Saturday, December 3, 2016

25 More Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 3: Three Men from NBC's Radio City Playhouse

This is my third entry for this year's Old Time Radio Christmas.  So I wanted to find something that made sense....maybe something that comes in a set of three...what around the holidays comes in sets of three....?  Got it!  Wise men!

Thanks to Radio great Wyllis Cooper, we have a great retelling of the story of the three kings.  Here is a link to all the previous 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 close to Christmas.

St. Paul United Church of Christ (Saline, Michigan)
Nativity at St. Paul United Church of Christ (Saline, Michigan) - December 2011

Some of my favorite series on Old Time Radio offered up a unique story with each episode.  Rather than starting with a set of characters that you are familiar with, these episodes start from scratch.  Some of my favorites include The Whistler, Suspense, The Columbia Workshop  just to name a few.  Radio City Playhouse is a program that I had not come across with my interest in the Golden Age of Radio - but it looks like one that I will have to visit again.  NBC produced this great anthology series for just two years (1948 to 1949), but it allowed Wyllis Cooper to share one of the great Christmas stories ever heard over the airwaves.

During my first year of featuring Old Time Radio shows about Christmas, I showcased a 1937 story from Arch Oboler's Lights Out called Uninhabited (from December 22, 1937).  I did not know if it was from Arch Oboler or Wyllis Cooper, the two visionaries behind the great series, Lights Out.  Eleven years later, Wyllis Cooper presented this script on the Radio City Playhouse (which helped me figure out who wrote it).  The story is really fantastic and provides a retelling of the three kings at the birth of Jesus.  It was Christmas Eve 1918 and the fighting in Europe during World War I had stopped.  We find three Allied officers heading on a train for a long needed rest. The three solders were very different, one from France, one from Australia and one from America. These three officers dozed off, and simultaneously dreamed about being the three Magi, looking for the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years earlier. I love the story because it is a beautiful telling of the three Magi.  It also has a nice message about race relations from the perspective of the 1930s.  

On the Radio City Playhouse, Wyllis Cooper brought this great story back to life.  Reusing scripts was a common occurrence during this time and it allowed people to catch programs they might have otherwise missed.  The show features Bill Lipton, Grant Richards, Ian Martin, and John McQuade, Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can listed to this 1948 version and compare it with the 1937 original.  Either way, a beautiful story for the Christmas season.  Be sure to check out Wyllis Cooper's Script for Three Men (as originally performed on Lights Out in 1937).

Three Men (from Radio City Playhouse - December 20, 1948)

Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and Radio City Playhouse:
Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) & Other Links

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

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

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