Harold Peary played many different characters named Gildersleeve on “Fibber McGee and Molly.” Many of these were variations on a theme, a pompous character with a booming voice and the name Gildersleeve. These characters had different first names, including, on several programs, the name George. The Gildersleeve characters, with Peary’s distinctive, booming delivery, were a popular running joke on the program, and eventually evolved into a regular character, next-door neighbor Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve.
The name “Gildersleeve” was said to be selected because it was the most pompous name the writers could think of. And it does have a certain ring to it. Perhaps there are subtle, unconscious connections with the idea of “gilding” or making something appear to be golden, and the haberdashery sound of “sleeve” that make you think of a vain and slightly ridiculous man. Or perhaps the Gildersleeve writers were unconsciously remembering the name of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, the noted classical scholar of whom Professor Paul Shorey of the University of Chicago, said that during fifty years of American classical scholarship, “the figure of Gildersleeve had dominated throughout.” Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve was the author of standard Greek and Latin textbooks, so writers may have been familiar with it from their school days.
The Gildersleeve name was also carried by the distinguished American scholar, Virginia Cocheron Gildersleeve, who served as the Dean of Barnard College for many years.
The “Throckmorton P.” part of the name is easier to trace– Peary lived on Throckmorton Place!
More about the Real Gildersleeves
- Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve — More about Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, from the Princeton Companion
- Who Was Virginia Gildersleeve? — From the International Federation of University Women website
- Gildersleeve Family History and Genealogy — Descendants of John Gildersleeve (1791-1873). No Throckmortons or Leroys in this bunch.
- Half Ass Acres: Our Herd Sire — Here’s the Great Gildersleeve’s namesake: a miniature donkey named Fisher’s Great Gildersleeve. Quite a stud– Gildersleeve would be pleased