
Digger: It can happen to anyone, believe me, short circuits no doubt.
Riley: Sidney, you remember Digger O'Dell from Brooklyn?
Sidney: Yeah, hi O'Dell.
Digger: Greetings Sidney, you're looking fine, very natural.
Sidney: Yeah, I'm feeling great. The wife and I, Lucy dear, we're thinking of settling here, kind of looking over the grounds.
Digger: I'd be glad to help if you care to go into it deeper. I dabble in real estate, you see.
Sidney: Oh.
Junior: Hey pop.
Riley: Yeah Junior.
Junior: He's gone I can't find him.
Riley: Now what am I going to do? Digger, can I see you a minute?
Digger: Excuse me, all.
Riley: Digger, what am I going to do? I got to give them dinner.
Digger: Can I help? Is the table laid out?
Riley: We've got no lights. I couldn't pay the bill. I've got to save my face.
Digger: Why?
Riley: For Peg's sake, she's humiliated. I can't let Monahan know she married a washout.
Digger: Eureka, I have it. Take them to a fine restaurant. Splurge on a luxurious dinner.
Riley: Yeah, that's what I'll do I'll splurge on a...all I've got is five dollars.
Junior: I've got over eight dollars in here.
Riley: Yeah, thanks Junior, look, take these coins, get them changed into dollars and meet us at Luigi's Grotto. Go ahead.
Junior: OK, pop.
Riley: Oh, ain't that a fine boy I got, Digger? He just saved my life.
Digger: In that case, you won't need me.

Digger: You may not like flowers at first, but eventually they'll grow on you.

Chester A. Riley (William Bendix), Gillis (James Gleason), Peg Riley (Rosemary DeCamp), Sidney Monahan (Bill Goodwin), Miss Bogle (Beulah Bondi), Babs Riley (Meg Randall), Jeff Taylor (Richard Long), Junior Riley (Lanny Rees), Burt Stevenson (Mark Daniels), Norman (Ted deCorsia), Digger O'Dell, "The friendly undertaker" (John Brown), Lucy Monahan (Victoria Horne), Carl Stevenson (William E. Green)
Life Of Riley Jackie Gleason episodes aired 10/4/49 - 3/28/50 on NBC-TV. An Irving Brecher Production (the show was copyrighted under his name. The best film made for and viewed on television was "The Life of Riley" at the 1949 Emmy Awards, which was presented 1-27-50. The Life Of Riley was the first sitcom to be shot on film and the first sitcom to win an Emmy (1950). This page credits Lou Kosloff as composer for a theme on the Life of Riley radio show with William Bendix and for TV's first Life of Riley series with Jackie Gleason.
Jackie Gleason as Chester A. Riley
Chester A. Riley (Jackie Gleason, pictured, born February 26, 1916, Brooklyn, New York)
Peg, Riley's wife (Rosemary DeCamp, born November 14, 1910, Prescott, Arizona)
Babs, Riley's daughter (Gloria Winters, born November 28, 1932, Los Angeles, California).
Junior, Riley's son (Lanny Rees, born December 14, 1933, Veradale, Washington)
Jim Gillis, Riley's neighbor and co-worker (Sid Tomack, born September 8, 1907, Brooklyn, New York)
Egbert Gillis, Gillis' son (George McDonald)
Carl Stevenson, Riley's boss, Stevenson Aircraft and Associates (played by Bill Green and Emory Parnell)

Digby "Digger" O'Dell, the friendly undertaker (John Brown, born April 4, 1904, Hull, Yorkshire, England). According to the book, "Buyer's Guide To Fifty Years Of TV On Video" by Sam Frank, John Brown was left out of the William Bendix TV version of the Life of Riley because he was blacklisted in June 1951 while he played the Digger character on the Life of Riley radio show. John Brown played Harry Morton on the "George Burns And Gracie Allen Show" (January-June 1951). Brown was fired from that position when he was blacklisted, according to the same book.

Digger's Quotes
It is I indeed, Digby O'Dell, the friendly undertaker.
A new calendar, have a happy year.
You're looking fine, very natural.
I've covered a lot of ground today.
Riley: Take a few minutes out, stretch out some place. Digger: Oh, I don't dare, you see I have a nearsighted assistant.
Cheerio, I'd better be shoveling off.

Life of Riley, Jackie Gleason episodes

Tonsils 10/4/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive. At the Stevenson Aircraft Clinic, Riley complains of choking to Dr. H. Harvey. Riley was told there's no bone stuck in his throat, he just has a slight scratch. But, Riley found out his tonsils need to come out immediately or something serious might develop.
Writers - Irving Brecher, Reuben Ship, Alan Lipscott
Chester A. Riley (Jackie Gleason)
Peg Riley (Rosemary DeCamp)
"Digger" O'Dell (John Brown)
Gillis (Sid Tomack)
Junior (Lanny Rees)
Babs (Gloria Winters)
Marlo Dwyer
Harry Harvey
Marie Blake
Dian Fauntelle
Art Director - John F. De Cuir
Photography - J. Feindel, A.S.C.
Film Editor - W. Donn Hayes
Sound - F.H. Fodor
Produced at Filmtone

Babs and Simon Step Out 10/11/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive. Riley doesn't like Simon, a boy his daughter Babs is interested in. Simon's face reminds Riley of a boss he had at candy factory back in Brooklyn, a boss that fired him. Gillis gives Riley some advice on how to deal with Simon.
Writers, Irving Brecher, Reuben Ship, Alan Lipscott, Ashmead Scott
Chester A. Riley (Jackie Gleason)
Mom (Rosemary De Camp)
Babs (Gloria Winters)
Simon (Jimmy Lydon)
Gillis (Sid Tomack)
Justice (Frank Jacquet)
Digger (John Brown)
Announcer (James Wallington)

Photography, Alfred Keller, A.S.C.
Sound, F.H. Fodor
Supervising Film Editor, W. Donn Hayes
Art Direction, John De Cuir
Commercial Art Direction, Frank Tipper
Animation, Glenar
Produced at Filmtone

Egbert's Chemistry Set 10/18/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive. Gillis tells Riley, Junior is the weak link in your family and Junior is a nothing. Gillis says you need to nourish a person's talent and that a delicate flower won't grow unless it's fertilized. Egbert is a flower and his father, Gillis, is his fertilizer.
Writers, Irving Brecher, Reuben Ship, Alan Lipscott
Riley (Jackie Gleason)
Mom (Rosemary De Camp)
Junior (Lanny Rees)
Gillis (Sid Tomack)
Digger (John Brown)
Teacher (Mack Williams)
Egbert Gillis (George McDonald)
Doctor (Lewis Russell)
Photography, Alfred Keller, A.S.C.
Sound, F.H. Fodor
Supervising Film Editor, W. Donn Hayes
Art Direction, John De Cuir
Commercial Art Direction, Frank Tipper
Animation, Glenar
Assistant Director, Jack R. Berne
Produced at Filmtone

The French Professor 10/25/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive. Riley discovers a letter written in French that's addressed to Babs. He gets a translation from his wife, Peg. The letter thanks Babs for the lovely flowers and it's from her French teacher, Prof. Lafayette. Riley decides to check up on this situation, asking his son, Junior.
Writers, Irving Brecher, Reuben Ship, Alan Lipscott
Riley (Jackie Gleason)
Mom (Rosemary De Camp)
"Digger" O'Dell (John Brown)
Babs (Gloria Winters)
Junior (Lanny Rees)
Prof. Lafayette (Marten Lamont)
George (Harry Lauter)
Fresh Boy (Teddy Infuhr)
Photography, Jack MacKenzie, A.S.C.
Sound, F.H. Fodor
Supervising Film Editor, W. Donn Hayes
Art Direction, John De Cuir
Commercial Art Direction, Frank Tipper
Animation, Glenar
Assistant Director, Jack R. Berne
Produced at Filmtone

Nervous Breakdown 11/1/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive.

Assistant Manager 11/8/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Riley's Birthday Gift 11/15/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Riley, Gillis, and Vanderhopper Inc 11/22/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Junior Falls for Teacher 11/29/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Night School 12/6/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Prom Dress 12/13/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Juniors Birthday Party 12/20/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive

The Boarder 12/27/49 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Pegs Birthday 1/3/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Junior Drops Out 1/10/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Riley's Firstborn 1/17/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Insurance 1/24/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

The Gambler 1/31/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Acting Lessons 2/7/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Valentines Day 2/14/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Home Sweet Home 2/21/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

South American Job 2/28/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Riley's Quarrel 3/7/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Junior and The Bully 3/14/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

The Banned Book 3/21/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Five Dollar Bill 3/28/50 - viewable online from Internet Archive

Babs' New Dress. Babs' class at her high school is having a dance, but nobody asked her to go. Riley manages to get her a date with Jeff. Helene has seen Jeff and knows Babs doesn't have a formal dress. Helene changes the dance to formal and this is a disaster for Babs.
Writers, Irving Brecher, Reuben Ship, Alan Lipscott
Riley (Jackie Gleason)
Mom (Rosemary De Camp)
Babs (Gloria Winters)
Waldo (Bob Jellison)
Helene (Pattee Chapman)
Jeff (Steve Clark)
Photography, Alfred Keller
Sound, F.H. Fodor - Elden Ruberg
Supervising Film Editor, W. Donn Hayes
Art Direction, Frank Tipper
Animation, Glenar
Assistant Director, Jack R. Berne
Make Up Artist, Philip Scheer
Produced at Filmtone
Directed by Herbert I. Leeds

This page is an episode guide for the Life of Riley TV episodes with Jackie Gleason (1949-50) from
Life Of Riley house
Life Of Riley. William Bendix episodes Jan. 2, 1953 - Aug. 22, 1958 NBC-TV. Riley's 1st address, 1313 Blueview Terrace (house pictured above).
Riley's 2nd address, 5412 Grove Street.
El Segundo California
Riley lives in the town of El Segundo, California.
Riley, Peg and Junior
October 1952-April 1953. Life of Riley didn't start airing until January 1953. #16 program with a 37.4 rating.
October 1953-April 1954. The #13 program with a 35.0 rating.
October 1954-April 1955. The #21 program with a 30.9 rating.
October 1955-April 1956. #21 program with a 29.9 rating.
Peg and Chester A. Riley
Episodes were filmed at Hal Roach Studios and at California Studios. Producer: Tom McKnight. Directors: Abby Berlin, Jean Yarbrough. Writers: Harry Clork, Dick Conway and Roland MacLane, Richard Baer. Music: Jerry Fielding. Life of Riley TV episode list.
William Bendix as Chester A. Riley
William Bendix (born January 14, 1906, New York, New York) as CHESTER A. RILEY ("...what a revoltin' development this is...") Bendix ran a grocery store until the business failed. He was a batboy for the New York Giants and New York Yankees when he was a child. He saw Babe Ruth hit over 100 homeruns. He later played Babe Ruth in the 1948 movie, The Babe Ruth Story. Also, he was nominated in 1942 for best supporting actor in the movie Wake Island. Out of the 50 greatest TV dads of all time, William Bendix as Chester A. Riley was selected as number 30, according to the June 20-26, 2004 issue of TV Guide. More information on William Bendix and Chester Riley
The Riley family, Chester, Peg, Babs and Junior
The Riley family, Chester, Peg, Babs and Junior. Marjorie Reynolds (born August 12, 1916, Buhl, Idaho) as PEG RILEY (Riley's wife). Lugene Sanders (born 1934, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) as BABS RILEY (Riley's daughter, her address after she got married, 1451 Blueview Terrace #3). More information on Lugene Sanders and Babs. Wesley Morgan as JUNIOR RILEY (Riley's son).
Martin Milner as Don Marshall
Martin Milner (later played in Adam 12) as DON MARSHALL (he married Riley's daughter, Babs). One episode had Don and Babs building a house on El Camino Avenue.
Don and Babs have a baby boy
Don and Babs gave birth to this cute baby boy. Riley and Peg became the proudest grandparents.
What A Revoltin' Development This Is !!!
When Riley holds the baby, he thinks he hears the little guy say that famous phrase, well maybe.
Riley and friend Jim Gillis
Tom D'Andrea (born May 15, 1909, on the right) as JAMES B. "JIM" GILLIS (Riley's neighbor and co-worker). Here is an article posted by Tom's son, Tom D'Andrea, Jr. about his father's show business career. More information on Tom D'Andrea and Gillis
Gloria Blondell as a nurse
Gloria Blondell (born August 16, 1910, New York, New York) as OLIVE "HONEYBEE" GILLIS (Before Gloria was Jim's wife, Honeybee, she played a nurse in this episode, "Riley's Operation".) The other actresses that briefly played Honeybee were Marie Brown and Veda Ann Borg.

In the fall of 1955, Jim and Honeybee (Tom D'Andrea and Gloria Blondell) left the "Life of Riley". Tom was moving on to a new series with Hal March called "The Soldiers". The Rileys had new neighbors during 1955-56, Calvin and Belle Dudley, (George O'Hanlon and Florence Sundstrom).

Some of George O'Hanlon's credits: voice of George Jetson in "The Jetsons"; TV commentator in the movie "Rocky"; he played the character of Joe McDoakes in a 1949 short film called "So You Think You're Not Guilty". This film is available together with the James Cagney movie "White Heat" on DVD at He made several of these films that started with the word "So" as listed on this webpage.

Jim and Honeybee returned to the "Life of Riley" in 1956.
Gregory Marshall as Egbert Gillis
Gregory Marshall as EGBERT GILLIS (son of Jim & Honeybee)
Gloria Blondell as Honeybee Gillis and her mother Melba Shaw played by Bea Benaderet
Bea Benaderet played MELBA SHAW (Honeybee's mother). Bea Benaderet: (1) starred on Petticoat Junction (2) was the first choice to play Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy but was already obligated to The Burns and Allen Show (3)had played Lucy's sidekick on My Favorite Husband a CBS radio show (4)was the voice of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones.
Arthur Shields as Alvin  Winkley, Riley's landlord
Arthur Shields played ALVIN WINKLEY, Riley's landlord. To get Honeybee's mother out of their hair, Riley & Gillis set Melba up with Winkley.
Sterling Holloway as Waldo Binney
Sterling Holloway (born Jan. 4, 1905, Cedartown, Georgia) (the voice of Winnie the Pooh) played Waldo Binney, one of Riley's neighbors.
Fire excites the Riley family
Chester A. Riley was sort of an American everyman who worked at Cunningham aircraft plant with his buddies in California. He got into some really funny situations usually based on some crazy isunderstandings. His attractive loving wife, Peg, was the voice of reason in the family, and kept Riley from totally getting out of control. His son, Junior, sometimes counteracted what his father said to add to the comedy. Babs, his daughter, tolerated but always loved her bumbling father, who always had the best intentions.

Jim Gillis, was Riley's best friend, his neighbor, and co-worker at the aircraft plant. His wife was Honeybee, who at times could be outspoken.

William Bendix created Riley for radio in 1943. His movie obligations kept him from assuming the role of Riley when it came time to move the show to television. The job went to Jackie Gleason (his first TV series).
Trouble at the Riley house
The Jackie Gleason version of the Life Of Riley that began in 1949, lasted only 1 season. Then, Bendix came back again as Riley in 1953, in the much more successful version, and it lasted 5 years.
There was a Life of Riley with William Bendix comic book published by Dell Publishing. Bendix is pictured on the front cover. The copyright date is 1958 by California National Productions. The stories are "Junior Gets A Car", "Chimp Off The Old Block", "Picnic Panic", "The Eyes Have It" and "The Right Slant".

William Bendix In Riley, Savings Bonds Salesman
Kill The Umpire (movie released 4/27/50) - This baseball movie with William Bendix and Tom D'Andrea, is available at
If you have an answer to this question I received, please send it to my email address near the bottom of the page.

I am interested in finding the words to a song or poem about Digger O'Dell, the friendly undertaker in the first version of the Life of Riley (1949-1950). (Posted Oct. 25, 2002)
Does anyone know what the A. stands for in Chester A. Riley? (Posted Feb. 1, 2003)
Chester Arthur Riley, after our former president.
(This email answer came from Bradford Henschel, JD, and was posted to this page Nov. 6, 2004.)
If you have an answer to this question I received, please send it to my email address near the bottom of the page. (posted July 11, 2006).

Would you be able to tell me, who, what, when, where, and why the phrase "what a revoltin' development this is" was FIRST used. Was it Jackie Gleason or William Bendix?

Thanks to Carl Ruby for this answer (posted July 11, 2006). I was researching the airdate of an old Riley episode I have on tape and I saw your question. Well, I am not sure if this is the very FIRST utterance of the famed line, but Jackie Gleason DID say it at the end of Episode 24 (Season 1, aired 3/14/50). Junior had mentioned that he knew that all the names he was called were all lies, but hit the bully because he insulted Riley. Riley tells his wife, "Sure, Peg, dont ya understand? Junior didn't mind when he called him a...a petunia, and a mama's boy and a yellow belly. Junior didn't get mad because he knew Buster was tellin' a lie! But when he said that ME, his own father, was a jerk, well then he knew that Buster was tell......[looks at camera] ....What a revoltin' development THIS is!" This episode is called "Junior And The Bully".

Thanks to Russell Sketchley for this answer (posted April 5, 2007). The earliest one I've found is on October 20, 1945 in episode # 83, "Peg's Old Boyfriend Sydney". William Bendix plays Riley in that episode. There may have been an earlier one, but I haven't been able to find it so far.
Tim's TV Showcase
Morty's TV
Life of Riley site from the Museum of Broadcast Communications
Life Of Riley last updated 11/6/12