Skip to comments.Now, have some Christmas Eve old-time radio!
Posted on 12/24/2014 12:44:07 PM PST by BluesDuke
Im not convinced that I can possibly improve upon this particular entry from Christmas Eves past, so Ill continue this journals little tradition. For all who celebrate, and for anyone sorely in need of extra cheer this and any such season, todays offerings are dedicated, as always.
Set in hell, delivered in verse (some of it, admittedly, is a little on the awkward side but the archness of the delivery and the quality of the bulk makes up for it), some of historys most notorious villains to that point convene to plan Christmass demiseas soon as they can quell this little, ahem, family squabble. (Sit down, Hamanfor I am Ivan the Terrible! Brother Ivan is a demagogue/with the brain like a fly and the manners of a hog.)
Also in on the plot: Lucrezia Borgia, Caligula, Medusa, and Nero, among others. Ill tell you only that Caligula has visions of men hanging from Christmas trees and let you take it from there, Neros a little snippy (Today I note with a bitter shrug/Theyve made Scheherezade a jitterbug), and the ayes have it for Dame Borgias idea . . . or do they?
First performed on Norman Corwin, Words Without Music in 1938, this version does not include Will Geers original performance as the devil, and that edition is worth seeking out for Geers understated performance, but Martin Gabel (newspaper reporter Neil Williams in Easy Aces, among other roles) will not disappoint you. You may or may not necessarily miss House Jamesons (The Aldrich Family) original performance as Santa, but you wont be disappointed by future Perry Mason co-star Ray Collins in the role, either.
Corwin made his bones with the original production and reaffirmed them with the repeat. Its as clever a way for you to launch a Christmas Eves old-time radio listening as you can find.
Nero: Eric Burroughs. Additional cast: Unidentified, but likely including Orson Welles. Music: Bernard Herrmann. Writer/director: Norman Corwin.
The original air date is actually unknown. But this is one Christmas Eve setting that probably should have aired on Christmas Eve itself. And it only begins with this installments being the likely inspirationderived likewise from The Gift of the Magifor the classic Honeymooners [the Original 39] episode about Ralph having to hock his brand-new bowling ball to buy Alice the Christmas present for which he forgot (as usual) to sock a few sawbucks away, and to retrieve his jaw from the floor when he saw what she got him . . .
Here, however, its weary husband John (Don Ameche) snoring on the ladder while trimming the tree. Its shrewish wife Blanche (Frances Langford) snorting him awake and into one of their usual arguments, from Johns daily bag (and gag) lunch to his reputedly forgotten Christmas card (he didnt forget, by the waybut youll have to listen to learn where it turned up), the bill money spent on presents.
And, especially, its bourbon-loving John and highfalutin shrew Blanche ending by opening their presents just past midnightand discovering just what each sold (hint: what the other could have used with their gifts) to buy each other their presents, provoking a surprising spell of sentiment from old-time radios grandparents to Married . . . with Children.
Which puts the lie, for a little while, anyway, to The Bickersons amounting to a one-joke pony who could be tolerated by a sustaining audience only slightly longer than the couple who specialised in domestic blitz could tolerate each other. Even if their creator swore he got the inspiration for both the characters and most of their incendiary squabbles from his own parents contentious marriage.
Perhaps it was that very contentiousness that enabled John and Blanche to deliver the finish with neither saccharine nor superficiality. If so, its no wonder Jackie Gleason (who wasnt exactly apologetic over his raids through the radio archives for material of his own, anyway) might have wanted to graft a little of their kind of Christmas cheer.
Writer/director: Philip Rapp.
This installment kicks off with a slight variation on the standard introduction that simply had to be a grabber from the outset.
TALLULAH BANKHEAD: To the men and women in service all over the world on this Christmas Eve, through the cooperation of the Associated Services of the Armed Forces, you are about to be entertained by some of the biggest names in show business. For the next hour and thirty minutes, this program will present in person such bright stars as . . .As custom on this last-gasp, big-bucks variety offering, the stars introduced themselves: Jimmy Durante. Bert Lahr. Robert Merrill. Margaret OBrien. Edith Piaf. Fran Warren. Ed Wynn. And, music director Meredith Willson. And, following that soaring theme music around and behind Ed Herlihys introduction, back comes Madame Tallulah.
BANKHEAD: A safe and Merry Christmas, darlings, to all our Armed Forces, wherever you may be. And to you here at home, I hope all your stockings are hung, and that you find in them all the things you wished for. I know what Im going to find in minea run! I always do on this show!From there the foursome swaps gags about Christmas bed jackets, horses, and John Dillinger, before Lahr reprises If I Was The King of the Forest from The Wizard of Oz (with a little help from OBrien, of course); before Durante suggests a toy-spangled Christmas tree and finds a way to sing Isnt It A Shame That Christmas Comes But Once A Year; before Wynn and company try to prove Santa Claus; and, before some stunning music from Warren (Look to the Rainbow), Metropolitan Opera star Merrill (O Holy Night) and the tragic French chanteuse Piaf. (A beautiful Autumn Leaves.)
But when I heard that one of our guests today would be Margaret OBrien, I decided to make it my business to see that this child has a Merry Christmas away from her home. After all, its only been a few years since I was a child, heh heh heh. (Laughter.) Those darling writerstheyll stop at nothing for a Christmas present. And thats exactly what theyre getting.
But to make sure little Margaret has a wonderful Christmas, I invited three of the theaters greatest clownsJimmy Durante, Bert Lahr, and Ed Wynn.
JIMMY DURANTE, BERT LAHR, and ED WYNN (in unison): Hello, Tallulah! (Applause.)
BANKHEAD: Hello Ed, Jimmy, Bert. Hello Bert, Ed, Jimmy. Hello Jimmy, Bert, Ed. Well, now that Ive given you all equal billing, we can get down to our problem. Weve got to arrange a wonderful Christmas party for this little girl. Anybody have an idea what to give her?
LAHR: Ive got an idea, Tallulah.
BANKHEAD: Uh, huh.
LAHR: Something thats very popular this time of the year.
BANKHEAD: Oh, really, darling? What is it, Bert?
LAHR: How about givin her a Christmas present?
BANKHEAD (lowers voice smugly): Uh, now, isnt that brilliant?
There is also a gentle message from Army Gen. Jonathan Wainwright at Camp Breckinridge (Kentucky). The message could be deployed in 2014 without losing a beat or a drop of relevance. And I didnt even stop to mention the soaring, caroling almost-finale. But Im leaving you to hear it for yourself.
Music: Meredith Willson, the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Writers: Goodman Ace, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson.
Fibber McGee & Molly: Gildys Radio Phonograph (comedy; NBC, 1940)Gildersleeves (Harold Peary) new radio-phonograph combine is deliveredto the McGees (Jim and Marian Jordan), by mistake, but they get a bigger shock when they plug it in and play it. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. The Old-Timer: Bill Thompson. Announcer: Harlow Wilcox. Music: Billy Mills Orchestra. Writer: Don Quinn.
Mayor of the Town: A Christmas Carol (drama; CBS, 1942)Series star Lionel Barrymore is so familiar even now for his portrayal of Scrooge in the Dickens classic that, naturally, this gentle wartime drama would have to find some way to get him to do it again. And they do it by way of turning over the town theater for the annual Dickens performance. Well, it isnt exactly Christmas time without Barrymore, whether as Scrooge or in Its a Wonderful Life in due course, is it? Additional cast: Unidentified, but possibly including Will Wright, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Binyan. Announcer: Unidentified. Music: Possibly Gordon Jenkins. Director: Jack Van Nostrand. Writers: Unidentified; adapted from the story by Charles Dickens.
The Lucky Strike Program Starring Jack Benny: Trimming a Tree (comedy; NBC, 1944)Jack (Benny) and Mary (Livingstone) finish trimming Jacks tree . . . and the first results come as quite a shock to the pregnant pausing, electricity-challenged miser. Additional cast: Eddie Anderson, Phil Harris, Larry Stevens. Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Larry Stevens. Writers: George Balzar, Milt Josefsberg, Sam Perrin, John Tackaberry.
The Old Gold Comedy Theater: Bachelor Mother (dramatic anthology; NBC, 1944)Brenda Marshall and Louis Hayward step into the Ginger Rogers and David Niven roles, from the 1939 film about a department store clerk (Marshall) selling ducks until shes canned the day before Christmas for obscure reasonsand getting a shock on her doorstep that leads to a few odd events and her re-hiring. Additional cast: Unknown. Director: Harold Lloyd. Adapted from the screenplay by Norman Krasna, based on a story by Felix Jackson.
The Mel Blanc Show: Mel Plays Santa Claus (comedy; NBC, 1946)Tis the threshold of the night before Christmas, and Mel (Blanc, who also plays Zookie) scurries to get Betty (Mary Jane Croft) a Christmas gift, while being surprised shes invited him to the party thrown by her usually hostile father Colby (Joseph Kearns)and even more surprised to find himself playing Santa for a friends little boy. Mrs. Bradley: Bea Benaderet. Additional cast: Hans Conreid, possibly Earle Ross. Announcer: Bud Easton. Music: Victor Miller, the Sports Men. Director: Joe Rines. Writer: Mac Benoff.
The Life of Riley: Christmas Bonuses from Mr. Stevenson (comedy; NBC, 1948)Riley (William Bendix) realises funds are low for Christmas gifts until he remembers the plants coming Christmas bonuseswhich may or may not prove a revoltin development, when he hears a rumour the bonuses may be cancelled. Peg: Paula Winslowe. Gillis/Digger: John Brown. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Ken Carpenter. Music: Lou Kosloff. Director: Don Bernard. Writers: Alan Lipscott, Reuben Shipp.
Broadway is My Beat: Nick Norman and Santa Claus (crime drama; CBS, 1949)Clover (Larry Thor) needs to help find a Santa Claus for a Police Athletic League chapter until Tartaglia (Charles Calvert) provides oneex-con Nick Norman (Gil Stratton, Jr.), who played Santa in the slammer for over a decade after his imprisonment for safecracking, and is doing it on his first day of freedom, which makes Clover a little nervous when Norman has time to kill until his PAL appearance . . . and seems to disappear even with Tartaglia in tow. Additional cast: Howard McNear, Hal March, Bert Holland, Kep Menkin, Estelle Dodd, Peggy Webber. Announcer: Joe Walters. Music: Alexander Courage. Director: Elliott Lewis. Writers: Morton Fine, David Friedkin.
Richard Diamond, Private Detective: A Christmas Carol(crime drama; NBC, 1949)The jaunty detective (Dick Powell) casts his own usual suspectsmost of whom are the police with whom he normally works and/or fencesinto an analogic interpretation of the Dickens classic. Were dead certain, all things considered regarding Mr. Diamond, that there was no intent to paint police as miserly or crotchety (ho ho ho), though were comparably certain this is one of the funniest imaginings of A Christmas Carol of them all. Levinson: Ed Begley. Helen: Virginia Gregg. Otis: Wilms Herbert. Announcer: Eddie King. Music: David Baskerville. Director: William P. Rousseau. Writer: Blake Edwards.
The Whistler: The Three Wise Guys (crime drama; CBS, 1950)Damon Runyons tale gets a whistling twist: At Good Time Charlies bar on Christmas Eve, the barkeep (Bill Forman) listens to a man named Al (John Brown) professing hes gone straight at last, crediting a previous years Christmas Eve encounter in this very establishment for provoking him to give up his hustle. Additional cast: Marvin Miller, Jack Moyles. Announcer: Marvin Miller. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Music: Wilbur Hatch. (Whistling: Dorothy Roberts.) Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Kathleen Hite, adapting the Damon Runyon story.
Romance: Richer By One Christmas (dramatic anthology; CBS, 1955)Virginia Gregg stars as a woman recalling earlier family Christmases while trying now to adjust to her slightly disillusioned young sons mixed holiday feelings and her sisters inability to continue coping with the care of their increasingly weakening motherbut still remembering perfect Christmases despite the hardships of the Great Depression. Additional cast: Vic Perrin, Richard Beals, Beverly Hanley, Ann Morrison, Ralph Moody. Announcer: Dan Cubberly. Music: Jerry Goldsmith. Sound: Bill James. Director: Antony Ellis. Writer: Sylvia Richards.
Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network: One Fellas FamilyMerry Christmas, One and All (improvisational comedy; no coaching from the audience, please, 1959)From Book Eye Ex, Chapter Eye Eye, Pages Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, and the bottom of Page Seventeen. The usual deft improvisation. Writers: Bob Elliot, Ray Goulding.
Christmases past in NJ, I would be able to tune in 740 out of Toronto on the AM skip at night when I was finishing up in the kitchen. They have good old time Christmas music (as opposed to Twerking With Santa Around The Christmas Tree). Now that I am in NW PA I get 740 no problem... Theater of the Mind has a lot of good Old Time Radio. They are on Tune-In.
I found the CBS Radio Mysteries via torrents years ago and there is a hosting site and I make a donation sometimes.
Thanks. Merry Christmas!
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