Music plays an important role on “The Great Gildersleeve.” Harold Peary’s singing was incorporated into the Gildersleeve character right from the beginning, and he uses his strong voice for both romance and humor. On the romantic side, we have his romances with Leila Ransom and Eve Goodwin, which are conducted as much at the piano as they are on the couch. There’s a musical rivalry between the two women– Eve prefers classical piano while Leila can always get Gildersleeve’s attention by playing their old romantic favorites.
For humor, we have the wonderful first season episode “The Mystery Voice,” with Gildersleeve getting a radio program as the romantic Brazilian baritone Ricardo. He drives women wild when he sings, “La Rosita,” especially Rosita Callahan, who thinks that he’s singing just for her.
In later years, music is frequently used on the program to both divide people and to bring them together. There are frequent disputes between Gildersleeve and his old-fashioned musical tastes, and Marjorie and Leroy, with their preference for Frank Sinatra, Mr. Five by Five, and Boogie-Woogie.
Music is what holds the Jolly Boys together, and there are many wonderful episodes that feature the men’s spirited, if occasionally off-key, renditions of traditional songs. And music transcends divisions of race and class when Birdie sings “The Coventry Carol” every Christmas.
On a personal note, I especially enjoy the music on the program because it reminds me of my mother, who would have been a contemporary of Marjorie, and who loved to sing. She would have sung along with all of these songs!
Speak to Me of Love
It’s Gildersleeve and Leila’s song, the one he sings when he’s in the mood for romance, or when he’s reminiscing about the past or trying to get her back.
Bing Crosby WWII Radio April 15, 1944 and June 15, 1944 — This single-CD features Bing’s version of the song, but I think it would probably have been a little too jazzy for our hero!
Je M’Appelle Barbra — Barbra Streisand’s rendition of this sounds like something that Gildy might have heard in a dream!
WWII Radio — This five CD set is a collection of music and some brief comedy bits from the Kraft Music Hall starring Bing Crosby. It includes a version of “Speak to Me of Love” by The Charioteers. And the Kraft connection alone should be enough to catch the attention of Gildersleeve lovers!
These Foolish Things –I think Greta Keller’s elegant, European style and romantic rendition would have really appealed to Gildersleeve.
Why Do I Love You?
Show Boat — The original 1951 motion picture soundtrack recording
They’re Playing Our Song — The Great Gildersleeve would love this collection, especially the title!
I’m in the Mood for Love — Frances Langford sings “Why Do I Love You?” and twenty-four other romantic favorites
Complete Sustaining Broadcasts, volume 3: “On the Sentimental Side” — Glenn Miller performs “Why Do I Love You” as part of a Show Boat medley on this 1938 recording.
It Might As Well Be Spring
Gildersleeve’s not the only romantic in the family! In the episode Ben Returns from the Navy, we find Marjorie singing this song and thinking about Marshall Bullard. By the end of the show, however, as Leroy says, "It might as well be Ben!"
Love Songs — Rosemary Clooney sings this and other romantic classics
State Fair — This CD includes music from both the classic 1945 movie version of this classic musical, and the 1962 remake.
State Fair — Here’s the DVD of the 1945 version of the movie. You can just picture Marjorie sitting in the theatre, loving it!
16 Most Requested Songs — Rosemary Clooney sings this and other old favorites.
For a different interpretation, Ella Fitzgerald sings "It Might as Well Be Spring" and many other great songs on the four-CD set Ella: Legendary Decca Recordings.
Anything Goes — Stephane Grappelli and Phil Woods play classic instrumental jazz.
Mr. Five by Five
Attending the Theatre, originally broadcast November 29, 1942, is both one of the funniest and most musical episodes.
Although Gildersleeve’s mind is on a revival of The Student Prince that’s coming to Summerfield, the rest of the family is more interested in the hot, popular song, Mr. Five by Five. Leroy’s walking around the house singing it, and no sooner does Gildersleeve stop him when Birdie walks in singing it.
Gildersleeve won’t even let Leroy play the record :
- Gildersleeve : It’s ungrammatical! ‘He don’t measure no more…’ What kind of talk is that?
- Leroy : Jive talk!
Mr. Five by Five — The complete lyrics from the International Lyrics Playground
Those Were Our Songs: Music of World War II — A two-CD set with forty great favorite from 1941-1945, including the Freddie Slack and Ella Mae Morse version of Mr. Five by Five.
The Very Best of Ella Mae Morse — If you’re not familiar with Ella Mae Morse, you’re in for a treat. She could sing jazz and blues with the best of them, had a string of hits in the 1940’s, and was performing as late as 1987. She died in 1999. This is her greatest hits collection, and there really is some great stuff here!
World War II Homefront Music
Here are some great collections of music to put you in the right mood for the wartime Great Gildersleeve seasons. These are the songs that Marjorie (and my mother) would have been listening to on the radio, the records they would be buying, and the songs they’d be dancing to with their classmates and boyfriends before they went off to war.
Songs That Got Us Through WWII — "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," " I’ll Be Seeing You," and other World War II classics.
Songs That Got Us Through WWII, Volume 2 — More great songs, including what we learn in Attending the Theatre is Gildersleeve’s least favorite song, Mr. Five by Five, by Freddie Slack and his Orchestra!
Songs for the Jolly Boys
The Jolly Boys love to sing, and their performances, including Chief Gates’ booming bass and Mr. Peavey’s unmistakable sound, are some of my favorite moments of the show. Here are some of their favorite somgs.
Sing Along with Mitch — "That Old Gang of Mine," "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," and Mr. Peavey’s very favorite song, "There is a Tavern in the Town."
Rural String Bands of Virginia — Includes "Aunt Dinah’s Quilting Party" the song the Jolly Boys sing on the sleigh ride.
Command Performances in Summerfield
The Student Prince — In the episode Attending the Theatre, Gildy reminsces about a past performance of this old chestnut, (I mean, classic operetta) and sings: “Deep in my heart, Dear, I had a dream of you…”
Tannhauser — This is the opera that Gildersleeve helps bring to Summerfield in The Night of the Opera.
The beautiful, traditional English “Coventry Carol” became a Gildersleeve Christmas tradition, sung by Birdie on Christmas Eve for many years. Technically speaking, it’s not actually a Christmas Carol since its subject is not the nativity, but the Slaughter of the Innocents by King Herod. The words were written (or at least transcribed) by Robert Croo in 1534, and the composer of the music is unknown. The song was written for Coventry’s “Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors.” It was sung as a lullaby by the women of Bethlehem, just before King Herod’s men arrived to slaughter the children.
Rocky Mountain Christmas — John Denver sings this classic carol and many other old and new Christmas favorites
A Victorian Christmas — The Robert De Cormier singers present the traditional carols of a Dickens Christmas, with drums and bells and beautiful harmony.
Noel — Joan Baez sing the "Coventry Carol" and other traditional Christmas carols in this 1966 Christmas classic
Our Very Best Christmas — Smokey Robinson and the Miracles sing the "Coventry Carol" on this collection performances by top Motown artists.
If you get interested in the music of the Great Gildersleeve, the links to Amazon may be of interest to help you find some recordings of some of these songs. Many of these Amazon pages include brief sound clips of some of the songs, so you can hear some samples.