Open a New Door . . .

Well, this is St. Nicholas Day. Traditionally, it is the day on which children in Germany (among whom I once numbered) put their hands in their boots to find out whether Saint Nick, passing by overnight, left anything within. Preferably candy, and, given the repository, preferably wrapped. Now, it has been several decades since last I observed the custom. These days, as an every so slightly overweight atheist with somewhat of a passion for boots, I would be more pleased to find my footwear polished.

There are still a few holiday customs I like to observe. I shall miss the annual display of tinsel, since we won’t be home long enough to enjoy the spectacle. So, Ms. Colbert, generally to be found up a tree around this time, is going to dangle elsewhere this season.

At least I won’t have to do without the miniature thrills of opening those little doors (or Türchen). This year, my Advent calendar (which I used to make but never get for myself) arrived just in time for the first of those twenty-four minute inspections, a welcome series of opening acts at a time when you are supposed to be closing the door on a rapidly expiring year. How surprised and delighted I was to be receiving a calendar featuring old Krtek, the mole that dug up childhood memories a few months ago on my trip to Prague. How fortunate I am to have a best friend (and fellow web journalist) who remembers . . .

Since this is also the 107th birthday of the aforementioned Agnes Moorehead (1900-1974), radio’s First Lady of Suspense (heard on this day, 6 December, as the “Useful Information Lady” in Orson Welles’s Hello Americans), it is an opportune time to return to my journal and my favorite subject . . . so-called old-time radio drama. The last few days have been rather busy and none too inspired. I did not get to pick a Dickens novel, which I enjoy reading around this time. Nor did I manage to follow this season’s twenty-part radio adaptation of Dombey and Son. The serial is still being broadcast and you may catch up with this week’s chapters at the BBC broadcast archive.

Until my departure for New York City next Friday, I am going to listen to a few recordings of seasonal broadcasts from the 1930s, ’40s, or early 50s (as I have done before). Now, Ms. Moorehead would have made a wonderful Scrooge. Never mind that, as The Mayor of the Town‘s Dickensian housekeeper Marilly, she was still heard humming “O Tannenbaum” well past New Year’s (21 January 1948, to be exact); but, unlike so many actors before and after, foremost among them her costar, the actor pictured in the previous entry into this journal (and heard here doing his celebrated impersonation of Dickens’s old grouch, however incongruously, on the same program [24 December 1942]), the former Margot Lane to Welles’s Shadow was never cast in the role. And Susan Lucci was? As Krtek might say, “Bah, hummock!”

4 Replies to “Open a New Door . . .”

  1. I must confess that, for years, I really haven\’t had my heart in Christmas – for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, each December, I do make some attempt to \”get into the spirit\” in spending a good part of the month watching Golden Age films in which the holiday is featured. One of these, of course, is MGM\’s A Christmas Carol (1938). … I found Barrymore\’s Scrooge rather milder (subtler, maybe?) than that of Reginald Owen, the actor whom Barrymore insisted be given the part when the powers that be offered it to him (Barrymore) … or so the story goes. I agree that the crotchety Agnes would have made a marvelous Scrooge. … Susan Lucci? That was news to me; I don\’t keep abreast as you do.


  2. Well, Ebbie (starring Lucci) first aired in 1995. Last year I got to see a stage version of A Christmas Carol starring Oliver!\’s Ron Moody. He was right for the part, too. Dickens\’s ghost story gets me \”into the spirit\” (almost) no matter how ghastly the reincarnation. And I love it for that.


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