Thursday, December 8, 2016

25 More Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 8: Miracle in Manhattan from the Columbia Workshop (1941)

With the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I wanted to showcase a show that was broadcast in that difficult Christmas of 1941, just over three weeks after the United States declared war on the Axis Powers. So I saw this episode from the great series Columbia Workshop called Miracle in Manhattan.  What is not to like about that.  Just turns out that it had a very familiar story line....very, very familar!  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.

Various Shots of the Garment District (New York City) - August 2014

Picture of New York's Garment District from 2014

The Columbia Workshop was a staple of the CBS Network from 1936 through 1942 and from 1946 through 1947. According the Rob Lackmann's Encylcopedia of American Radio, the Columbia Workshop was designed "to develop new writing talent for radio and to experiment with innovative techniques for presenting drama on the medium." One of the most creative voices from the Columbia Workshop was Norman Corwin, though he did not work on this episode.

So yesterday on my blog, I featured Duffy's Tavern and the stranger who took Archie around the neighborhood and showed what was possible at the holidays.  Well, maybe the stranger showed what was possible all year long, but I digress.  So when I started listening to Miracle in Manhattan, it immediately struck me that it sounded familiar.  It was one of the featured Christmas programs on CBS as reported in Variety on December 17, 1941 (p.44):

Number of special Christmas shows will be broadcast this year by CBS.  Virtually all the regular network series will observe the holidays in some fashion, but among the specially planned season programs will be 'Miracle in Manhattan,' written and directed by Charles Vanda with Ed Gardner for 'Columbia Workshop.'
So where I am going with this - by now your figured this out.  'Miracle in Manhattan' is the early version of the script we showcased yesterday.  As Ed Gardner developed the Archie character on different shows, he used it on the Columbia Workshop.  There are many elements that are virtually the same.  There are some great twists to the opening phone call that Archie received for sure.

Duffy's Tavern, where the elite meet to eat.  Archie the manager speaking.  Duffy ain't here.  Oh, hello Duffy.  What am I doing?  I'm in the Columbia Workshop.  What am I in for?  Duffy, I said Work-SHOP.  Yeah.  Tonight I am a artist.  Yeah.  An Actor.  Were doing a thing called 'Miracle in Manhattan.'  What do you mean, if its good it will be a miracle?  Duffy, you ain't got no Christmas spirit, that's all.  Who's idea is it?  Well, it's Columbia's Western Program Director, he dreamed it up.  Yeah - Charlie Vanda - he's a friend of mine.  Came to New York on a bus, on a busman's holiday from Hollywood.  He's directing it too.  Well, I don't know, it starts like all Christmas plays, the band plays Silent Night, and we're into it.

One of the key differences is that they are moving around town in a cab - since that is his job.  But there are some great features that really warrant having this show up in the blog as well.  One of the great aspects of this episode is the car horn chorus of "Silent Night."

The Columbia Workshop always did a great job with their programs - and this is certainly no exception.  Even though it is just like yesterday's program, to see a story develop from concept to a regular series is a great way to view the history of radio.

The Miracle in Manhattan (Columbia Workshop - December 21, 1941)
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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