Town Hall Tonight:
Santa Claus Sits Down
So few Christmastime or Christmas-themed installments of any Fred Allen show survive, among the small truckload of his shows that do, that finding any single one could be considered a treat, none more so than tonight’s installment—with Jack Benny as a break-in guest and Allen performing live from his beloathed Hollywood (where he was in town to make a film), the pair swapping rapiers in the slot where Allen normally commences Town Hall Tonight in earnest.
JACK BENNY: Jello again, this–—
FRED ALLEN: Go away.
BENNY: –—is Jack Benny talking.
ALLEN: Go away. Go away, boy.
BENNY: Oh, all right, gee, right away y—–
ALLEN: Get away from this microphone here.(Pause.) Good evening. We must get a weather strip put on this floor.
Eventually, the Mighty Allen Art Players will perform Allen’s classic routine about weary Santa finally throwing in the towel and going on a sit-down strike. Striking Santa will be preceded otherwise, however, by a clever and low-keyed “Town Hall News” zap against the day’s cold spell; an interview with a Warner Brothers backlot lunch cart operator; a jivey musical number about a riveter; a segment with Radio Guide photographer Eugene Lester; a segment with second bananette Portland Hoffa; and, a few more break-ins from Mary Livingstone’s husband. (“I didn’t expect to get paid for this, I haven’t any more right to take money for working on this program than you have.”)
The Mighty Allen Art Players: John Brown, Charlie Cantor, Minerva Pious, Walter Tetley, Harry Von Zell. Announcer: Harry Von Zell. Music: Peter van Steeden Orchestra. Writers: Fred Allen, Arnold Auerbach, Herman Wouk. (Yes, children—that Herman Wouk.)
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
The Eddie Cantor Show: Christmas Program (CBS, 1935)—Eddie (Cantor) gets lassoed into helping a woman plug a leak; a little runaway boy tries to adopt him; and, he ponders a new car. Parkyakarkus: Harry Einstein. Annoucer: Jimmy Wallington. Music: Louis Glass Orchestra. Writers: Possibly David Freedman, Carrol Carroll, Philip Rapp.
The Burns & Allen Show: Santa and the Wicked Pirate (CBS, 1942)—Two days before Christmas, while trimming the tree, Gracie fears her favourite duck, Herman, is missing—but when he turns up safe and sound, the duck just might quack up listening to Gracie telling him a Christmas story. Additional cast: Elvia Allman, Jimmy Cash, Lawrence Nash. Announcer: Bill Goodwin. Music: Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. Writers: Paul Henning, Keith Fowler, George Burns.
Duffy’s Tavern: Miracle in Manhattan (NBC, 1948)—One measly egg nog atop some bad nutmeg, and one snide Christmas card from his boss, put Archie in a slightly sour mood . . . until guest Jeff Chandler tries to convince the cynical barkeep (There’s two kinds of guys go to church—them that doesn’t, and them that don’t) a spell in church might lift his spirit—leading Archie to an unexpected moment of true faith, and a miracle before his weary eyes. Finnegan: Charles Cantor. Eddie: Eddie Green. Miss Duffy: Sandra Gould. Writers: Ed Gardner, Vinnie Bogert, Robert Schiller.
Rocky Fortune: The Plot to Murder Santa Claus (NBC, 1953)—Assigned to work as a department store detective, Rocky (Frank Sinatra) lands smack into the middle of trouble intended for the store’s Santa. Additional cast: Ted Borneo, Mary McGovern, Kay Stewart, Frank Bristol, Barney Phillips. Writer: George Lefferts.
The Couple Next Door: The Christmas Economy (CBS, 1959)—Shoving out of bed early under threat of a bucket of cold water is the least of their problems compared to trying to live up to their vow to cut down on frivolous Christmas spending. The Couple: Peg Lynch, Alan Bunce. Aunt Effie: Margaret Hamilton. Writer/direcrtor: Peg Lynch.