Old Time Radio Thursdays – #008: Academy Award (1946)

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.

Academy-Award-mp3Now you might think that a radio show with a name like Academy Award (also known as Academy Award Theater) would, like last week’s entry, Lux Radio Theatre, be presenting adaptations of films, but this time they would all be, in some way, Oscar winners. And you would be forgiven for that. However, you would also be wrong.

Instead, the show’s logline actually was to present “Hollywood’s finest, the great picture plays, the great actors and actresses, techniques and skills, chosen from the honor roll of those who have won or been nominated for the famous golden Oscar of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.” Thus, as long as they could get someone who had at least been nominated for an Academy Award involved, they could present pretty much any show they wanted to.

46-09-25-Academy-Award-spot-adAlso, in contrast to Lux, most of the adaptations presented lasted only 30 minutes instead of an hour, though the first show, adapting the movie Jezebel and starring Bette Davis, did run for an hour. The compressed time period does tend to give the dramas presented a bit of a compressed feeling, though they were generally well done.

One other factor that was not in the show’s favor was the cost. Along with having to pay the stars $3000 to appear, they had to pay the Academy a $1600 fee to use the name. All of these factors quickly added up to the show’s sponsor, pharmaceutical maker Sqibb to decide that it simply wasn’t cost-effective, and the show wound  up lasting only 39 episodes.

Fortunately, all of those shows still exist, and are available for listening to at various sites around the web. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many that have been uploaded to YouTube so that I can embed them here, but I do have a couple, including that initial presentation of Jezebel.

So there you go, another trip back in time and another look at the intersection between Hollywood and the golden age of radio. Next week, one of Hollywood’s greats takes us on a tour of a very dark place.

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