As Christmas approaches, we reach for our bookshelves and pull down Charles Dickens’ beloved tale of hardship, revelation, and a miser’s redemption in the holiday season. I speak, of course, of The Cricket on the Hearth, published in 1845 as the third of what would be Dickens’ five Christmas books. (The first, of which you may have heard, was A Christmas Carol.) From the very year of its publication, The Cricket on the Hearth found great success as a stage production, and it continued to be adapted even in the age of radio. The story was a century old by the time it aired on NBC, in the broadcast that opens the five-and-a-half-hour compilation of Christmas old-time radio above.
That video is just one of three uploaded in the past few weeks by the Youtube channel An Evening of Old-Time Radio. It collects a variety of Christmas-themed specials and broadcasts from shows like Lux Radio Theatre, The Coronet Little Show, and CBS Ceiling Unlimited (an aviation-promoting wartime effort created by Orson Welles).
The second volume features more than six hours of holiday episodes from the hit series of the Golden Age of Radio, including sitcoms like Our Miss Brooks, The Life of Riley, Fibber McGee and Molly, and its spinoff The Great Gildersleeve. Their characters, much like their listeners, struggle to do their shopping and organize their parties — and amid it all, of course, find their way to the true meaning of Christmas.
The latest video in An Evening of Old Time Radio’s “Yuletide OTR” series includes radio adaptations of It’s a Wonderful Life, which now defines the genre of the Christmas movie, followed by one of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Scheduled for release this Christmas day, the fourth installment promises yet more seasonally appropriate stories — with the requisite gags, complications, and final swells of good cheer — from such mid-century domestic comedies as The Aldrich Family, Lum and Abner, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. But as you’ll hear, neither could thriller, mystery, and western shows like The Man Called X, The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe, and The Six Shooter resist telling a Christmas tale — nor can we, all these decades later, resist hearing one.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.