Sunday, December 10, 2017

Little Town of Bethlehem - A Classic Christmas Radio Drama



The First Nighter Program. December 22, 1945. CBS Radio Network. "Little Town Of Bethlehem" by Anthony Wayne. Sponsored by: Campana Cosmetics.
Barbara Luddy (Mary), Olan Soule (Joseph), Herb Butterfield, Hugh Studebaker, Phillips H. Lord, and Willard Waterman.

For many over the past 40 - 60 years on television, Christmas would not be Christmas unless Rudolph returns to the island of misfit toys, Linus tells Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about, George Bailey wants to live again, and there is at least one (or 12) Hallmark presentations.

Before television, there was radio. In that great period known as the "Golden Age of Radio" (c. 1922 - 1960) Christmas wasn't Christmas without Amos telling his daughter Arbadella the meaning of the Lord's Prayer, or Lionel Barrymore's annual performance as Ebeneezer Scrooge....and the annual presentation of "Little Town of Bethlehem" by The First Nighter Program. The First Nighter (1930 - 1953) was "radio's little theater off of Time Square" and each week the listener -  via sound effects, music and acting - was given the illusion of visiting a Broadway theater for a new performance.

 In 1933 Anthony Wayne's script for "Little Town of Bethlehem" was first performed and was glowingly received. The play became the programs' most anticipated story and would be repeated each Christmas. This 1945 broadcast was the 9th annual presentation and notes that it is the first "peace Christmas" since 1940. The play is very good, but makes the common Biblical/dramatic error of having all the events of Christ's birth happen in one evening (the shepherds, Wise Men, Joseph's dream), but this may have been done for time. The play has an interesting element of having Herod stay in the inn that holy night, therefore the innkeeper placed Mary and Joseph in a stable because he was expecting a king to honor his household, and had no room for a Nazarene carpenter and his expecting wife! Out of reverence, the Campana sales company has one advertisement, a Merry Christmas greeting.


Buffalo Courier-Express, Saturday, December 22, 1945. Radio news article with a picture of actress Barbara Luddy.
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Mary and Joseph were played by various actors over the program's run, perhaps most famously by actress Barbara Luddy and actors Les Tremayne and Olan Soule. Only the 1945 & 1952 performances still exist and in the 1945 version that I have posted, Luddy is heard as Mary and Olan Soule is Joseph. Both were among the best radio and voice over artists to grow out of Radio's Golden Age. Luddy was "Lady" in Disney's Lady And The Tramp, Soule was later the voice of Batman in 1970s cartoons, and the voice of Bishop Clement Clark Moore in a 1968 Christmas special.

I first heard this broadcast in an old-time radio cassette collection nearly 15 years ago and have listened to it every Christmas since. It gives me great pleasure to share this great tradition with you.
Wishing you dear reader a Very Merry Christmas and please enjoy the 9th annual presentation of "Little Town of Bethlehem".

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Hymnologues" For Christmas & Fall/Winter 2017 Updates

Hymnalogues

3-minute color films with classic Christian hymns enhanced with miniatures, produced in Hollywood.



As an older millenial, it is hard to imagine a time when Powerpoints or some sort of screen images weren't used in musical worship. It turns out that the church has used devotional film aids a lot longer than we might think.

The Hymnalogue films were short visualizations of church hymns created by Neil McGuire Productions and the (ADA) Audio-visual Devotional Aids of North Hollywood. Four were released in the fall of 1945* for Christmas: O Little Town Of Bethlehem, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, and O Come All Ye Faithful. Three of these shorts seem to be the public domain and appear in varios Christmas Video Collections. If anyone has seen the "Silent Night" film, please contact me.

The earliest mention I could find of these films is in the August 1944 issue of Home Movies Magazine, in which they were credited to "Song Book of the Screen of North Hollywood". It is likely that they became ADA a year later since they were also distributed by Post Pictures.



Each short features singing by a quartet called the ADA Crusaders while the words go across the screen. Clever miniatures and limited motion graphics enhance the meaning of the song. This technique was called "action-minature" and is credited to Neil McGuire (1893 - 1972) a film director and producer. McGuire and ADA produced at least 29 of these shorts for church use all distributed by Post Pictures Corporation of New York. According to the 1949 Educational Film Guide titles were: Onward Christian Soldiers, God Be With You Till We Meet Again, and In The Garden. Only the the 3 Christmas shorts seem to be available today.
Please check your church basement! Also it would be fun to try McGuire's technique of filming Hymns with miniatures, even in this age of Adobe products.

* On IMDB these Christmas shorts are dated 1950, but this is incorrect according to film bulletins and magazines.

- Most of this information is from the September 1945 issues of Film World News, pg. 267

UPDATES FOR FALL/WINTER 2017

There are a lot of great new additions to the FBSM blog. 4 new pages have been added to the blog site for the history of Bible based storytelling, to make your Christmas merrier and for the teaching and study of the Bible.

FBSM Theater
I am excited to announce a theater page were I am showing prints of rare and incredible films made by Christian filmmakers across the 20th century. These films come from the Gospel Film Archives,  and I am extremely grateful to film historians Bob Campbell and Ron Hall for sharing a digitized print of the landmark Christian drama The Great Commandment (1939) for the debut of this page.

Christmas Library 2017 
In 1994, an interesting news article revealed an all too obvious truth about media during the Christmas season. That scarcely any of the many Christmas specials on television acknowledge the birth of Christ as central to the meaning of Christmas. So with that in mind I have tried to create a log of family programming to help parents be aware of Christmas specials that focus on the birth of Christ on television, radio, home video and even free downloads from the Golden Age of Radio.

During the Christmas season there will be new blog entries on films, children's books, crafts and more to teach and inspire during this most wonderful time of year.

Apologetics & Education 
While the main focus of FBSM is creative Bible storytelling, because of the urgency of our times I've created a page specially for the study of Apologetics, Christian History and Education. This page features the best radio ministries that broadcast weekly or daily in the United States and around the world.

Bible Study
I've also created a Bible Study page with links to some of the best online resource of edification in the Word of God.

Facebook! - Family Bible Storytelling Media
This is a bold new venture for me, so the page will gradually look better.

YouTube too! - FBSM YouTube Channel



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Updates for Fall/Winter 2017

There are a lot of great new additions to the FBSM blog. 4 new pages have been added to the blog site for the history of Bible based storytelling, to make your Christmas merrier and for the teaching and study of the Bible.

FBSM Theater
I am excited to announce a theater page were I am showing prints of rare and incredible films made by Christian filmmakers across the 20th century. These films come from the Gospel Film Archives,  and I am extremely grateful to film historians Bob Campbell and Ron Hall for sharing a digitized print of the landmark Christian drama The Great Commandment (1939) for the debut of this page.

There will also be films from the news FBSM YouTube Channel available on this page.

Christmas Library 2017 
In 1994, an interesting news article revealed an all too obvious truth about media during the Christmas season. That scarcely any of the many Christmas specials on television acknowledge the birth of Christ as central to the meaning of Christmas. So with that in mind I have tried to create a log of family programming to help parents be aware of Christmas specials that focus on the birth of Christ on television, radio, home video and even free downloads from the Golden Age of Radio.

During the Christmas season there will be new blog entries on films, children's books, crafts and more to teach and inspire during this most wonderful time of year.

Apologetics & Education 
While the main focus of FBSM is creative Bible storytelling, because of the urgency of our times I've created a page specially for the study of Apologetics, Christian History and Education. This page features the best radio ministries that broadcast weekly or daily in the United States and around the world.

I've also created a Bible Study page with links to some of the best online resource of edification in the Word of God.




Thursday, November 23, 2017

Give Thanks and Rejoice - Scripture and History for Reflection

"The First Thanksgiving" (1915), by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (American painter, 1863-1930).
From Joyful Heart Ministries, Thanksgiving and Pilgrim Art and Artwork, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson.

Psalm 26:7 That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Psalm 50:14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:

Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 95:2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Psalm 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Psalm 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.

The Mayflower Compact - November 11, 1620 (From William Bradford's handwritten history, Of Plymouth Plantation, c. 1630) http://mayflowerhistory.com/mayflower-compact/

(It is olde English, so read it with a slight Irish-Scottish accent and the spellings will become more clear). One of may historical documents that I never actually read while attending school.

In ye name of God Amen· We whose names are vnderwriten, 
the loyall subjects of our dread soueraigne Lord King James 
by ye grace of God, of great Britaine, franc, & Ireland king, 
defender of ye faith, &c
Haueing vndertaken, for ye glorie of God, and aduancemente 
of ye christian ^faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to 
plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia· doe 
by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and 
one of another, couenant, & combine our selues togeather into a 
ciuill body politick; for ye our better ordering, & preseruation & fur=
therance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, 
constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances, 
Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought 
most meete & conuenient for ye generall good of ye colonie:  vnto 
which we promise all due submission and obedience.  In witnes 
wherof we haue herevnder subscribed our names at Cap=
Codd ye ·11· of Nouember, in ye year of ye raigne of our soueraigne 
Lord king James of England, france, & Ireland ye eighteenth 
and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom ·1620·|

Signers
John Carver
William Bradford
Edward Winslow
William Brewster
Isaac Allerton
Myles Standish
John Alden
Samuel Fuller
Christopher Martin
William Mullins
William White
Richard Warren
John Howland
Stephen Hopkins
Edward Tilley
John Tilley
Francis Cooke
Thomas Rogers
Thomas Tinker
John Rigsdale
Edward Fuller
John Turner
Francis Eaton
James Chilton
John Crackstone
John Billington
Moses Fletcher
John Goodman
Degory Priest
Thomas Williams
Gilbert Winslow
Edmund Margesson
Peter Browne
Richard Britteridge
George Soule
Richard Clarke
Richard Gardiner
John Allerton
Thomas English
Edward Doty

Edward Leister

"Thanks Be Unto God" by Jack Hamm - From the Grace Bible Fellowship Collection
http://www.gbfc-tx.org/Pages/Jack%20Hamm.html

I have already posted this image, but it perfectly fits the day. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!!

- James R. Stewart Jr.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Operation Christmas Child 2017


OCC National Collection Week



















It has been nearly 3 months since I posted a new article about Bible media history, and believe me there is A LOT MORE to come. For now I wanted to highlight a ministry that is very special to my wife and I as we approach the Christmas Season.

"Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, works with local Christians in more than 100 countries to deliver gift-filled shoeboxes to children in need. The Greatest Journey is our 12-lesson follow-up discipleship course for children who have received shoebox gifts".

My wife and I packed our first shoebox last fall and have looked forward to doing it again ever since. We are excited about the 5 boxes we are sending overseas, knowing they can bring joy and hope to a small child and lead them to Christ.



National Collection Week is coming up fast and I want to encourage you to find a local packing center so you can touch the life of a child!

The following images are from the Operation Christmas Child website.

Shoebox Distribution in Moldova 

Shoebox Distribution in Zambia 

By Camel in Namibia 

Collection Center 



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Classic Television: "Great Stories - Bible Stories"

Great Stories - Bible Stories [a.k.a. Great Bible Stories, Children's Heroes of The Bible] 

Children's animated series
Syndicated: 1969 - ????
Production:  John Rydgren, (writer); Betty Garth, (executive producer);
Paul Ballentyne, Robert Pastene, Niki Flacks, John Rydgren, John Lewin, Dale Waddell, Donald West, (voices);

Title Card for Great Stories - Bible Stories.
"Great Stories
Bible Stories
Stories that are true
They tell of God and his love for us
And his power too"

This was a series of 65 four and a half minute cartoons underwritten by the American Lutheran Church Department of TV/Radio/Films for $500,000. They were released in cooperation with the Broadcasting and Film Commission of the National Council of Churches. These cartoons were offered to TV stations for free, provided that they air them as part of a weekday series for children.

Title Card of "The Story of Moses"

Moses and his staff.

Moses and the Burning Bush
The shows were created by Cameo Productions, a Chicago based producer of TV and educational films that formed in 1962. Production on the series was announced as early as 1965, was promoted for distribution in 1967, but not copyrighted until 1969.

The opening title reads "Great Stories - Bible Stories" (also its copyright title) but in the end credits it is announced as "Great Bible Stories"
.
The timing for a color animated Bible series for children was very good. 1966 was the year that all networks began broadcasting in color, and the late 1960s is still famous for the domination of animation in children's programming. The limited animation is quite good for a 1960s series depicting realistic looking human characters and difficult visuals like massive armies, crowds, and the parting of the Red Sea. The voice work is also good and provided by seasoned actors. I found myself enjoy "The Story of Moses", "The Story of Jesus" and "Story of The Apostles" as told in multiple short episodes.

End credits logo for Cameo Productions, Inc., Chicago Ill.


The episodes were written by John Rydgren (1932 - 1968), the president of the ALC from 1962 to 1968, more famous for his unconventional Lutheran radio programs.

This series continues to entertain and teach after more than 40 years. Many episodes of Great Bible Stories were released on VHS in the 1980's and 1990's & more recently on streaming media and DVD under the title "Children's Heroes of The Bible". The DVD was given a "Faith Friendly All Ages" rating by the Dove Foundation. 

Sources & Citations
Information in this post is cited from various issues of Broadcasting magazine, the New York Times, other media magazines and the Catalog of Copyright Entries. Contact the author or leave a comment for a complete bibliography. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Classic Radio: More About "Bible Story For The Children", KDKA with Rev. William A. Logan


In a continuation of my post on Rev. William Logan here is the original text from KDKA's news publication that revealed the identity of the beloved story teller of the Bible Story For The Children  [a.k.a. Children's Bible Story, Children's Bible Stories] program.

Radio Broadcasting News, July 22, 1922, Vol. 2, No. 8. Page 1.

Old Stories in a New Way

We older folks read a story, are amused, and pass on to something else. But to the child the story becomes more than amusement. It grips his imagination and becomes for the time a part of his life. No matter how fantastic may be the situation portrayed, it becomes as real to the child as the home in which he lives. Impossible as the feats of the hero may seem to the older minds, the circumstances of childhood make them perfectly reasonable. Thus in the child's life, the story plays a necessary and important part. 

Some months ago the manager of station KDKA received a letter from one of the ministers who had conducted Radio Chapel. He suggested a series of "Bible Stories for Children" to be given each Sunday just before the Chapel Services. He offered to write the stories and read them to the children, but specifically requested that his identity should remain a secret. 

The stories were started and have been given each Sunday ever since. The children are among the most enthusiastic of radio listeners. Thousands of them heard these stories and expressions of their appreciation began to pour into KDKA. Parents listened and added to those of the children their requests for the name of the man who was interesting the children so keenly in the great heroes who are portrayed in Biblical history. So insistent have been these inquiries that at last the author of these "Children's Bible Stories" has consented to let the Radio Broadcasting News reveal his identity. What is even better we are showing the photo- graph of this popular minister on our front cover this week.  

Cover of Radio Broadcasting News, July 22, 1922, Vol. 2 No. 8.
From AmericanRadioHistory.com 

This friend of the children is the Reverend Wm. Logan, pastor of the Alpha Lutheran Church of Turtle Creek, Pa. We think the secret of his keen insight into the minds of the children, his kindred spirit with the girls and boys, and his extreme popularity, is explained by the audience shown in the picture, which may be reached without the use of radio, for it is daily with him in his home. And familiarity does not lessen the greatness of this story teller for Margaret, Donald, Bill, and Jean will tell you that "Daddy tells us the grandest stories." Thousands of boys and girls all over the country are thankful that the Logan "Kiddies" are willing to share one of their Daddy's stories each Sunday afternoon.