Tuesday, December 15, 2015

25 More Days of Old Time Radio Christmas: Day 14 - The Gift of the Magi (Radio Reader's Digest)

A few days ago I featured the Radio Reader's Digest episode starring Frank Sinatra called Room for a Stranger.  I am heading back to this series for one of the great dramatization of a Christmas classic from author O. Henry.  While this program was first broadcast only a few months after Room for a Stranger in March 1947, and it has a bit of a twist from the original story.  And while they changed the holidays to make it work for a March airing, it clearly is one that should be included in this series of Christmas Old Time Radio episodes.

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.

Red Squirrel at My New Squirrel Feeder (Saline, Michigan) - February 14, 2015
Red Squirrel at my backyard feeder - February 2015 in Saline, Michigan.
The Radio Reader's Digest is a great series on radio. It started in 1942 as a CBS series with Ernest Chappell as the announcer. Ernest Chappell was well known as the lead actor and announcer for Quiet Please. The stories for the Radio Reader's Digest came from the pages of Reader's Digest, which was a huge publication during the 30s and 40s for sure. It still is most certainly around (seehttp://www.rd.com/). The radio program that came from their publication was first sponsored by the Campbell Soup Company, it shifted to Hallmark in 1946. Later, the series would be changed to the Hallmark Playhouse and feature dramatic versions of classics of world literature.  Last year, I featured their program telling the story of the writing of the Christmas classic song, Silent Night.

On March 20, 1947, the Radio Reader's Digest was sponsored by Hallmark Cards and hosted by Richard Kollmar. The story stared movie star Gene Tierney as the young bride in O. Henry's brilliant story, The Gift of the Magi,  with William Quinn as her husband. Instead of Christmas, the story was changed to the young couple's first wedding anniversary.  What did not change was the fact that they had few materials possessions that they cherished.  For her, it was her beautiful hair.  For him, it was a watch that was fancier than anything else he owned.  The young couple wished so much to buy something special for their anniversary, that they lost sight of what really mattered.

The story can be played for tears, but it was definitely played with a more light-hearted approach and got lots of laughs from the studio audience.  As stores are telling us that they are the means to "Win the Holidays," it is nice to know that some of the best gifts are the most simple.  Enjoy this wonderful telling of this classic American short story.

The Gift of the Magi (March 20, 1947)

Here are some links to programs relating to the Radio Reader's Digest:

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

        25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

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