Old Time Radio Thursdays – #034: Screen Guild Theater (1939-1952)

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.

sgt1The Screen Guild Theater was one of those oddities of Old Time Radio that actually had a number of different “official” titles during its run, mostly based on its current sponsor, and was heard on different networks at various times throughout its very long run.

It started out as The Gulf Screen Guild Show, then over the years morphed into The Gulf Screen Guild Theater, The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater and The Camel Screen Guild Theater.

The show began its run on January 8, 1939 on the CBS network,  where it was a fixture until June 28, 1948. It was then picked up by NBC which began airing episodes on October 7, 1948, lasting until June 29, 1950. ABC was next to pick up the show, and it ran on that network from September 7, 1950 to May 31, 1951. Then finally it returned to CBS on March 13, 1952, where it lasted until the end of its run on June 29, 1952

sgt3Taken together, over the many years, networks, and incarnations, it amassed a total of 527 episodes, and despite those changes, the format of the show basically remained the same. It was an anthology series which brought in leading Hollywood actors to star in adaptations of then-popular motion pictures. Among those appearing on the show over the years were: Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Ethel Barrymore, Agnes Moorehead, Humphrey Bogart, Lionel Barrymore, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Eddie Cantor, Bing Crosby, Bette Davis, Jimmy Durante, Nelson Eddy, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, and Dinah Shore.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the show was that the actors appearing on it would actually pass up taking the usual paycheck they would typically receive for making such an appearance, and instead, the money would be donated to the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which supported the creation and maintenance of the Motion Picture Country Home for retired actors.

Great actors appearing on a great show recreating great movies for  great cause. No wonder it was able to last so long.

The following videos each compiles three episodes into one block, so they should give you a good taste of the show:

By the way: those interested in a complete listing of all of the shows featured in the series, and the stars that appeared can find one here.

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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