25 December: Merry Christmas to all; and, to all, classic radio

Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa: Allen's oldest surviving radio episode  aired originally on Christmas Day. (Photo: CBS.)

Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa: Allen’s oldest surviving radio episode aired originally on Christmas Day. (Photo: CBS.)

Our annual Christmas Day radio listening merely begins with two jewels from a master satirist:

The Linit Bath Club Revue: The Mammoth Department Store (CBS, 1932)

Here’s a treat for any old-time radio fan—the oldest known surviving program hosted by the singular Fred Allen, in whose spotlight sketch he plays a man with a sometimes unenviable profession: managing a department store . . . on the day after Christmas. Hopefully, without driving himself crazy.

Cast: Portland Hoffa, Sheila Barrett, Roy Atwell, Charles Carlile. Announcer: Ken Roberts. Music: Lou Katzman Orchestra, Mary Leaf at the organ. Writer: Fred Allen.

Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen: Otto Hottendorf (CBS, 1940)

He is a professional baloney stuffer for the Armour Company, brought aboard by Portland (Hoffa) to break up the usual satirical fare—or is he?

Also: The Texaco News discusses the opening of the Sixth Avenue Subway with a few of its denizens; 45,000 telegrams arrive for Fred (Allen); Kenny (Baker) wants to tell Santa Claus and Dennis Day off, not necessarily in that order; and, the Texaco Workshop Players (John Smart, Alan Reed, Minerva Pious, John Brown, Charles Cantor) perform a playlet about the murder of a long-winded professor at a faculty club to be solved by Inspector Bungle (Allen), once he can determine who’s telling the truth among five confessors.

That’s no baloney, either.

Announcers: Jimmy Wallington, Larry Elliott. Music: Al Goodman Orchestra, Kenny Baker, the Martins. Writers: Fred Allen, Harry Tugend, Herman Wouk. (Note: Edited to remove commercials and some music selections.)

Further Channel Surfing: Christmas Day . . .

Various Artists: The Christmas Package (variety; NBC, 1943)—Linda Darnell (host), the Andrews Sisters, Ginny Simms, Lena Horne, Bob Hope, Jim & Marian Jordan (in character as Fibber McGee & Molly). Coordinated with the U.S. War Department, this charming 1943 holiday half-hour features music, a comedy monologue, and, a sweet but not sugary holiday sketch from the Jordans, with Marian Jordan doing her unforgettable Teeny. Writers and director: Unknown.

The Whistler: The Christmas Bonus (crime drama; CBS, 1944)—Cathy Lewis, unidentified others. A music box playing “Silent Night” that he buys for his wife proves catalytic in more ways than one for a successful department store clerk fired suspiciously—after a series of lucrative store thefts—six months after he’s released from prison after serving for a one-time petty crime. Charming holiday story from a series renowned for its mystery twists despite all but exposing who commits the crime of the week at the outset. Writers: Unidentified.

Fibber McGee & Molly: Doc’s Gift to McGee (comedy; NBC, 1945)—Jim and Marian Jordan, Arthur Q. Bryan, Shirley Mitchell, Bea Benaderet, Gale Gordon, Harlow Wilcox. The McGees are flabbergasted with Doc’s (Arthur Q. Bryan) Christmas gift—and they may enjoy it even more if they can figure out just what it happens to be. Writers: Don Quinn, Phil Leslie.

The Raleigh Cigarette Program Starring Red Skelton: Christmas Trees (comedy; NBC, 1945)—Red Skelto, Lurene Tuttle, Verna Felton, GeGe Pearson, Arthur Q. Bryan, Rod O’Connor. Somewhere in the middle of bantering about Raleigh’s then-contest to win a new Chevrolet (you had to complete the sentence, “We should all buy Victory Bonds because . . .,” in twenty-five words or less), Red and company manage to swap Christmas gifts, Anita Ellis manages to sing “Toyland,” and Clem Kadiddlehopper (“I wish they had winter in the summer, then it wouldn’t be so cold”) lands a gig selling Christmas trees around the corner. They dood it. Writers: Edna Skelton, Jack Douglas, Ben Freedman, Johnny Murray.

Radio Reader’s Digest: The Only Wise Man (dramatic anthology; NBC, 1947)—Paul Lukas, unidentified cast. The Watch on the Rhine star features delightfully as a Texas eccentric hustling odd jobs, shying from church, but proving himself a wiser man than more formally pious townfolk when he helps a new minister with a Christmas pageant. Writer: Jean Holloway.

Our Miss Brooks: The Magical Christmas Tree (comedy; CBS, 1949)—Eve Arden, Jeff Chandler, Jane Morgan, Richard Crenna, Gloria McMillan, Gale Gordon, Virginia Gordon. Connie plans for a quiet Christmas with Boynton going out of town, until she buys a tree from a small boy selling them door-to-door and notices it carries a peculiar glow—a glow that suggests some very strange happenings. It almost worked this well on television, too Writer/director: Al Lewis.

The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Jack Benny as Santa (comedy; NBC, 1949)—Phil Harris, Alice Faye, Jeanine Roos, Anne Whitfield, Robert North, Elliott Lewis, Walter Tetley, Mary Livingstone’s husband. Due to apparent popular demand, 1948′s charming episode is repeated. And still a charmer. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

The Bob Hope Show: The Story of Bingsy and Bobsy (comedy; NBC, 1950)—Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jane Morgan, unidentified others. Live from Long Beach (CA) Veterans’ Hospital: Hope remembers his first Christmas with Crosby, when they were both neighbourhood children, and their lives and friendship since, with more than a few twists and turns. Der Bingle includes a rendition of “Silent Night.” Writers: Unidentified.

Fibber McGee & Molly: Spending Christmas at Home (comedy; NBC, 1953)—Jim and Marian Jordan, Arthur Q. Bryan, Bill Thompson. Home is where Molly decides she’d rather spend Christma with McGee, who is just as bent on taking her out for a fancy holiday dinner. Doc: Arthur Q. Bryan. Wimpole: Bill Thompson. Announcer: John Wald. Writers: Phil Leslie, Ralph Goodman.

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