Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Radio Memories: Thursday's Gift

Merry Christmas! Our countdown to Christmas concludes with an old radio drama tradition: Lionel Barrymore starring as Ebenezer Scrooge, in one of his annual adaptations of Charles Dickens' timeless story A Christmas Carol.

Barrymore made such an ideal Scrooge that he played the role each and every Christmas, first for the historically significant Hollywood Hotel series (the program that almost single-handidly shifted radio broadcasting headquarters from New York to California). Starting in 1938 he stayed with HH sponsor Campbell Soup when they came to a deal with Orson Welles to bankroll his suddenly-famous Mercury Theater Of The Air series, in the wake of the infamous Halloween broadcast War Of The Worlds. Barrymore continued to perform as Scrooge for Welles until he got his own series at last, in 1942: the title character in the weekly drama Mayor of the Town.

Every Christmas, however, Lionel Barrymore would set things aside on his show in order to once again wear his trademark scowl and recreate the character he will forever be identified with by his radio fans: Ebenezer Scrooge. A tragic accident confined him to a wheelchair and prevented him from ever portraying Scrooge in film as well as radio; it can be said that the closest he ever got to visually recreating his perennial radio role as Ebenezer Scrooge was through his 1946 performance as the unrepentent miser Mr. Potter in Frank Capra's Christmas classic It's A Wonderful Life.

And so for our climactic Radio Memory, I picked a Lionel Barrymore performance from the forementioned Orson Welles' series, renamed in honor of their sponsor as the Campbell Playhouse, so that we can benefit from that great Mercury Theater cast of supporting players. This episode was originally broadcast way back on December 24th, 1939, for a world praying for guidance in the face of expanding conflict, guidance not so different than that which we pray for, today, in our time.

Hope you've enjoyed listening to these old broadcasts as much as I have in posting and writing about them.

1 comment:

Dag said...

I only have a few minutes between meals, so I'll keep this brief:

Merry Christmas to my firends and colleagues at Covenant Zone, and a special thank you to our friends and fellow bloggers this day. To our commentators, I thank most of you for your comments and the time and energy you put into keeping me on my mental toes and pushing things to further limits of interest and awareness.

I look forward to more this year coming. Thanks to all of you.

Hey, I hear a dinner bell ringing! Gonna scram outta here.

Yalla, Dag.