Old Time Radio Thursdays – #007: Lux Radio Theatre (1934-1955)

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

luxadThe soap brand Lux is probably unfamiliar to most American consumers today. Instead, they are likely more familiar with manufacturer Unilever’s other product, Dove. This was not always the case, however, as it was not only once one of the top-selling American brands, but also the sponsor of one of the longest-running and most popular shows on the radio.

Lux Radio Theatre actually began its life in New York in 1934. At that time it broadcast hour-long adaptations of popular Broadway plays. The way the show was set up was to begin with an introduction and interview with the show’s stars conducted by the “producer”, a fictional character known as Douglass Garrick. Garrick was initially portrayed by John Anthony, before the role was taken over in 1935 by Albert Hayes who stayed in the role until the middle of 1936.

Lux Radio TheaterOn June 1, 1936, the show took a very dramatic turn. At that point, it moved from its New York base to Los Angeles, and began adapting movies instead of plays. Also, the role of the producer changed, and instead of being the fictional Garrick, it was taken over by real-life producer and director Cecil B. DeMille.

DeMille would remain in that role until 1945 when he, and the rest of radio, were rocked by a clash with the American Federation of Radio Artists over closed-shop union rules. After that, the show had a number of different hosts, but none of them were as well-known, nor as popular, as DeMille.

The show was, as is evident from its longevity, extremely popular, as it was a great chance not only for Hollywood to promote very popular pictures, but for audiences to feel as though the stars were actually there in their homes and performing just for them. The format of the show also provided a way for the stars to connect with their audience and to promote not only the film they were there to perform that night, but whatever upcoming projects they might have.

lux3As far as the adaptations themselves, they were generally very well done, and the hour-long format provided just enough time to give the radio audience a good taste for the film without making them feel as though they had already seen it if they eventually did catch it in their local theater.

A total of 926 shows were produced during the show’s nearly 20 year run, and a list of all of the plays and movies adapted can be found here. Most of the shows have survived, and can be found in various formats at different sites that focus on old time radio. Fortunately, quite a few of them have also been uploaded to YouTube. I’m only going to give you a small sampling today, but trust me when I say there are many, many more to be found.

Of course, since the heyday of both radio and Hollywood overlapped so much, Lux was not the only show providing adaptations of popular films, and next week we’ll take a look at another, quite similar show with a more Award winning focus.


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