A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Lionel Barrymore

Born April 28, 1878 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died November 15, 1954 in Van Nuys, California of a heart attack

A CHRISTMAS CAROL, annual broadcast of Charles Dickens classic story.

BROADCAST HISTORY: Heard each Christmas in various lengths and formats, mostly on CBS, beginning Dec. 25, 1934, until Dec. 20, 1953.

"A Christmas Carol" with Lionel Barrymore was perhaps radio's best-loved single program. For the 1934 premiere, CBS made a party of it. blocking out almost three hours of its Christmas afternoon schedule for the play and other acts. Alexander Woollcott was the master of ceremonies, and Beatrice Lillie appeared in support. Barrymore's portrait of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge was coveted thereafter. On Dec. 25, 1935 and 1937, the show was sponsored on CBS by Campbell Soup. Barrymore's wife died in 1936; his brother John played the role that year on the CBS "Hollywood Hotel." Barrymore was absent for the Dec. 23, 1938 "Campbell Playhouse" broadcast; Orson Welles played Scrooge that year, but Barrymore returned to the CBD-Campbell microphone Dec. 24, 1939, and again Dec. 20, 1940. He crossed to NBC for the Dickens classic on "The Rudy Vallee Show" for Sealtest in 1941-42, both shows airing Christmas Eve. From 1943-47, the sketch was offered on Barrymore's own show, "Mayor of the Town," during Christmas week broadcasts for Noxzema. On Dec. 25, 1948, it was part of a two-hour CBS special, with many surrounding acts and guest stars. In 1949-50, it was heard on Mutual; 1951 by transcribed syndication; on "The Hallmark Playhouse" Dec. 21, 1952, and "The Hallmark Hall of Fame,: Dec. 20, 1953. Until his death, Nov. 15, 1954, Barrymore captured as did none other the essence of "that grasping, clutching, conniving old sinner, Ebenezer Scrooge."

Edmund Gwenn, Ronald Colman and Basil Rathbone also tried it at various times. In 1936 Gracie Allen offered her version on the "Burns and Allen" Dec. 2, broadcast. Spoofs were heard on such diverse series as Dick Powell's "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" and James Stewart western "The Six Shooter."

Taken verbatim from John Dunning's "On the Air, The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio"