To Bee or not to Bee: Old-time radio listening, 18 December

Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen: Santa Claus Sits Down (CBS, 1940)

The inadvertent instigator of the famous Benny-Allen mock feud makes a return engagement to the scene of the original crime . . . (Photo: NBC.)

An early and effective version of a Christmas routine that’s become something of an Allen trademark, for a few years, anyway, is upstaged by an encore from a special young man.

The young man is Stuart Canin, the musical prodigy whose performance of “The Bee” on violin a few years earlier inadvertently triggered the Jack Benny-Fred Allen mock feud, when Allen followed Canin’s jaw-dropping performance with a wisecrack about Benny’s violin. The two comedians were off and running, and young Canin was, too.

By tonight, he is concert master for his school orchestra. He returns for an encore performance of “The Bee”a—shamefully, this surviving recording excises almost all music and commercials, except for enough excerpt of Stuart playing “The Bee” again to cause you to understand why Allen was so impressed.

Benny was, too. Tonight, Allen presents the young man with a check from both comedians toward his further music education. Which sends Stuart on a journey of respect and admiration in the classical music world that will continue well into the 21st Century.

It just about upstages the re-performance of Allen’s classic routine involving a disillusioned Santa going on strike, a routine that’s become something of a holiday tradition for the master satirist. Also tonight: the Texaco News addresses a Columbia University conference on gifted children.

The Texaco Workshop Players: John Brown, Minerva Pious, Jack Smart, Alan Reed, possibly Charles Cantor. Announcer: Jimmy Wallington. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: Fred Allen, Herman Wouk, Harry Tugend. (Note: Recording truncated.)

FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .

Comedy

The Bob Hope Show: A Christmas Show from San Francisco (NBC, 1945)—Actor and World War II flying ace Wayne Morris joins the Christmas fun with Jerry Colonna, Frances Langford, and Trudy Erwin, though Bob (Hope) may not have as much fun buying a new a house as he thinks. Announcer: Wendell Niles. Music: Skinnay Ennis and His Orchestra, Frances Langford. Writers: Possibly Jack Douglas, Hal Block, Larry Marks.

Duffy’s Tavern: The Raffle (NBC, 1946)—Archie (Ed Gardner) wants film star Joan Bennett (“What’s she got that Mrs. Duffy ain’t got? Well, take a look at Mrs. Duffy—are ya lookin’? Well, whatcha don’t see, Joan Bennett’s got”) to help him auction off a tiara for the needy—and neither they nor the winner are quite prepared. Miss Duffy: Sandra Gould. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Eddie: Eddie Green. Announcer: Jimmy Wallington. Music: Marty Malneck and His Orchestra. Writers: Ed Gardner, Bob Schiller, unknown others.

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Getting a Christmas Tree in the Mountains (NBC, 1949)—Their mayor hasn’t yet put up the annual town Christmas tree, so Alice (Faye) dragoons an eager Willie (Robert North) and a reluctant Phil (Harris) and Remley (Elliott Lewis) into getting it from the mountains themselves, which may have been her first mistake. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Scharf, Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

Fibber McGee & Molly: A Tax Refund (NBC, 1953)—The Squire of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) expects his angry calls to City Hall to pay off at last with a refund of his property tax overpayment, until the check in the mail gets blown out of his hand in a nasty wind. Writers: Phil Leslie, Ralph Goodman.

 

Crime Drama

The Whistler: Windfall (CBS, 1944)—Deep into San Francisco’s bookies when his wealthy cousin is killed in a road accident, nervous young gambler Robert Bradley becomes his dying uncle’s only heir. The usual twisted twists, deftly arrayed. Cast: Unidentified. The Whistler: Bill Forman. Announcer: Bob Anderson. Music: Wilbur Hatch. (Whistling: Dorothy Roberts.) Director: George W. Allen. Writer: Harold Swanton.

 

Drama/Dramatic Anthology

Romance: One Way Passage (CBS, 1945)—Humphrey Bogart and Joan Bennett feature in a radio adaptation of the 1932 William Powell-Kay Francis film romance about a terminally ill woman (Bennett) and an escaped murderer (Bogart) sentenced to death who fall into an unlikely romance, with each not knowing the other’s fatal secret. One of the more effective condensations during this show’s only period in which it casts Hollywood stars, and one of Bogart’s best radio appearances. Host: Frank Gallop. Music: Charles Paul. Director: Mark Loeb. Writer: Jean Holloway, adapting the screenplay by Wilson Mizner and Joseph Jackson.

Radio Reader’s Digest: A Song from Heaven (CBS, 1947)—Raymond Massey narates the origin of, arguably, Christmas’s most enduring carol, “Silent Night,” believed to have premiered in 1818 in an Austrian parish church, after its music was set to the lyric by Fr. Joseph Mohr. Additional cast: Unidentified. Host: Tom Shirley. Music: Jack Miller. Director: Marx Loeb. Writer: Robert Sloan.

 

World War II

Special Report: The Ardennes Withdrawal (BBC, 1944)—Robert Barr reports on a tactical withdrawal during the height of what was known as the Battle of the Bulge, a day after the infamous Malmedy Massacre in which eighty American prisoners of war were murdered by their Nazi captors.

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