W2XBS Schedule, Week of April 28th, 1940

Here’s the schedule for NBC’s experimental station W2XBS in New York City for the week beginning Sunday, April 28th, 1940 [1]. What I wouldn’t give to see the May 1st broadcast celebrating the first anniversary of W2XBS.

The daily listings in The New York Time refer to it as a “variety show in celebration of television’s first birthday in America” [2].

I imagine the only existing portion of the two-hour telecast is Walt Disney’s “The Ugly Duckling” cartoon short. I don’t know whether it was the 1931 version or the 1939 version, though.

Sunday, April 28th, 1940
3:30-3:40PM – Films, “Tobaccoland;” “Louis Pasteur”; “Circus Capers,” an Aesop fable.
8:30-9:30PM – Play, “My Heart’s in the Highlands,” by William Saroyan, with Peter Miner, Russell Hardie, Ann Brody, Winfield Hoeny.

Wednesday, May 1st, 1940
3:00-5:00PM – Baseball: N.Y.U. vs. Manhattan, at Ohio Field.
6:45-7:00PM – News, Lowell Thomas.
8:30-10:30PM – First anniversary television celebration, with Diosa Costello, dancer; Hildegarde, singer; Gertrude Berg in “The House of Glass,” drama; Pages and Guides minstrel show; fashion show; “Harlem Highlights,” with Avis Andrews and the Berry Brothers; “The Ugly Duckling,” a Walt Disney cartoon, etc.

Thursday, May 2nd, 1940
3:30-4:30PM – Films, “Oriental Odyssey,” “Pleasant Time.” “Let’s See America.”
6:45-7:00PM – News, Lowell Thomas.
8:30-9:30PM – Variety hour, with Helen Morgan, songs; Frank Eliscu in “You’re an Artist,”; Senor Wences, novelty act; Poldi Mildner, piano; “Maid of Cotton,” interview, and Geraldine and Joe, comedy dancers.

Friday, May 3rd, 1940
3:30-4:35PM – Films, “The Last of the Mohicans”; “Tiger, Tiger”; “Let’s Sing”; “Willie, the Worm”; “Master of the Camera”; “Springtime in Australia.”
8:30-8:45PM – Television reporter.
8:45-9:00PM – “The Artist as Reporter,” with John Sloane, artist.
9:00-11:00PM – Wrestling, at Jamaica Arena.

Saturday, May 4th, 1940
3:30-5:30PM – Baseball: Fordham vs. Villanova, at Fordham Field.
7:30-9:50PM – Film, “The Bat Whispers,” with Chester Morris.

Works Cited:

1 “Telecasts for the Week.” New York Times. 28 Apr. 1940: 128.
2 “Today on the Radio.” New York Times. 1 May 1940: 46.

1 Comment

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Another Van Beuren cartoon [this one from 1930] was shown on Sunday afternoon, along with several short “commercial” and “industrial” films…at the time, Diosa Costello was in the original Broadway cast of “Too Many Girls”, which co-starred Desi Arnaz (who later recalled, “she could really shake her ass”)- when the production became a Hollywood movie for RKO later that year, Arnaz and most of the original cast appeared in it, along with Lucille Ball (they met during the production, fell in love, got married that November…and the rest is history).

    Walt Disney, in his RKO distribution contract, had the forsight to insist on “television rights” for his cartoons and whatever else he produced. He somehow knew that television was going to be an influence on most people, and allowed his cartoon shorts to be telecast from time to time on the RCA experimental station in New York AND on the BBC’s “Home Service” {in fact, during the airing of a Mickey Mouse cartoon, the BBC shut down their TV service on September 1, 1939- due to Germany invading Poland- and restarted it after World War II on September 1, 1946…at almost the exact moment the Mickey Mouse cartoon was originally interrupted!}. I suspect the 1931 version of “The Ugly Duckling” was shown on that “anniversary program”, as the 1939 color remake was probably considered “too recent” to appear on TV at the time. Note also that Gertrude Berg, who regularly appeared as “Molly Goldberg” on the daily radio “soap opera” version of “THE GOLDBERGS” on NBC, took time out to appear in a one-act drama. She frequently appeared on TV in those experimental days, and was certainly ready for her first “official” TV appearance on NBC’s “CHEVROLET ON BROADWAY” anthology series in 1948 (in “Whistle, Daughter, Whistle”). “Hildegarde”, the famous “chanteuse” {“A little traveling music, please”, she’d say on her radio shows}, made one of her early TV appearances on this “special” as well.

    Sad that Helen Morgan, the famous “torch singer” of Broadway and radio [and some early “talkies”], never got to appear beyond W2XBS’ experimental telecasts- she would have been a natural for TV when it finally “established” itself after the war. Unfortunately, she died as a direct result of alcoholism in October 1941. Ventriloquist Senor Wences, on the other hand, had a bright TV future ahead of him, with “Johnny” (his “hand puppet”), and the “head in the box” {“S’all right!”} when he became a frequent guest performer on “TOAST OF THE TOWN” [later known as “THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW”] in the ’50s and ’60s.

    “The Bat Whispers” was an early “talkie” produced by Joseph M. Schenck (distributed by United Artists) in 1930, with Chester Morris and Una Merkel as the leads. The story, based on a famous “mystery play”, was filmed several times [the best known is the 1959 version, “The Bat”, starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead].

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