I didn’t post an installment of Spin Again Sunday this week because it seemed too frivolous in light of the tragic events in Connecticut. I’m also dealing with some personal issues this week that are sapping my Christmas spirit. I find, at times like this, that old-time radio can offer a pleasing escape from today’s problems. That’s especially true of Christmas episodes, which often show people finding moments of light in a season of darkness. In that spirit, I present the sixth part of my Christmas OTR playlist.
“America for Christmas”
Cavalcade of America, December 25, 1944
“Roll on, Columbia, roll on.”
Story: A USO show somewhere in the Pacific provides the framework for a musical tour of the United States.
Notable Performers: Walter Huston narrates this episode. The father of John Huston, he is best remembered for his Academy Award-winning performance in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Musical Notes: The entire episode revolves around folk music representing various U.S. regions. “Roll On, Columbia,” by Woody Guthrie bookends the program.
My Verdict: Corny but cute humor pervades this show, which concludes with an idealistic message about the world that will emerge after World War II.
“Listening to Christmas Carols”
Fibber McGee and Molly, December 22, 1942
“Why, the idea of having Christmas come right in the middle of the holidays—right when everybody is their busiest!”
Story: Teeny hangs around the McGees’ house and tries to get a Grinchy Fibber to show some Christmas spirit.
Musical Notes: Teeny and her “little friends” sing “The Night Before Christmas.”
Interesting History: As usual in Fibber episodes from this era, there are many World War II homefront references.
My Verdict: A fun aspect of this episode is the unusual degree of interaction between Teeny and Molly; Marian Jordan played both characters.
“Room for a Stranger”
Radio Reader’s Digest, December 19, 1946
“The best town, the best people, and the best Christmas I ever knew.”
Story: An injured Army officer, headed home for Christmas, learns that his leave has been cancelled. He has just enough time for a Christmas Eve reunion with this girlfriend, but they find themselves stranded with no place to spend the holiday.
About Radio Reader’s Digest: This show ran from 1942 to 1948, presenting uplifting stories that had appeared in Reader’s Digest magazine.
Notable Performers: Frank Sinatra stars in this comedy-drama. His acting is not fully assured, but the audience doesn’t seem to mind.
Musical Notes: Frank sings “Silent Night.”
Commercial Curiosities: Sponsor Hallmark advertises a new line a Christmas cards for men—the game bird collection—“masculine as a briar pipe.”
My Verdict: This is a nice, simple story (supposedly true) with gentle humor.
Suspense, December 22, 1957
“You’ll never believe me.”
Story: A little girl is grieving the loss of her beloved dog and hoping for a puppy for Christmas. She seems to get her wish when a dog literally falls from the sky.
Notable Performers: Child actress Evelyn Rudie made a big splash in 1956 when she played Kay Thompson’s beloved imp in the Playhouse 90 story “Eloise.” Since 1973, she has served as co-artistic director of the Santa Monica Playhouse.
Interesting History: This episode mentions real Soviet space dog Laika.
My Verdict: This story tugs at the heartstrings, repeatedly. I’m a little worried about dad, though—getting an early morning phone call from the president of the United States would certainly be startling, but I’m not sure it should drive you to drink.