Friday, December 16, 2011

The Cinnamon Bear and Timothy John

For many, The Cinnamon Bear has become an annual tradition during the holidays. Produced in the summer of 1937 by Transco (Transcription Company of America), this 26-chapter radio serial remains a highlight among fans of old time radio. Designed as an offering to entertain and delight young children, it tells the story of Judy and Jimmy Barton who travel to an enchanted world in search of the Crazy Quilt Dragon, who stole the silver star from the top of their Christmas tree. Along the way, in each 15-minute episode, Judy and Jimmy meet a new character. The Wintergreen Witch, Fraidy Cat, Mr. Presto the Magician, Fe Fo the Giant, Captain Taffy, Captain Tin Top and many others.

Newspaper Advertisement from Nov. 10, 1938.
Last week, a friend of mine called me to point out a web-site that offers newspaper ads for The Cinnamon Bear, and he suspected they were "altered." I took a look and confirmed his suspicions. The web-site is purposely scanning old newspaper ads and then altering the text so they can "brand" the images. Shame on them. That's not "preservation" no matter how much they hail themselves as researchers attempting to preserve old time radio. The newspaper advertisement above has not been altered in any way.

Soon after The Cinnamon Bear gained popularity, Carlton E. Morse, creator and script writer of such radio programs as I Love A Mystery and One Man's Family, plotted six chapters for a proposed radio serial int he same vein of The Cinnamon Bear. In fact, it's so close some consider Morse's proposal a blatant rip-off. But few people know about this proposal, titled Timothy John, because the series never met fruition. Except for the six proposed chapters, nothing else was apparently done.

Chicago newspaper dated Nov. 24, 1938.
I have to apologize for the newspaper advertisement above. It was copied directly off of microfilm. As a result, the photo image did not come through very well. The library printer attached to the microfilm reader could not do greyscale, only black and white. But the text makes it very clear.

Morse knew full well that The Cinnamon Bear was copyrighted, even in the late thirties and early forties. Fearing a lawsuit and unable to make his serial different from the competition, it is speculated that this is the reason why Morse never pursued this venture beyond the six chapter proposals. (The Cinnamon Bear still remains copyrighted today, and protected under Federal Copyright and Trademark laws. For this reason, non-commercial copies of the serial is illegal (including downloads) and should not be supported.)

Dennis Crow, a collector of old-time radio programs, passed away a couple years ago. He was known as the go-to guy when you needed to know anything about The Cinnamon Bear. Dennis wrote a number of magazine articles about the program (including Radio Recall click here). He was always after the name of the elusive actor who played the role of Jimmy Barton. It seems while the actor remained unknown at the time, but when I sent him a copy of Carlton E. Morse's chapter proposals, he got a kick out of it. Dennis told me personally that it was the biggest discovery in the history of The Cinnamon Bear to surface in almost a decade. I'll let you decide. For your enjoyment (especially if you are familiar with the Irish-speaking Paddy O'Cinnamon), here are the proposals Carlton E. Morse typed and shelved.