About Christmas TV History

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Christmas in July 2023: General Electric Theater (1957)

The dramatic anthology series started on radio and continued on television throughout the 1950s.


Merry Christmas in July! It is Day #30 in the month-long celebration of Christmas entertainment. Each day this month I will be sharing brief reminisces about Christmas TV episodes, specials, and movies that are a creative or imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens' tale A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Just a little something different and a way for me to show off the diversity of holiday stories I've collected in the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV (the updated and expanded 2nd edition will be released soon). 


Pardon my thumb. A 1957 ad from TV Guide magazine for "Trail to Christmas."

Today's discussion is on a western adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol entitled "The Trail to Christmas" which aired on the dramatic anthology TV series General Electric Theater in 1957. The story was originally written for the radio drama “The Six Shooter” and listened to by audiences under the episode title “Britt Ponset’s Christmas Carol” in 1953. 

G.E. Theater on TV was hosted by actor Ronald Reagan--heard of him!?

The 1957 television episode is directed by and stars Jimmy Stewart. In this western tale, a cowboy sitting by a campfire on Christmas Eve hears someone approach, and he welcomes a young runaway drawn to the fire. The runaway reveals that he doesn’t like Christmas, which inspires the cowboy to share a story. The cowboy narrates a western version of the story of Ebenezer Scrooge--a wealthy rancher and property owner who doesn't appreciate Christmas. 


Ebenezer Scrooge here is played by character actor John McIntire.

Scrooge even threatened to throw his ranch hand Bob Cratchit and his family from their home on Christmas if they didn’t pay their rent. Late on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his friend Jake Marley who warns him about his attitude. Scrooge is visited by a ghost who shows him visions through the bedroom mirror of Ebenezer’s own past, present, and future. In a vision of his past, Scrooge sees how his relationship with Belle failed because he was already committed to making money instead of love. In the present, Scrooge witnesses a vision of Cratchit’s family and their ailing son Tiny Tim. In a vision of the future, Scrooge is frightened to see his own cemetery plot. Scrooge spends Christmas day, driving his wagon to see the Cratchit family in order to share with them his change of heart and an increase in Bob’s salary. 


Jake Marley here is played by character actor Will Wright--pictured above playing Ben Weaver in the 1960 Christmas episode of "The Andy Griffith Show."


The western tale inspires the runaway Johnny to stop thinking of himself and to consider his Aunt Nellie’s feelings back home. The cowboy escorts Johnny home and helps the youngster bring a gift for Aunt Nellie too.

Even the most casual holiday movie fans will recognize James Stewart from his role as George Bailey in the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life."


The cast includes James Stewart as the cowboy, Richard Eyer as Johnny, John McIntire as Ebenezer Scrooge, Will Wright as Jake Marley, Sam Edwards as Bob Crachit, Dennis Holmes as Tiny Tim, Hope Summers as Aunt Nellie, Kevin Hagen as the Ghost, Sally Fraser as Belle, Mary Lawrence as Mrs. Cratchit, and Tom Pittman as young Ebenezer. The music is by Elmer Bernstein.


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. She is currently updating and expanding the encyclopedia for an upcoming release. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

No comments:

Post a Comment