Dr. Mickey Smith, Barnard Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Mississippi, is the author of a new book, How Fibber McGee and Molly Won World War II. This entertaining essay combines serious subjects and comedy in chronicling a very special period in the broadcast life of one of radio’s most popular and best-loved series. In the book Smith describes how the special combination of the stars themselves, a writing genius, and the “perfect” sponsor, produced a one-of-a-kind program, melding laughs and patriotism during one of America’s darkest hours. Jim and Marian Jordan somehow hooked up with the writing genius of Don Quinn, and the unparalleled support of the Johnson (Wax) Company to produce an entertaining, funny series of programs with an uwavering message–America was in the right, the men (and women) in the military deserved unflagging support, and the folks at home had a vital role to play, assuring the ultimate victory.
The story is told via excerpts from scores of broadcasts, enhanced by the author’s observations. An account of the difficult, but ultimately successful, efforts of the government and of the broadcast industry to adapt to wartime conditions provides an illuminating backdrop to the story. Fifteen photographs illustrate the book.
The McGees’ messages, while always supportive of the war effort, were sometimes poignant. An example is Molly’s post-war reminder in support of the National War Fund, an agency devoted to providing recreational care and maintenance of morale for the military until they returned home: “We gave our boys a warm hand when they left. Let’s not give them the cold shoulder now.”
Fibber McGee and Molly highlighted subjects not usually given a lot of attention, such as the Coast Guard, Merchant Marine,”WACS”, Inflation, and Aid to European War Victims.