Television has its Christmas traditions. A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas survive through the wonder of reruns and videos.
The Golden Age of Radio also had its Christmas traditions, traditions that for years were part of what Christmas was in America. Thankfully, through the power of MP3, we can step back in time and rediscover some of the best:
1) Christmas in Pine Ridge
The recurring Lum and Abner Christmas special in the 1930s was somewhat of an odd show. There wasn’t any comedy to speak of. The plot centers around Lum, Abner, and Grandpappy Spears helping out a young couple that’s gotten stranded in Pine Ridge, where the mother is giving birth. The family is clearly meant to parallel the Holy family travelling to Bethlehem.
The episode’s theme shows Pine Ridge at its best and in its fifteen minutes, it’s poignant, thoughtful, and even philosophical as Lum reflects as well on the old year ending and the New Year coming.
2) Lionel Barrymore as Ebeneezer Scrooge
While most people living in the 21st century have no idea who Lionel Barrymore is. Say, “Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life” and people will have no problem remembering the distinctive voice of the wheelchair bound adversary of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey.
One key contributor in Barrymore playing Potter was Barrymore had a lot of experience in the role of miser. From 1934-53, he played the Role of Ebenezer Scrooge for 18 of 20 Christmases. He relinquished the role once to his brother John in 1935 and in 1938, Orson Welles took the part. However, in 1939, while Welles was still the boss at the Campbell Playhouse, Barrymore was Scrooge once again. This time in an hour long adaptation that showed off the amazing talent that was Lionel Barrymore with Welles’ narration making the show a must-hear. Listen and you’ll find out why, for an entire generation, Barrymore was the definitive Scrooge.
1) Bing Crosby singing Adeste Fideles
If you say, Bing Crosby and Christmas, for many, “White Christmas” is the first song that comes to mind. However, this was not the song most common to the Crosby Christmas Special. It was Adeste Fideles, also known as Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
Whether Bing Crosby was hosting the Kraft Music Hall, Philco Radio Time, or the General Electric show, Adeste Fidelis would lead off. Crosby would first sing the song in Latin, then everyone on stage and at home was invited to sing the song in English.
While fewer people understand the Latin version now than in Crosby’s day, the performance is quite powerful and was simply a great way to begin another great Crosby Christmas.