The Christmas season is never complete without listening to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Lionel Barrymore played Scrooge on the radio from 1934 to 1953 on a variety of different programs. In those 20 years, he only missed playing the role twice. In 1936, when his wife died, and in 1938, when he voluntarily stepped down.
He was considered for MGM’s film adaptation but he was forced to decline the offer due to his back problems that would eventually leave him in a wheelchair. He recommended Reginald Owens for the role and decided to skip playing it on the radio that year so as not to take away anything from his friends performance on the big screen.
He returned to the air the following year on Campbell Playhouse and it’s that 1939 performance that is considered to be his best. Here, he worked with Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre Players in a classic presentation. I first discovered this in 1989 while living in Paris, Texas. A local radio station played it on Christmas Eve as part of a sponsorship from the local Campbell’s factory. It is amazing and highly recommended.