Collection ACC-MSS 006 - Phil Leslie Script Collection

Identity elements

Reference code

US MBE ACC-MSS 006

Name and location of repository

Level of description

Collection

Title

Phil Leslie Script Collection

Date(s)

  • 1937 - 1999 (Creation)
  • Bulk (1937-1970) (Creation)

Extent

22 linear feet

Name of creator

(1909-1988)

Biographical history

Phil Leslie was a great comedic writer who started in radio and later moved to television. Born in 1909, he first worked in St. Louis, Missouri as bookkeeper for a bank. During this time he married his wife Helen, and they had four children Anne, Jane, Sue, and Phil Jr. In 1939 he left the bank business to pursue his dream as a writer. In 1943 he was hired as an assistant writer, working with Don Quinn, for the radio show Fibber McGee & Molly. Following Quinn’s retirement Leslie took over as head writer of the show. He was the head writer until the show’s end in 1959.

The famous Fibber McGee and Molly Radio Show from WMAQ/Chicago, one of the longest running radio shows, aired from 1935-1959, with the last three years aired by the NBC Monitor. Jim Jordan (1896-1988) was the voice of Fibber McGee and Marian (Driscoll) Jordan (1898-1961) was the voice of Molly.

Jordan and Driscoll were both from Peoria, Illinois and married in 1924. They joined with writer Donald Quinn in 1931 for their first radio show Smackout. Originally only broadcast locally on WMAQ the show went national in 1933 and ran until 1935.

After Smackout ended Quinn developed the characters of Fibber McGee and Molly with the Jordans. The show premiered in 1935 and after a few years it was a hit. It was sponsored by S.C. Johnson Wax company from 1935-1950. Commercials were integrated into the show by the character Harlow Wilcox, who Fibber usually met with a groan because he was always praising S.C. Johnson’s Wax. The show was sponsored by Pet Milk from 1950-1952, and then by Reynolds Aluminum until 1953. After 1953 the show went from doing half hour episodes to fifteen minute episodes due to the declining health of Marian Jordan and the declining popularity of radio. By the time the show ended in 1959 they were five minute episodes.

Leslie also wrote for The Beulah Show a spinoff of the Fibber McGee & Molly. Another spinoff of the show was The Great Gildersleeves which was a radio success in its own right.

As radio was on its way out and television was on its way in Leslie moved on to write for the new medium. He wrote several scripts for potential small screen adaptation of
Fibber McGee & Molly and was approached by NBC in 1959 to write for their television version. According to Tom Price’s Fibber McGee’s Closet, Leslie declined the network’s offer when it became apparent that the producers were not respectful of the material.

The first television script he sold was an episode of Bachelor Father in 1957. He wrote the very first episode of The Donna Reed Show in 1958. Leslie started writing for Dennis the Menace in 1960 and stayed with the show until it ended in 1963. Aside from Dennis the Menace, he spent the bulk of his career moving from one television show to the next, writing an episode or two and then going on to the next job. He often worked with a writing partner named Keith Fowler.

Leslie wrote for such shows as The Eve Arden Show, Get Smart, Family Affair, Green Acres, The Farmer’s Daughter, Grindl, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Leave it to Beaver. He occasionally wrote five or six episodes of a single show, such as The Addams Family, Hazel and Here’s Lucy. From 1969 to 1970 he wrote several episodes of Julia, the first sitcom to star an African-American woman in a non-stereotypical role. His last produced work for television is believed to be a pair of scripts for The Brady Bunch in 1971.

Leslie died in at the age of 79 in 1988 from cancer. In 1998, a new version of The Addams Family went into production. Several scripts written by Phil Leslie and Keith Fowler were adapted for the new show.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The bulk of this collection contains bound and unbound scripts of the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly. The bound scripts are from 1937 to 1953 and the unbound scripts date from 1941-1954. Included with many of the unbound scripts are the story pitches, outlines, draft scripts, notes from readings and the final drafts. There are also several scripts from a television spinoff that was attempted. Over the many years Fibber McGee and Molly was on they did special appearances outside of their scheduled time for various organizations. During their regular shows they did many spots during World War II about supporting the troops and supporting the American Red Cross. They would advertise special drives that were going on or explain ways in which people could conserve. Included in the collections are letters from the various organizations asking them to mention a specific thing like a clothes drive or the advantages of buying war bonds. They also sometimes did special episodes for a specific organization, like the American Cancer Society.

The second series contains the unbound scripts from the Dennis the Menace television series; these date from 1960 to 1963. Included here are outlines and drafts of the scripts.

Phil Leslie wrote for many shows over the years and some of the scripts that he wrote are included here. The earlier ones were for radio shows and the later for television shows. Some of his television scripts were never produced or never resulted in a regular television show.

System of arrangement

The collection is organized into five series:

Series 1: Fibber McGee and Molly Radio Show Scripts
Subseries A: Special Scripts and Related Material

Series 2: Dennis the Menace Television Show Scripts

Series 3: Radio Scripts
Subseries A: Al Pearce Show
Subseries B: The Texaco Star Theatre
Subseries C: The Great Gildersleeve
Subseries D: Kraft Music Hall
Subseries E: Major Hoople
Subseries F: Charlie Ruggles
Subseries G: The New Jack Carson Show
Subseries H: Johnny Mercer’s Music Spot
Subseries I: The Charlotte Greenwood Program
Subseries J: Glamour Manor
Subseries K: Cliff Arquette and Company Show
Subseries L: The Marlin Hurt and Beulah Show
Subseries M: Johnson’s Wax Program with the King’s Men

Series 4: Television Scripts
Subseries A: Leave it to Beaver
Subseries B: Bachelor Father
Subseries C: The Eve Arden Show
Subseries D: The Donna Reed Show
Subseries E: Love and Marriage
Subseries F: The Betty Hutton Show
Subseries G: Angel
Subseries H: My Three Sons
Subseries I: Hazel
Subseries J: Grindl
Subseries K: The Farmer’s Daughter
Subseries L: Beverly Hillbillies
Subseries M: Petticoat Junction
Subseries N: The Addams Family
Subseries O: Green Acres
Subseries P: The Double Life of Henry Phyfe
Subseries Q: The Lucy Show
Subseries R: Family Affair
Subseries S: Get Smart
Subseries T: Here’s Lucy
Subseries U: Gentle Ben
Subseries V: The Debbie Reynolds Show
Subseries W: Julia
Subseries X: The Brady Bunch
Subseries Y: The New Addams Family

Series 5: Unproduced and Unsold Scripts
Subseries A: The Clipper Penguin Radio Show
Subseries B: Marvin
Subseries C: Various Series Ideas
Subseries D: Side by Side
Subseries E: Father of the Bride
Subseries F: The Danny Thomas Show
Subseries G: Bat Masterson
Subseries H: Gidget
Subseries I: Skipper
Subseries J: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Subseries K: The Bob Cummings Show
Subseries L: Bill and Martha
Subseries M: Doc
Subseries N: Androcle and the Professor
Subseries O: Vernon’s Volunteers
Subseries P: Heaven Help Me
Subseries Q: Casey (Casey at the Bat)
Subseries R: Albie
Subseries S: All in the Family
Subseries T: Military Heel (Short Story)

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

This collection is open to researchers.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Some materials may be subject to copyright. No part of the materials protected by copyright may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the copyright holder. Researchers are required to seek permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and/or publish materials under copyright.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Accruals

Additional materials were received in 2009.

Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Related descriptions

Notes element

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Sources used

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places