Riley worked in an aircraft plant in California, but viewers usually saw him at home, cheerfully disrupting life with his malapropisms and ill timed intervention into minor problems. His ... See full summary »




1950   1949  
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. See more awards »


Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Life of Riley (1953–1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

Riley worked in an aircraft plant in California, but viewers usually saw him at home, cheerfully disrupting life with his malapropisms and ill timed intervention into minor problems. His ... See full summary »

Stars: William Bendix, Marjorie Reynolds, Wesley Morgan
The Real McCoys (1957–1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

From the hills of West Virginia, Amos McCoy moves his family to an inherited farm in California. Grandpa Amos is quick to give advice to his three grandchildren and wonders how his neighbors ever managed without him around.

Stars: Walter Brennan, Richard Crenna, Kathleen Nolan
My Little Margie (1952–1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Margie lives with her father Vern and her crazy schemes get him into trouble especially with his boss Mr. Honeywell. She frequently involves Charlie and Mrs. Odetts in her plans. Freddie is her boyfriend while Roberta likes Vern.

Stars: Gale Storm, Charles Farrell, Clarence Kolb
The Lone Ranger (1949–1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The adventures of the masked hero and his Native American partner.

Stars: Jay Silverheels, Clayton Moore, John Hart
Sky King (1951–1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

"From out of the clear blue of the western sky comes Sky King" was the familiar opening to television's premier aviation program. Operating from his Flying Crown Ranch in Arizona, Sky King,... See full summary »

Stars: Kirby Grant, Gloria Winters, Ewing Mitchell
Car 54, Where Are You? (1961–1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

The misadventures of two of New York's finest (a Mutt and Jeff pair) in the mythical 53rd precinct in the Bronx. Toody, the short, stocky and dim-witted one either saves the day or muffs ... See full summary »

Stars: Joe E. Ross, Fred Gwynne, Paul Reed
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A factory worker's family is thrown into an uproar when his teenage daughter starts to date his boss' son.

Director: Irving Brecher
Stars: William Bendix, Jackie Gleason, Rosemary DeCamp
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

Neighbor Blanche Morton frequently joins Gracie in escapades which annoy hubby Harry and provide George with an opportunity to offer a humorous soliloquy.

Stars: George Burns, Gracie Allen, Bea Benaderet
Sea Hunt (1958–1961)
Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Mike Nelson is a Scuba Diver in the days when it was still very new. He works alone and the plot was always mostly carried through his voice over narrations. These gave the show a flavor of... See full summary »

Stars: Lloyd Bridges, Ken Drake, Courtney Brown
Bachelor Father (1957–1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Never-married attorney Bentley Gregg took on the task (with help from his "houseboy", Peter) of raising his young niece Kelly, after her parents died in an accident. The job was easier when... See full summary »

Stars: John Forsythe, Noreen Corcoran, Sammee Tong
Lou Grant (1977–1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

The trials of the former TV station manager, turned newspaper city editor, and his journalist staff.

Stars: Edward Asner, Robert Walden, Mason Adams
Simon & Simon (1981–1989)
Action | Mystery | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Two brothers of disparate tastes and manners run a private detective agency.

Stars: Gerald McRaney, Jameson Parker, Mary Carver


Series cast summary:
 Chester A. Riley / ... (26 episodes, 1949-1950)
Rosemary DeCamp ...
 Peg Riley / ... (26 episodes, 1949-1950)
Lanny Rees ...
 Junior Riley / ... (22 episodes, 1949-1950)
Sid Tomack ...
 Jim Gillis / ... (22 episodes, 1949-1950)
Gloria Winters ...
 Babs Riley / ... (20 episodes, 1949-1950)
John Brown ...
 Digger O'Dell / ... (11 episodes, 1949-1950)


Riley worked in an aircraft plant in California, but viewers usually saw him at home, cheerfully disrupting life with his malapropisms and ill timed intervention into minor problems. His stock answer to every turn of fate became a catch phrase: 'What a revoltin' development this is!" Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

character name in title | See All (1) »







Release Date:

4 October 1949 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(26 episodes)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Life of Riley was the very first sitcom to ever win an Emmy Award. The other two nominees that it beat were, The Silver Theatre (1949) and The Lone Ranger (1949). See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Racket Girls (1994) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Jackie Gleason's first TV series
25 August 2001 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

THE LIFE OF RILEY (1949) has an interesting history for that it is remembered, if at all, solely as the role created by William Bendix. This in part is true, for that Bendix did originate the role of Chester A. Riley on radio in 1944. Although it's been said that he was unavailable to star in the proposed TV series in 1949, he did get to star as Riley in the 1949 Universal-International movie version of that same name with Rosemary DeCamp as his wife, Peg (which at one time aired on American Movie Classics in the late 1980s).

As for the TV series, the Dumont network substituted the unavailable Bendix for the not-so-well-known Jackie Gleason as Riley; with Rosemary DeCamp as Peg; Lanny Rees as son, Junior; and Gloria Winters as daughter, Babs; along with Sid Tomack as Riley's friend, Gillis. After 26 episodes, the series was cancelled in early 1950. Then in 1953, THE LIFE OF RILEY was brought back to television (NBC), this time with William Bendix playing Riley and Marjorie Reynolds as Peg. The new series lasted five successful years. By the time THE LIFE OF RILEY ended its run in1958, Jackie Gleason had won immortality with his role as Ralph Kramden in THE HONEYMOONERS series from 1955-56, which enjoys TV reruns up to this very day. But as for Gleason's role as Riley, it has become long forgotten, until ...

New York City's own WPIX, Channel 11, resurrected THE LIFE OF RILEY series in February 1977 and played it only on weekends during the 11 p.m. to midnight time slot, following Gleason's ever popular THE HONEYMOONERS. It remained on that channel for the next few years before being moved to 5 a.m. and disappearing from TV land once again by 1986.

THE LIFE OF RILEY opens with a whistling underscore (long before THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) with the camera focusing on the drawing sketch of the outside of a house with the lights turning on, which fades to THE LIFE OF RILEY starring Jackie Gleason and Rosemary DeCamp, followed by a guest star name, if any. While watching this 1949 sit-com, many things came to mind. First, Jackie Gleason was surprisingly slim with his hair sometimes blondish (later darker) and/or curly, not the "fat man" he made famous years later as Ralph Kramden; second, the show was done on film, not the usual kinoscope (frequently used in early TV) that makes the show appear faded and sound distant; and third, this early TV show even had a laugh track and possibly the use of three camera operation - two years before I LOVE LUCY (1951) had claimed to be the first to use these techniques. As for the episodes, I found Episode One to be the funniest, in which, in typical TV sit-com format, Riley believes he's going to die when he mistakes a butcher's message with that of his doctor's, messages that got mixed up by Junior. The episodes that followed were somewhat passable, not great. The true character who helped the series along was Digger O'Dell, the friendly undertaker (played by John Brown, who played an insurance agent in the first episode). His dry sense of humor and true mortician appearance, with funeral jokes were as welcome here as Fonzie was to HAPPY DAYS in the 1970s. Of course, Digger would exit the segment by speaking words, "I must be shoveling off." This may sound morbid to some, but Brown succeeds into making his character the one viewers eagerly await for an appearance, even for a few minutes, knowing that when he's on, there definitely is going to be some good laughs (especially when a viewer happens to be Count Dracula). Brown reprised his role in the Bendix 1949 movie version, but sadly, the Digger O'Dell character made famous in the Bendix radio series, is not visible at all in the latter Bendix TV series. Also seen in the Gleason series are Jimmy Lydon (the movies' Henry Aldrich) as Simon, the boy who loves Babs but is hated by Riley; Bobby Jellison as Waldo Binny, among others. Although a comedy series, the show did take time to have sentimental episodes, such as I in which there is a flashback that leads to the event of the birth of Chester and Peg's first baby.

Jackie Gleason does what he can in stepping into William Bendix's shoes, even though Gleason is as miscast in playing Riley as Bendix would be all wrong in playing Ralph Kramden. For those accustomed in seeing Gleason as Ralph Kramden, the blabber-mouth bus driver from Brooklyn, NY, it would also seem awkward watching Gleason playing a father of two teenagers, since his future Kramden role was fatherless. But one thing remains the same as both Riley and Ralph, his screen wife has more common sense than he does.

So whenever anyone asks the question, "Who originated the role Chester A. Riley on television," and the answer comes up "William Bendix," think again. But here's another question. Will this series ever turn up on TV again? I guess that's up to anyone wanting to place all 26 episodes onto DVD to decide.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss The Life of Riley (1949) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: