Stories for Christmas
Various Artists
Label
Decca
Catalogue No.
4841365
Barcode
00028948413652
Format
CD
About

A collection of short stories for Christmas, written and adapted for American children of the 1940s and 1950s and featuring stars of the silver screen, including several first-time official CD issues.

In the days when families gathered around the wireless and the radiogram, Christmas stories made popular entertainment for children and adults alike. The most successful of them transferred to record with musical accompaniments supervised by experienced Hollywood hands, none more so than Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock’s composer of choice, who in 1944 composed and conducted a score to an adaptation by Orson Welles of Oscar Wilde’s tale of The Happy Prince. Bing Crosby took the part of the Prince, and two years later became narrator for a new story by Charles Tazewell, The Small One.

Two further Tazewell stories for radio captured the imagination of the American public in 1948 and became Christmas-time fixtures, rather like The Snowman on British TV in the 1980s. The Littlest Angel and Lullaby of Christmas both told a touching tale, in the tradition of Andersen’s Little Match Girl but with a happy ending, of a child whose fortunes are transformed at Christmas time. When Decca released them as 78s and 10-inch LPs, they were narrated by Loretta Young and Gregory Peck respectively. According to Peck, ‘This is the holiday drama I’ve always hoped to find’.

English leads were used for the two English stories recorded by American Decca: Ronald Colman as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and Charles Laughton as Mr. Pickwick in another Dickensian picture of poor souls redeemed by kindness at Christmas time – this last scored by none other than Hanns Eisler, seven years before he fled the US after being denounced by the Committee for Un-American Activities. In all these tales, there is a warmth and a delight in the telling that struck a chord in their audiences of the 40s and 50s, and will do so again in these newly remastered transfers.

Track Listing / Artists

CD 1                                                                                                                                                                                   

1–9         The Happy Prince

An Oscar Wilde Fairy Tale

Adapted and directed by Orson Welles

Musical Score composed by Bernard Herrmann

 Orson Welles · Bing Crosby · Lurene Tuttle

 Orchestra directed by Victor Young

 

10–14       A Christmas Carol                                                                                                                                     

Adapted from Charles Dickens by George Wells

Ronald Colman · Eric Snowden · Barbara Jean Wong

Victor Young, musical director · Ken Darby, vocal director

 

15–17       Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas                                                                                                                      

Story by Charles Dickens

Orchestral accompaniment composed by Hanns Eisler

Charles Laughton, narrator

Ensemble conducted by Hanns Eisler

 

CD 2         

1–5            The Small One                                                                                                                                           

A Christmas Story

Story by Charles Tazewell

Musical Score Composed by Victor Young

Bing Crosby, narrator

Orchestra directed by Victor Young

 

6–12         The Littlest Angel                                                                                                                                     

Story by Charles Tazewell

Original Musical Score by Charles Paul

Loretta Young, narrator

Ken Darby Choir

Orchestra directed by Victor Young

 

13–20       Lullaby of Christmas                                                                                                                                

Story by Charles Tazewell

Musical Score by Carmen Dragon

Gregory Peck, narrator

Choir and Orchestra directed by Carmen Dragon

Recording information

Recordings: Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA, 17 September 1941 (A Christmas Carol), 5 September 1944 (Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas), 1945 (The Littlest Angel), 21 August 1945 (The Happy Prince), 20 March 1947 (The Small One), 1949 (Lullaby of Christmas)
Transfers and Audio Restoration: Mark Obert-Thorn

Reviews

“In very much better taste than anything else being turned out for the Christmas rush.” Down Beat, November 1946 (The Happy Prince)

“They will certainly be liked by many. The stories are well put over and there are many attractive features in the orchestral accompaniments and general presentation.” Gramophone, January 1954 (The Littlest Angel, Lullaby of Christmas)

“Charming for kiddies.” Gramophone, December 1963 (The Happy Prince)

“For the Christmas stocking, Ronald Colman as Scrooge and Charles Laughton as Mr. Pickwick … would be perfect.” Gramophone, January 2006 (A Christmas Carol, Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas)

“Countless thousands who have heard this beautiful story over the radio will find in it the perfect remembrance.” Goodreads.com (The Small One)