Jolly Holiday Fun

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I just love this time of year. I love the bright shining lights, the decorated trees, shopping for just the right present, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, and, of course, visiting family and friends. This year I am a bit behind. I don’t even have the tree up! There are still cookies to be baked! I have not stuffed even one cat into a Holiday costume yet! Where has the time gone? Here are two classic radio shows to listen to as you rush around like mad to get everything done (just like me). And two TV holiday episodes to watch when you finally get a chance to put your feet up and relax. Happy Holidays everyone.
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The Burns and Allen Show:
12/22/1942 “Santa and the Pirates”

George Burns and Gracie Allen are one of my favorite comedy duos. He plays the wise cracking husband, she plays the ditzy wife. But in reality George always admitted that Gracie had the harder job. Since her lines often did not make sense (as part of Gracie’s “illogical logic”) Gracie had to memorize every word; no ad libbing or the story might get too confusing. George and Gracie met in 1922 and married in 1926. They got their first radio show in 1934. At first, their show, The Adventures of Gracie, was a “flirtation act” with Gracie as a young single woman and George her most persistent suitor. By 1941 their ratings had begun to slip and George decided they were too old for their act. He changed the show’s format to a husband and wife sitcom and the title to The Burns and Allen Show. They followed a similar theme when their show made the jump to television in 1950.

The 1942 Christmas episode, “Santa and the Pirates”, is a little different from the radio show’s usual format. This episode is a Christmas dream fantasy that starts out with an upset neighbor confronting George and Gracie because Gracie’s pet duck has eaten all the neighbor’s goldfish. George is not too fond of the duck, Herman Burns, anyways but the duck is Gracie’s baby. After the neighbor and George leave, Gracie starts to tell Herman a Christmas story but they both fall asleep. In Gracie’s dream, she and George fly on Herman’s back to the North Pole. There they meet a distraught Santa (played by Mel Blanc). Santa thinks Christmas is ruined because all of the toys have been stolen by pirates. Will George and Gracie be able to help Santa get the toys back? Will George ever like Herman Burns the Duck?

“Santa and the Pirates” runs 29 minutes and 33 seconds. This is the entire original broadcast including several songs: Santa Claus is Coming to Town, a Swan’s Soap song (“Scrub Me with Swan”), and a rather shrill love song. Swan Soap commercials are written right into the story. One commercial includes one of the stolen toys, a wind-up baby doll, that talks about how great Swan Soap is. This is a 1942 broadcast, the height of World War II, and George and Gracie even do a pitch for War Stamps. The story is silly but George is great and Gracie is absolutely hilarious. Mel Blanc as Santa is so familiar and funny (for those who do not know, Mel is the famous voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, and many many other cartoon greats. Mel is also the voice of Gracie’s silly duck. The audio quality is excellent.
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The Great Gildersleeve:
121/25/1946 “Christmas Caroling at Gildersleeves”

Harold Peary played Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve first as a supporting character on the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show and then as the star of his own show The Great Gildersleeve. The highlight of the series, of course, is Harold’s great voice. That “sonorous voice and flustered catchphrases” are unmistakable and that laugh is simply hilarious. The Great Gildersleeve radio show ran for 17 years and was one of radio’s longest running comedy shows. But Harold did not make the entire run. He was replaced in 1951 when CBS did a talent raid on NBC radio. Harold wanted a bigger stake in his show and more chances to use his singing voice. The problem was that his show’s sponsor did not want to move and simply replaced him. CBS gave Harold a new show but it was never as popular as The Great Gildersleeve and the Gildersleeve show itself was never as popular without Harold Peary although it limped on for a few more years.

In “Christmas Caroling at Gildersleeves” Gildy is trying to arrange a night of Christmas Caroling at his house when he gets caught up in some rapidly expanding gossip about some neighbors. Gildy helps spread the gossip while thinking he is tamping it down. Gildy also has some holiday trouble with his niece and nephew. The kids are reluctant to once again sit through a reading of A Christmas Carol, little Leroy would much rather go to the movie The Killers. A grumpy neighbor boy also dampens Gildy’s Christmas spirit. Will Gildersleeve ever get the kids all in line? Will Gildy and his friends ever get to go caroling?

“Christmas Caroling at Gildersleeves” runs just short of 30 minutes and includes a Kraft commercial about the religious meaning of Christmas. This episode includes the appearance of many of the Gildersleeve regulars including Peavy (Richard LeGrand), Floyd the Barber (Floyd Munson), Eve (Bea Benaderet), the niece Marjorie, and nephew Leroy (Walter Tetley) and Birdie the housekeeper (Lillian Randolph). There is some caroling towards the end of the program but there are also a lot of interruptions as new characters arrive. Birdie does get to croon a short hymn-like tune. The audio quality is excellent and Gildy’s giggle is, of course, hilarious.

 

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The Beverly Hillbillies:
S2 E14 “Christmas at the Clampetts”

The Beverly Hillbillies ran for nine season on CBS, September 26, 1962 to March 23, 1971. For eight of those nine seasons, it was among the Top 20 most watched TV programs. It certainly was one of my favorite shows. I just love Irene Ryan as Granny. She is absolutely hilarious. Granny gets into all kinds of predicaments through mix-ups and misunderstandings yet Irene always makes sure that Granny maintains her feisty dignity. It is hard to imagine anyone else playing Granny but Irene Ryan was not the first choice of series creator and producer Paul Henning. Paul had originally wanted Bea Benaderet but when Irene Ryan came in for a tryout with her hair already tried back in a bun and in full feisty Granny-mode everyone was blown away. Irene became Granny and Bea went on to play Jed Clampett’s cousin, Pearl Bodine. Irene Ryan went on to be nominated for Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1963 and 1964. Series creator Paul Henning got the idea for his hugely popular comedy while on a 1959 vacation visiting Southern Civil War sites with his mother-in-law. I really wonder if his mother-in-law was anything at all like Granny.

“Christmas at the Clampetts” was originally broadcast on December 25, 1963. The Clampetts, Jed, Granny, Elly Mae, and Jethro, are not very impressed with Christmas in California. Granny is especially scornful of the artificial snow on their Christmas tree when she exclaims: “Pitiful. Don’t even know how to snow proper around here”. Their banker, Mr. Drysdale, wants to make sure the Clampett clan (and their millions) stays in California so he has picked out Christmas gifts, like scuba diving gear and a boat, designed for coastal fun. But the Clampetts have no idea what the wet suits are for and think their new boat was washed up to their front door during an overnight storm. They are even more astonished when they discover a chimpanzee on the boat. Meanwhile, Mrs. Drysdale goes a little looney when she thinks the Clampetts have gotten her a huge diamond for Christmas but lost the gem somewhere in the backyard. Can all the misunderstandings be cleared up in time for Christmas? Will the Clampetts ever find a place to float their boat?

“Christmas at the Clampetts” is in black and white and runs just short of 25 minutes. The episode is from the second season and is showing its age with video that is a bit faded and fuzzy but the audio is still excellent. There is no Miss Jane Hathaway in this episode which is a shame because she was always one of my favorite characters. I would rather see Miss Jane’s smart but underestimated secretary than greedy social climbing Mrs. Drysdale any day. Also Irene Ryan does not get a chance to go Granny-ballistic in this episode. It is just a quietly funny episode with the Clampetts all agog at the mystifying ways of Southern California in the 1960s.
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The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet:
S5 E12 “The Busy Christmas”

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet starred the real life Nelson family of Ozzie and Harriet and sons David and Ricky. The show began on radio in 1944 and ran for 402 episodes. Ozzie and Harriet’s radio sons were originally played by actors. Their real sons joined the cast in 1949 when the boys were eight and twelve years old. The long-running radio show made a successful jump to television on October 10, 1952. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet TV show ran for 436 episodes and ended on April 23, 1966. With 14 seasons, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is the “longest running live-action American sitcom”. Although this record is about to be tied since It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was just renewed for a 13th and 14th season on April 1, 2016.

“The Busy Christmas” originally aired on December 19, 1956. But the episode was rerun in 1964 with a few new scenes added at beginning and end. The new scenes show Ozzie and Harriet reminiscing about a past Christmas and the episode ends with a new scene of Ricky (by 1964 he was a teen record idol) singing a Christmas song. “The Busy Christmas” episode itself features the Nelson family getting ready for Christmas. They are nowhere near ready: the tree needs to be bought, the lights need to be put up, the shopping needs to be finished (sounds about like me actually). Despite how busy he is, Ozzie keeps getting roped into more and more activities. In one instance, a neighbor bemoans that his group needs a Santa suit for a Christmas Eve party at a nearby orphanage. When Ozzie says he has a Santa suit, the neighbor assumes he can borrow the suit and Ozzie to play Santa. Ozzie has so much to do but he keeps getting interrupted and roped into more activities. Will Ozzie ever get the Christmas lights up? Will he manage to remember all his lines for the Christmas play?

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was a hugely popular show. Ozzie Nelson not only starred in his show but he wrote and directed all 436 TV episodes. Many of the story lines were taken from the Nelson’s real lives. As the sons grew up and got married and had families, their real life wives and children joined the show. The exterior shots of the house was the actual family home and interior scenes, while sets, were painstakingly recreated from the real Nelson home. The Internet Archive has the 1964 rerun of “The Busy Christmas” complete with the added scenes and original commercials. The episode runs 29 minutes and is in black and white. The video is crisp and clean and the audio is excellent.

 

Just click on the links to enjoy some jolly old fashioned Holiday fun. All of our Holiday episodes are available FREE to download or watch or listen to online at the Internet Archive:
The Burns and Allen Show – “Santa and the Pirates

The Great Gildersleeve – “Christmas Caroling at Gildersleeves

The Beverly Hillbillies – “Christmas at the Clampetts

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet – “The Busy Christmas

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