As we have reached the 25th Day of my Old Time Radio blog celebrating Christmas, we are at my other favorite episodes - or series of episodes: The Elgin Watch Specials. These 2 hour shows are too long to be broadcast on Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148), but are simply the best part of the holidays for me, especially if you are cooking in the Christmas. Here is a link to all the previous OTR Christmas entries.
|Flapjack my beagle - Christmas 2012|
One of the really cool shows I stumbled onto a few years back were the Elgin Seasonal Specials for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the 1940s. These were also known as Elgin's "2 Hours of Stars." The shows were sponsored by the Elgin Watch Company of Elgin, Illinois. Starting in 1942 for the soldiers overseas, the Elgin Holiday Specials were two hour programs that featured the brightest stars in radio and the movies. Heard on these programs is Bing Crosby, Mario Landa, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope and were all hosted by Don Ameche. The Internet Archives has five total shows (see the link below). One of the real treats takes place one hour into the show from 1945. Jack Benny gave a twisted performance of Sorry Wrong Number, one of the most iconic episodes of Suspense. Also, given that the program runs 2 hours, these are not commonly played on current radio programs like XM 148.
I read that the specials had very different purposes. The Thanksgiving shows were to get you to think about Elgin Watches and accessories for Christmas gifts. The Christmas shows were to get you to think about Elgin Watches as you cashed in your gift certificates that you might have received for the holidays. Variety reported in June 1949:
Shows last year cost Elgin an estimated $100,000 each, of which $26,000 went for network time and $60,000 for talent. First program to get the axe was the Christmas package, which was aimed at coaxing recipents of gift certificates into post-holiday buying of timepieces. Last year's January business, however, was reportedly so far from expectations that the watch company figured it has a white elephant on its hand. J. Walter Thomson agency made a fight to save the plum, with no luck.As a great variety show that lasts two hours, it is a perfect thing to have on your radio (or computer) as you cook the Christmas meal. It has been on the radio in my kitchen these last few years over the holidays. Though we are not cooking for Christmas this year, it is a regular for me and will be my go-to Old Time Radio program for both Christmas and Thanksgiving. I hope some day to write up something more in-depth on this program.
Here are links right to the Elgin's Christmas Shows:
Elgin's 3rd Annual Christmas Show (December 25, 1944)
Summary: The show features and all star list of radio and movie actors including: Ginny Simms, Eddie Anderson, Jack Benny, Louis Silvers and His Orchestra, Manny Klein, The Swing Wing, The Charioteers, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Carmen Miranda, Joseph Szigeti, The Les Paul Trio, Barbara Jo Allen, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby. The great Don Ameche served as the master of ceremonies. I think it is totally great to hear any early performance by Guitar great Les Paul and his Trio! Bing Crosby also went off the Christmas script and sang "Don't Fence Me In." The routine between Bob Hope and Bing Crosby was fantastic as well.
The shows have great Christmas music, and some pretty funny comedy bits. I particularly enjoy the long skit between singer Ginny Simms, Jack Benny and Eddie Anderson about how they were rehearsing for this song on the Elgin special. The performance also by guitar great Les Paul is fantastic.
In the Variety Radio Reviews of the program (which appear in the December 27, 1944 issue - page 28):
This third annual Elgin Watch Christmas Day star-studded show was a boff companion piece for the company-sponsored Thanksgiving program-and that's another way of saying that you'll probably have to wait a long time (until, perhaps, Elgin shoots the works on another ultra-package) to match the 120 minutes of entertainment that went out over the CBS network from 4 to 6 p.m. And like the Thanksgiving show, this one not only went into the homes of the nation's Yuletide celebrants, but circuited the global warfronts.
Here was a Xmas package that couldn't but help momentarily gladden the hearts of those GIs holding down the battle line forts. As such it will stand as a tribute to Bob Hope-Bing Crosby-Jack Benny & Co. (and with due acknowledgement to the whole supporting cast); to the top scripting job sparked by Carroll Carroll and overall Tony Stanford production that combines a properly tempoed humor and hilarity with a complete awareness of the sensitivities involved in justifying a gay, laughing-at-home mood in contrast to the misery and tragedies that the boys overseas are encountering. It was to a large measure, that sensitively-wrought portion that helped make the show memorable, particularly in the treatment it was given by Don Ameche, who emceed the show (there ought to be a Society of the Promotion of Ameche as Permanent Emcee for Such Occasions), and in the Crosby windup spiel.
The show was well paced and marked by a proper integration of drama, comedy, music (both in the hot and longhaired idiom), all with dignity and, for the most part, in good taste, but essentially it was a show build for laughs - laughs to hypo GI spirits and those at home with a stake in the war via concern for sons, fathers, brothers, sweethearts. It was comedy with a purpose, and in paying the freight, Elgin contributed its own generous portion of extending the season's greetings.
Not that the program was without its imperfections. In keeping with that overall good-will-toward-men theme, those Elgin pitches could have been soft-pedalled; similarly the multiplicity of plugs to fie in the products of the guestars were overworked. There was, too, a middle-portion boggin down in which Carmen Miranda, in particular, came off second best.
But add up that wham Crosby-Hope latter portion routine with its spontaneity and warm, infections quality; that Jack Benny-Rochester-Ginny Simms fiddle accomp comedy stretch; the latter's sock renditions of "Hallelujah" and "Wish You Were Waiting for Me"; add, too, the Burns & Allen-Don Ameche laugh-packed skit, the Charioteers singing "Poor Little Jesus Boy," the Les Paul Trio doing "Danger - Men At Work," the hot routine of the Swing Wing (Mannie Klein) musical combo from the Santa Ana Army Air Base Band, the change in pace via Joseph Szigeti's flawless violinistics, and it's easy to understand why this Christmas package couldn't miss.I was not familiar with Carroll Carroll....but he was a comedy writer who died in 1991. Here are his writing credits from the RadioGOLDINdex.
Elgin's 4th Annual Christmas Show (December 25, 1945)
Summary: The show stars Don Ameche as the masters of ceremonies and a all star cast including: Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Ginny Simms, Red Skelton, Bob Crosby and The Bobcats, Barbara Jo Allen (as "Vera Vague"), Allan Jones, Artur Rubinstein, Ella Logan, Alan Reed, General Omar Bradley, The Charioteers, Larry Storch, and The Elgin Orchestra conducted by Louis Silvers.
Elgin's 7th Annual Christmas Show (December 25, 1948)
Summary: The show stars Don Ameche as the masters of ceremonies and a all star cast including: Sandra Berkova. Lauritz Melchior, Al Jolson, Danny Thomas, Red Ingle, Jack Kirkwood, Jo Stafford, Edgar Bergen, Sandra Berkova (a 15 year-old violinist), Cass Daley, Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Hilliard, Robert Armbruster and His Orchestra, and Jane Morgan.
I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and enjoy these wonderful recordings!
Here are some links to programs relating to the Elgin Watch Specials:
- Elgin Watch Specials episodes via the Internet Archive
- Elgin Holiday Shows on Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs
- Elgin Watch entry in the Wikipedia
- Thanksgiving Elgin Specials on my blog
Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) & Other Links
- 2016 Day 1: The Shadow's Christmas Carol
- 2016 Day 2: The Story of Christmas Seals from Cavalcade of America
- 2016 Day 3: Three Men from NBC's Radio City Playhouse
- 2016 Day 4: Johnny Dollar's Missing Mouse Matter (1956)
- 2016 Day 5: Berlin, 1945 from Quiet Please
- 2016 Day 6: Christmas Clothing Drive with Our Miss Brooks (1950)
- 2016 Day 7: Duffy's Tavern Christmas with Jeff Chandler (1948)
- 2016 Day 8: Miracle in Manhattan from the Columbia Workshop (1941)
- 2016 Day 9: Looking for a Christmas Tree with Fibber McGee & Molly
- 2016 Day 10: Christmas Shopping with Casey, Crime Photographer
- 2016 Day 11: A Radio Nutcracker
- 2016 Day 12: Double Entry from Suspense
- 2016 Day 13: More Shopping with Jack Benny (1944)
- 2016 Day 14: Bob Hope and Friends at Sawtelle Veterans Hospital (1946)
- 2016 Day 15: Christmas at Mission San Gabriel (Romance of the Ranchos)
- 2016 Day 16: Christmas on Broadway (kinda)
- 2016 Day 17: Norman Corwin's The Plot to Overthrow Christmas
- 2016 Day 18: Lucille Ball Knits a Sweater from My Favorite Husband
- 2016 Day 19: Finding Santa (This is Your FBI)
- 2016 Day 20: Barton Drake Saves Christmas (Mystery Is My Hobby)
- 2016 Day 21: The Only Wise Man from Radio Reader's Digest
- 2016 Day 22: Richer By One Christmas with Virginia Gregg
- 2016 Day 23: Big Little Jesus from Dragnet
- 2016 Day 24: Letter To An Unborn Child from Ceiling Unlimited
- 2016 Day 25: Christmas with Don Ameche and the Elgin Watch Company
- All my entries covering OTR and Christmas
- All my OTR blog posts
- Also visit 500 OTR Christmas Shows from the Internet Archive.
- Christmas Programs from Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs
- Christmas Scripts at Generic Radio Workshop
- Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148)
- Old Time Radio Drama (Wisconsin Public Radio)
- Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library
- 2015 Day 1 - Honest Harold's Christmas Party
- 2015 Day 2 - The Innocent Santa Claus (This is Your FBI)
- 2015 Day 3 - Christmas Story from The Mysterious Traveler
- 2015 Day 4 - All is Bright (the story of Silent Night)
- 2015 Day 5 - Beeker's Barn (a Christmas tale from Gunsmoke)
- 2015 Day 6 - Santa Claus of Bums' Boulevard (Casey Crime Photographer)
- 2015 Day 7 - Dr. Sixgun's A Pony for Christmas
- 2015 Day 8 - The Plot To Murder Santa Claus (with Frank Sinatra as Rocky Fortune)
- 2015 Day 9 - Department Store Woes with Johnny Dollar
- 2015 Day 10 - Department Store Contest with Connie Brooks
- 2015 Day 11 - Radio Nutcracker
- 2015 Day 12 - Frank Sinatra in Room for a Stranger (Radio Reader's Digest)
- 2015 Day 13 - A Child Visits the Magnificent Montague
- 2015 Day 14 - The Gift of the Magi (Radio Reader's Digest)
- 2015 Day 15 - A Child is Born (from Cavalcade of America)
- 2015 Day 16 - Dennis Day's The Boy Who Sang For The King
- 2015 Day 17 - Suspense's Back for Christmas (1943)
- 2015 Day 18 - Dancing Dan's Christmas (Damon Runyon Theater)
- 2015 Day 19 - Have Gun, Will Travel's Hanging Cross
- 2015 Day 20 - Dressing up as Santa on the Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show
- 2015 Day 21 - Great Gildersleeve and Leroy Alone for Christmas (1952)
- 2015 Day 22 - Fibber McGee and Molly's Phonograph (1940)
- 2015 Day 23 - The Messiah from Theater of Romance
- 2015 Day 24 - Big Little Jesus from Dragnet
- 2015 Day 25 - Christmas with Don Ameche and the Elgin Watch Company
25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)
- Day 1 - Nick Carter's Christmas Adventure
- Day 2 - The Saint is No Santa Claus
- Day 3 - Stolen Rings at Christmas with Boston Blackie
- Day 4 - Dragnet's Christmas Episodes
- Day 5 - Nero Wolfe & the Slaughtered Santas
- Day 6 - The Plot To Murder Santa Claus (with Frank Sinatra as Rocky Fortune)
- Day 7 - Christmas at Mission San Gabriel with Romance of the Ranchos
- Day 8 - Arch Oboler's Christmas 1918
- Day 9 - The Story of Silent Night (Hallmark Playhouse)
- Day 10 - Juggler of Notre Dame (with Nelson Eddy)
- Day 11 - Candy Matson's Christmas Episodes
- Day 12 - Lionel Barrymore's Mayor of the Town
- Day 13 - More Radio Adaptations of a Christmas Carol
- Day 14 - Tales Of The Texas Rangers (not those Rangers)
- Day 15 - Christmas in Connecticut (with Ronald Reagan)
- Day 16 - Holidays with Connie - Our Miss Brooks
- Day 17 - The Whistler's Christmas Episodes
- Day 18 - Detroit's WXYZ & The Lone Ranger
- Day 19 - Johnny Dollar and the Nick Shurn Matter
- Day 20 - Christmas Shopping with Jack Benny
- Day 21 - Gunsmoke's Christmas Story
- Day 22 - Bob Hope's Christmas Shows
- Day 23 - Christmas with Mel Blanc
- Day 24 - Bing Crosby's Christmas Shows
- Day 25 - Elgin Watch Christmas Specials
- Day 26 - Five Days Off For Christmas with Night Beat
- Day 27 - Let George Do It Christmas Episodes
- Day 28 - CBS Radio Workshop's All is Bright
- Day 29 - Hotpoint's The Man Who Came to Dinner (with Jack Benny)