Life of Riley debuted on radio on network radio on April 12, 1941 with Lionel Stander playing J. Riley Farnsworth.
However it was not nearly as popular as the later version which first appeared on January 16, 1944 on the Blue Network. This version starred William Bendix who had portrayed Babe Ruth in the Babe Ruth Story.
The show was moved to the NBC network on September 8, 1945 and would run on that network till June 29, 1951.
Chester A. Riley worked at an aircraft plant in the series and when something bad happened to him he was known for saying “What a revoltin’ development this is!”.
One of my favorite parts of the program is when the friendly undertaker Digby “Digger” Odell played by John Brown would talk to Riley. Digger would find a way to work in comments about digging graves and dying into every conversation
His character appeared in the first television version of the series starring Jackie Gleason as Riley but when Bendix returned his character was removed from the program. The show really needed Bendix in the starring role because Gleason never fit the role as far as I was concerned.
Riley played a bumbling oaf who always had the best intentions but would stumble his way through each show by always doing the wrong thing but by the end of the show all the problems were solved and everyone was happy including Riley.
His wife on the radio version was Paula Winslowe.
Conrad Binyon was one of the actors who portrayed Riley’s son Junior on the program at some point in the series.
The second television version of the program would be better known with Bendix back on the program. His wife Peg was played by Marjorie Reynolds in the television version.
I can remember watching the Life of Riley on Friday nights on KALB television the local NBC affiliate in Alexandria, Louisiana. The show was sponsored by Gulf Oil.
Tom D’Andrea played his neighbor Gillis and his wife was portrayed by Gloria Blondell as Honeybee. Lugene Sanders was Riley’s daughter Babs and Wesley Morgan was Junior the son of Riley.
Riley seemed to get in one bad situation after another in the shows and viewers could empathize with him since Bendix played Riley so well making him a very believable character.
The network run ended in 1958 and it has seldom been seen in recent years on any network.
This is a clip from the Life of Riley television series.