Most well known for his title role in the wildly popular NBC radio comedy series Fibber McGee and Molly, he is also remembered for voicing Orville the Albatross in the 1977 Disney animated feature The Rescuers.
He began his entertainment career as a vaudeville performer and subsequently launched a radio show called The O'Henry Twins.
He reprised his role as Fibber McGee in several comedy films of the 1930s and '40s, including Look Who's Laughing, with Edgar Bergen and Lucille Ball, and This Way Please, with Buddy Rogers and Betty Grable.
He spent his youth in Chautauqua and Peoria, Illinois, and married his first wife and Fibber McGee and Molly co-star, Marian Driscoll, in 1918. He and Driscoll raised children named Kathryn and James, Jr.; following Driscoll's death in 1961, he married Gretchen Stewart.
His plot in Culver City, California's Holy Cross Cemetery is adjacent to that of actress and Manson Family victim Sharon Tate.