Wednesday, December 16, 2015

25 More Days of Old Time Radio Christmas: Day 15 - A Child is Born (from Cavalcade of America)

One of the greatest series on Old Time Radio is the Cavalcade of America.  This is a great series that includes seemingly everything from historical accounts, to dramatizations of fiction stories, and just about all that lies in between.  I did not feature them last year, but they had great shows that I featured for my lighthouse series earlier in the year (here is the Woman on Lime Rock episode about keeper Ida Lewis).

I am happy to feature this series for the Christmas series.  This is the second year I have showcased different Old Time Radio programs for Christmas.  Here is a link to all the 2014 OTR Christmas entries.  If you have Sirius/XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148).  He does a great job of showcasing great holiday themed episodes, especially as we get closer to Christmas and the end of December.  I actually heard this driving the other week as part of the Frank Sinatra blocks that he setup to celebrate the centennial of his birth.

Nativity Scene at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (Saline, Michigan)
Nativity Scene at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (Saline, Michigan) - 2013

The Cavalcade of America is a great series sponsored by DuPont.  The purpose of the program has been one of great study and I am definitely glad that I have a few episodes to talk about it.  The long-running show ran from 1935 to 1953 and then had a second life on television.  Starting first on the CBS Network, it moved to NBC in 1939.  This 30 minute program provided a great platform to showcase some of the lesser known incidents and people who made the country great.  Not only was this series a great source of historical dramas, there were numerous fictional stories brought in as well.  From the Internet Archive page (see link below),  "The company's motto, 'Maker of better things for better living through chemistry,' was read at the beginning of each program, and the dramas emphasized humanitarian progress, particularly improvements in the lives of women, often through technological innovation."

As the United States finished up their first full year embroiled in World War II, The Cavalcade of America featured a new nativity play written for the radio by Stephen Vincent Benet called A Child is Born.  This was broadcast over the NBC Radio Network on December 21, 1942.  The play starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in the roles of the innkeeper and wife of those who provide shelter to Joseph and Mary on their travels to Bethlehem.

Waiting? For what?

I do not know. For something new and strange,
Something I've dreamt about in some deep sleep,
Truer than any waking,
Heard about, long ago, so long ago,
In sunshine and the summer grass of childhood,
When the sky seems so near.
I do not know its shape, its will, its purpose
And yet all day its will has been upon me,
And there is light in it and fire and peace,
Newness of heart and strangeness like a sword,
And all my body trembles under it,
And yet I do not know.

You're tired, my dear.
Well, we shall sleep soon.

No, I am not tired.
I am expectant as a runner is
Before a race, a child before a feast day,
A woman at the gates of life and death,
Expectant for us all, for all of us
Who live and suffer on this little earth
With such small brotherhood. Something begins.
Something is full of change and sparkling stars.
And yet--I cannot read it yet. I wait
And strive--and cannot find it.
Variety said this about the production:

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne lent added stature to 'A Child is Born,' an original Miracle verse-playlet by Stephen Vincent Benet, Monday night (21) on 'Cavalcade of America' on NBC.  Although Benet has still not completely mastered the radio medium, his script had a fresh approach and built to an uplifting finale.  Miss Fontanne's mannered style of playing seemed somewhat flat in the early passages, but reached an infectious intensity toward the close.  Lunt's performance was hurried at the start, but he too improved.  The script contained numerous topical suggestions.  Ardon Cornwell's score used orchestra and choir in arrangements of sacred music.  Du Point eliminated its commercial copy for the occasion.  - Variety (December 23, 1942, page 34 - from ProQuest Variety Archive)
So that is why you need to listen to another episode to know that Du Pont makes for better living through chemistry!  The announcer for that episode was Bud Collyer, who would be known for his work as Superman over the radio.  Enjoy!

December 21, 1942 (A Child is Born)
Radio Script (from the Generic Radio Workshop Script Library)

Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and Cavalcade of America:

          25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

          25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

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