Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Serviceman's Christmas Past




Over the next couple of weeks I'll be featuring Christmas and Holiday related shows available to view and/or download from the Net.



To start off, we'll take a look back at the Christmas radio shows beamed over to the troops during World War II, and Bob Hope's  USO Christmas tour of 1958.



Just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor the biggest stars in Hollywood began donating their time each week to appear on the Armed Forces Radio `Command Performance' show, beamed via short wave radio to the troops overseas.


The concept of the show was simple.  G.I.'s could write in their requests of what they'd like to hear from home, and Hollywood would do their Darndest to make it happen. 


It might be the rebroadcast of the final round of a big stateside prize fight, or a request for a love song from Dinah Shore.  One serviceman even requested to hear the sound of a Las Vegas slot machine.  


The shows normally ran for 30 minutes, but a number of them were extended editions that ran an hour, and sometimes two hours.   Holiday shows were generally at least an hour long.


All of the talent was donated, and as a morale booster, Command Performance was a huge success.   More than 400 episodes were produced, with literally hundreds of stars appearing over the years.


Two stars, however, were very closely aligned with the show.  Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.    The list of other talent reads like a who's who of Hollywood of the 1940's.  


Judy Garland, Sinatra, Dorothy Lamour, Betty Hutton, Betty Grable,  Harry James,  Glenn Miller, Jack Benny,  Fred Allen,  Francis Langford, Charles Laughton, Fred MacMurray, Vincent Price, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Dinah Shore . . . .


From a nostalgia standpoint, these are true treasures. 


But don't discount the entertainment value.   These were big stars for a reason.   Not every segment works, and some of the jokes may be dated, but you will find there is a lot to like in these remarkable shows.


Here then are some of the Christmas shows beamed to the troops between 1942 and 1948.



1942 Christmas Show         14 MB

1943 Christmas Special      16 MB

1944 Christmas Show         31 MB

1944 Christmas Day            11 MB

1945 Christmas Program     22 MB

1946 Christmas Special       14 MB

1948 ChristmasSpecial_1    28 MB

1948 ChristmasSpecial_2    29 MB








For 50 years Bob Hope donated weeks (and sometimes months) of his time each year to entertain the troops overseas.


While he made movies, performed on the radio, and did TV specials - he is probably best remembered for bringing a little bit of home and cheer to our military personnel serving in dangerous and distant places around the world.


In 1958, like many other years, his USO Christmas tour was filmed and turned into a TV special.  You can view it on GUBA by clicking the image below.  






Over the next ten days I'll have more Christmas shows, including entries from Studio One, Dragnet, Ozzie & Harriet, Jack Benny, Four Star Playhouse,  and The Hollywood Palace.

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