W2XBS Schedule, Week of December 31st, 1939

Here’s the schedule for NBC’s experimental station W2XBS in New York City for the week starting Sunday, December 31st, 1939, straight from the weekly television listings printed in The New York Times [1]. The week included the last day of 1939 and the first six days of 1940. There were apparently no celebrations to ring in the new year; the station was off the air on Monday, January 1st (as well as Tuesday, January 2nd). What’s most interesting about this week was the boxing match that wasn’t broadcast as planned.

According to the weekly listings published on December 31st, 1939 the 12-round bout between Fred Apostoli and Melio Bettina at Madison Square Garden was “tentatively scheduled” for 10-11PM on Friday, January 4th, 1940. The daily listings for January 4th, however, did not include the match, which was played as planned (Apostoli won) [2]. Here’s what the weekly listings said would be broadcast on Friday, January 4th, 1940:

2:30-3:30PM – Skating, Rockefeller Center.
8:30-9:30PM – Play, “Ethan Frome,” by Owen Davis and Donald Davis.
(Tentatively scheduled, 10 to 11 P.M., Apostoli-Bettina bout at Madison Square Garden.)

And here’s the daily listing:

2:30-3:30PM – 1940 Baby Awards; Interviews With Fathers.
8:30-9:30PM – Play, “Ethan Frome,” by Owen Davis and Donald Davis.

Why wasn’t the bout broadcast on television? Perhaps legal/rights issues were involved. I can’t say for sure. Notice that the skating from Rockefeller Center was replaced by the 1940 Baby Awards. The week also included something called “Round-Up,” featuring humorist Harry Hershfield, former New York City mayor James J. Walker, composer Lejaren Hiller and others. A discussion panel, perhaps? A 1936 film, With Love and Kisses, aired on Thursday, January 4th. And a play by Owen and Donald Davis, titled “Ethan Frome,” aired on Friday, January 5th. Here’s the full week’s listings:

Sunday, December 31st, 1939
2:30-3:30PM – Sidewalk Interviews.
8:30-9:30PM – Television Varieties.

Wednesday, January 3rd, 1940
2:30-3:30PM – March of Time; film “Soldiers With Wings”; film serial, episode IV, “Burn ‘Em Up Barnes”; film travelogue, “Ecuador”; film, “The Brown Bomber.”
8:30-9:30PM – Round-Up; Harry Hershfield, James J. Walker, Al Trahan, Fields and Hall, Felix Adler, John Normon and Lejaren Hiller.

Thursday, January 4th, 1940
2:30-3:30PM – Film “With Love and Kisses.”
8:30-10PM – Wrestling: Ridgewood Grove.

Friday, January 5th, 1940 [2]
2:30-3:30PM – 1940 Baby Awards; Interviews With Fathers.
8:30-9:30PM – Play, “Ethan Frome,” by Owen Davis and Donald Davis.

Saturday, January 6th, 1940
2:30-3:30PM – Films, “Children’s Corner”; “The City”; “Valse Brillante.”
9-11PM – Boxing: Ridgewood Grove.

Sources:

1 “Telecasts This Week.” New York Times. 31 Dec. 1939: 94.
2 “Today on the Radio.” New York Times. 5 Jan. 1940: 31.

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1 Comment

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    “ROUND-UP” sounds like a roundtable discussion- and possibly some demonstations of “comedy”- as the panel included Felix Adler, a former circus clown who was one of THE great slapstick gag writers in Hollywood movie shorts during the ’30s and ’40s, including Hal Roach’s comedies (among them, Laurel & Hardy), and producer Jules White’s Columbia shorts featuring The Three Stooges, et. al. Arthur Fields & Fred Hall performed a popular “hillbilly act” on radio, live appearances and at least one movie short during the ’30s [originally fronting a band known as “Rex Cole’s Mountaineers”], mixing music, comedy routines and “hillbilly” stereotypes. If anyone were an expert on “exaggerated comedy” on that evening’s panel (including Felix Adler), it was Fields & Hall.

    Jimmy Walker was indeed the former Mayor of New York; he resigned under a somewhat disreputable circumstances in 1932, fled to Europe, and returned in 1936, spending the rest of his life involved in “other ventures”- this was a RARE TV apperance for him, as he died in 1947.

    Another theatrical “March Of Time” short, “Soldiers With Wings”, was seen on January 3rd- it was previously released in September of ’39- those shorts might have been the only “current” theatrical films telecast on W2XBS (with the blessings of Time, Inc. and the distributor, RKO-Radio).

    The co-author of “Ethan Frome”, Donald Davis, later became a rotating producer on CBS’ “WESTINGHOUSE STUDIO ONE” in the early ’50s.

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