It’s been my personal Christmas tradition for more than 40 years now to listen to broadcasts from radio’s golden age. It’s not the holiday season unless I hear Jack Benny go shopping or Fibber get emotional as Teeny (really Jim Jordan’s wife Marian aka Molly) sings ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. And ever since Christmas Eve 1989, I’ve enjoyed hearing Lionel Barrymore give what I believe to be his best performance of Ebenezer Scrooge on The Campbell Playhouse in 1939.
Last year, I created an Old Time Radio Playlist on my YouTube Channel. You’ll find a nice selection of great programs like the Lux Radio Theatre, The Great Gildersleeve, Sherlock Holmes and, of course, Jack Benny and Fibber McGee and Molly. These are just a small representation of some of my personal favorites. Consider it a gateway to another world that has so much more to offer.
I’ve added a few new programs this year. There are some great episodes of Suspense, as well as the Lux Radio Theater’s presentation of It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart. Speaking of Jimmy, you should tune into his rendition of A Christmas Carol on the great western series, The Six Shooter. I’ve also added an interesting 1931 BBC radio broadcast and the 1975 CBS Radio Mystery Theater version starring E.G. Marshall.
Speaking of old Scrooge, you’ll still find that 1939 Campbell Playhouse version of A Christmas Carol with Orson Welles and music conducted by Bernard Hermann. But you’ll also hear more of Lionel Barrymore. He first played the role of Scrooge on radio in 1934 and proceeded to play the role annually every year through 1953 with only two exceptions. In 1936, Lionel’s brother John played Scrooge after Lionel’s wife had passed away. Then, in 1938, Lionel elected to abstain from the role to ensure all of the focus was on Reginald Owen’s MGM’s film adaptation, a role he was forced to turn down because of complications with arthritis. I’ve added his 1944 broadcast from Mayor of the Town, as well as his special performance for an MGM record release in 1947. Finally, you can listen to the 1954 Hallmark Hall of Fame rebroadcast of his final performance in 1953. This broadcast was just a little more than a month after Lionel’s death on Nov. 15.
So, put another log on the fire, grab a glass of Smoking Bishop and a Christmas cookie (or two), then settle in for some wonderful programs from a bygone era. Let the theatre of your mind take to you to Christmas Past. Merry Christmas!