This is Christmas
Ireene Wicker
Musical accompaniment by Milton Rettenberg
Mercury Miniature Playhouse MMP-7 view label
Total Time: 13:18

Ireene Wicker (November 24, 1905 – November 17, 1987) was an American singer and actress, best known to young radio listeners in the 1930s and 40s as “The Singing Lady”.

She was born Irene Seaton in Quincy, Illinois. She studied music and drama at the University of Illinois, then studied at the Goodman School of the Theater in Chicago; she appeared in professional roles at the Goodman Theatre in 1929 and 1930.

Early in her radio career she changed the spelling of her first name to Ireene, adding the extra ‘e’ as she was told by a numerologist that one more letter would bring her great success.

Her radio show was first sponsored by the Kellogg Company, beginning in 1931. Her show was promoted as America’s first radio network program for children. Despite the title of her show, most of it involved Wicker telling adaptations of stories for children, ranging from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen through to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

Ireene Wicker came to television at WJZ-TV in 1949 with “The Ireene Wicker Show” in which she told fairy tales. More elaborately, in 1953-1954 Wicker came to the ABC network with “Little Lady Story Time,” an unusual half-hour series. Here, she told classic fairy tales while a cast of juvenile ballet dancers enacted the storylines. The sponsor was Little Lady toiletries, a line of soaps, powders, and mild cosmetics for young girls. Among the stories produced were “Puss in Boots,” “King Midas and the Golden Touch,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Pinocchio.” One episode (“The Green Monkey”) of “The Ireene Wicker Show” and fifteen kinescopes of “Little Lady Story Time” are housed at the Library of Congress in the J. Fred and Leslie W. MacDonald Collection.

She married Walter Charles Wicker, a radio writer, producer and actor: they had a son, Walter Charles Jr., who during World War II joined one of the Eagle Squadrons that served with the RAF and was killed in action over the English Channel, and a daughter, Nancy.

Her first marriage ended in divorce in 1938. In 1941 she became the second wife of the businessman, Victor J. Hammer.

In 1950 Ireene Wicker was one of several broadcasters whose name was included in the infamous book Red Channels, used by many organizations to blacklist anyone who was included as a supposed Communist “sympathizer”. The book charged that she had sponsored a re-election committee for Benjamin J. Davis, a Communist councilman in New York. Wicker denied she had even heard of the man and the charges were later withdrawn with apologies. Another claim, that she sided with leftists during the Spanish Civil War turned out to refer to her support of a fund-raising drive for Spanish refugee children.

On April 19, 1961 she was recipient of a Peabody Award.


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