"Lux presents Hollywood!"
Old-time radio enthusiasts are in near unanimous agreement that, during its heyday, "The Lux Radio Theatre" (1934-55) was radio’s most important dramatic hour. The series commanded the crème de la crème of Hollywood’s silver screen stars, the biggest budgets, the best writing, directing and sound effects, and no less than Hollywood’s foremost film director, Cecil B. DeMille, as the program’s master of ceremonies.
"The Lux Radio Theatre" premiered on the Blue Network October 14, 1934 with a production of "Seventh Heaven" starring Miriam Hopkins, but switched to CBS Radio on July 29, 1935 for what would become a nearly twenty-year run on Monday nights at 9:00 PM. (It would switch to NBC - and a Tuesday night berth - in its final season beginning in the fall of 1954.) The show was originally designed to be an anthology of the Broadway stage, but the ratings and critical acclaim remained rather tepid because of the competition required to lure big-name stars visiting the East Coast to appear on the program. Many celebrities preferred to visit the Rudy Vallee or Al Jolson variety hours, where they would have a considerably lighter workload of singing or yukking it up with the host.
At J. Walter Thompson, the agency in charge of the Lever Brothers/Lux account, an executive named Danny Denker, saw the handwriting on the wall and persuaded the agency and network to have the show moved west with Horace Greeley-like expediency, following the footsteps of a similar star-studded program, Louella Parsons' "Hollywood Hotel". This reasoning - why not go directly to the stars instead of having them come to you? - proved to be precisely the ticket that soon vaulted Lux in the top-ten of network radio shows. The inaugural Hollywood broadcast on June 1, 1936, "The Legionnaire and the Lady”, based on the 1930 film "Morocco", set the standard for future "Lux Radio Theatre" programs: budgeted at $17,000.00, star Marlene Dietrich scored a $5,000.00 payday while her co-star, Clark Gable, pocketed $3,500.00. The show’s new host - the celebrated DeMille himself - absconded with $2,000.00 - an amount which would be soon be his weekly salary.
“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend” is a famous line from John Ford’s 1962 Western classic "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", and it’s a fitting observation for the long-time host of "The Lux Radio Theatre", who was often shown in publicity photographs as overseeing every aspect of each broadcast. As research has revealed, DeMille’s contributions to Lux were more along the lines of acting as opposed to directing or producing. The show’s real directors - Tony Stanford, Frank Woodruff, Fred MacKaye, and Earl Ebi - did all of the heavy lifting from week to week, including keeping the stars’ egos in check and making sure everything went off without a hitch. DeMille’s responsibility was simply to lend prestige to the series by providing the weekly introduction, “interviewing” the stars, and signing off with the flowery “This is Cecil B. DeMille saying goodnight from Holly—wood!” The director’s dedication to the show was such that he was once quoted as saying “he wouldn’t give up the job for a million dollars.” As it so happens, he was willing to give up Lux for one dollar: when AFRA (the American Federation of Radio Artists) levied a $1.00 fine to those Lux participants unwilling to side with the union in a “right to work” dispute, DeMille refused to go against his principles and left the show in January 1945. Journeyman director William Keighley replaced him in the fall of that year, and was replaced in 1952 by Irving Cummings, who stayed with Lux until its cancellation in 1955.
It was only a matter of time before things came to a boil between AFRA and Lux, since the union was actually formed in response to the program’s frequently unfair work policies, described by then-actor Elliott Lewis in Leonard Maltin’s book "The Great American Broadcast":
Your call as an actor for Lux was Tuesday morning at no specific time, and the end of your call was 6:00 on the following Monday. There were no times given, nothing. You were doing Lux that week. And for this you got $25.00. When complaints were made to the Lux producers, the actors said: “We have to have a definite call…". The producers, of course, said, ‘We can’t give you a definite call, because we don’t know when we’ll need you.’ The actors said, ‘Well, you’d better figure it out, hadn’t you?’ Of course, they could and did. And they would break up call, but it still took them a week to put it together.”
In later years, relations between Lux and AFRA improved tremendously: radio actors were secure in the knowledge that a call for the show guaranteed them three days’ work for the then-princely sum of $133.00. It should be noted, however, that "The Lux Radio Theatre" was generous in that it identified every supporting player during each broadcast’s closing credits - a practice many top-rated shows ignored.
As "The Lux Radio Theatre" neared the end of its lengthy radio run, some anonymous bean-counter guesstimated that, over the course of the series, Lux had gone through 52,000 pages of scripts, 496 stars (Fred MacMurray and Loretta Young made the most appearances, with 26 and 25, respectively), 1,467 supporting players, 18,667 music cues and 22,667 special effects. Naturally, for the ten programs included in this collection, this is just the tip of the iceberg. But the listener of today certainly won’t be disappointed with the fine audio quality and first-class star lineup brought to you in this newly restored and remastered showcase by Radio Archives.
Starring Ann Richards, Alan Ladd, and Akim Tamiroff
Alan Ladd stars as a dedicated doctor whose medical studies are threatened by his infatuation with beautiful Chinese woman. Based on a 1939 Paramount Pictures release, the program is taken from the book by Lloyd C. Douglas and the screenplay by Sheridan Gibney and Anthony Veiller, as adapted for radio by Sanford Barnett. Hosted by Brian Aherne, the show also features Akim Tamiroff (reprising his original film role), Charles Seel, Clete Lee, Ralph Lewis, Edward Marr, Truda Marson, Robert Regent, Norman Field, Paul Theodore, Lal Chand Mehra, Jay Novello, Leone LeDoux, Barbara Jean Wong, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, March 5, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap
The Devil and Miss Jones
Starring Linda Darnell and Frank Morgan
After wealthy J.P. Merrick finds that several of his employees are considering forming a union, he decides to go undercover by getting a job as a shoe salesman in his own department store. Frank Morgan and Linda Darnell star in this delightful version of the 1941 RKO film, which was adapted for radio from Norman Krasna's original screenplay by George Wells. Hosted by Brian Aherne, the program also features Arthur Q. Bryan, Boyd Davis, Charles Seel, Doris Singleton, Ed Emerson, Edward Marr, Ferdinand Munier, Griff Barnett, Howard McNear, Lois Corbett, Norma Jean Nilsson, Norman Field, Verna Felton, Gordon Oliver, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, March 12, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap and Spry Vegetable Shortning
Starring Pat O'Brien and Lynn Bari
In this adaptation of a Republic Pictures B-mystery whodunit from 1945, the relatives of an eccentric and wealthy old man await his death with hopes of inheritance. But, before he can die of natural causes, he becomes a victim of murder! Pat O'Brien and Lynn Bari star in this tight little thriller, adapted for radio from Muriel Roy Bolton's screenplay by Sanford Barnett. Hosted by Otto Kruger, the program also features Edward Marr, Elizabeth Risdon, Carlton KaDell, Franklyn Parker, Anne Stone, Gloria Fisher, Earl Keen, Joseph Granby, Griff Barnett, Ed Emerson, Horace Murphy, Charles Seel, Gwen Delano, Paul Theodore, Norman Field, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, March 19, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap
Starring Al Jolson, Dennis Morgan, and Frances Gifford
Based loosely on the life of 19th century songwriter Stephen Foster, this tuneful adaptation of the 1939 20th Century Fox film stars Dennis Morgan as a songwriter from Pittsburgh who falls in love with the South, marries a Southern belle (Frances Gifford), and is accused of being a northern sympathizer when the Civil War breaks out. Featuring an outstanding performance by Al Jolson, reenacting his original film role as E. P. Christy, the program is based on the original screenplay by John Taintor Foote and Philip Dunne, as adapted for radio by Sanford Barnett. Hosted by Walter Huston, the program also features Charles Seel, Norman Field, Edward Marr, Janet Scott, Leone LeDoux, Leo Cleary, Howard McNear, Ed Emerson, Norma Jean Nilsson, Billy Roy, Earl Taylor Smith, Paul Frees, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, April 2, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap and Spry Vegetable Shortning
Starring Charles Laughton and Ella Raines
In 1902 London, unhappily married Philip Marshall meets young Mary Gray, in whom he finds both a friend and soul mate. Their friendship is platonic but, when Marshall's wife hears of it, she threatens him with exposure and scandal, eventually driving him to murder. Charles Laughton and Ella Raines reprise their original roles in this impressive adaptation of the 1944 Universal Pictures release, based on the book by James Ronald and the screenplay by Arthur T. Horman and Bertram Millhauser, as adapted for radio by Sanford Barnett. Hosted by Thomas Mitchell, the program also features Denis Green, Eric Snowden, Rosalind Ivan, Tom Collins, Tommy Cook, Lester Matthews, Truda Marson, Norman Field, Antony Ellis, Alec Harford, Charles Seel, Claire Verdera, Gloria Gordon, Beryl V. Collins, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, April 9, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap
Starring Ida Lupino and Robert Young
On the day of the 1929 stock market crash, a businessman (Robert Young) facing financial ruin recalls long-forgotten memories of his youth - and, in particular, a brief romantic fling with a beautiful woman (Ida Lupino). Prior to the program, host Edward G. Robinson speaks eloquently about the death of President Roosevelt, which occurred the previous week. Based on the 1933 Universal Pictures release, the program was adapted for radio by George Wells from the book by Frederick Lewis Allen and the screenplay by William Hurlbut, George O'Neil, and Arthur Richman. Featured in the cast are Edward Marr, Howard McNear, Lois Corbett, Lurene Tuttle, Tommy Cook, Charles Seel, Norman Field, Ferdinand Munier, Regina Wallace, Janet Scott, Truda Marson, Doris Singleton, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, April 16, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap
The Petrified Forest
Starring Ronald Colman, Susan Hayward, and Lawrence Tierney
In a small diner in the Arizona desert, two dreamers meet: a world-weary and unsuccessful writer who is considering suicide (Ronald Colman) and a waitress (Susan Hayward) who longs to run away from the stark reality of her dull, gritty, and lackluster life. But their idyll is interrupted when notorious gangster Duke Mantee (Lawrence Tierney) and his gang arrive at the diner and take the all of the customers hostage. Based on the play by Robert Emmet Sherwood, as well as the 1936 Warner Brothers film, the program was adapted for radio by Sanford Barnett and features Bill Martel, Charles Seel, Ed Emerson, Edward Marr, Herbert Rawlinson, Jay Novello, Leo Cleary, Norman Field, Regina Wallace, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, April 23, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap and Spry Shortning
The Canterville Ghost
Starring Charles Laughton, Margaret O'Brien, and Tom Drake
In the 1600s, cowardly Sir Simon De Canterville (Charles Laughton) runs away from a duel and hides in the family castle. Ashamed, his father seals him in his room, dooming him to life as a ghost until one of his descendants performs a brave deed. When American soldier Cuffy Williams (Tom Drake) and his unit are billeted in the castle during World War II, the ghost discovers that Cuffy is a blood relative -- and that, with an act of bravery, he may be able to finally release Sir Simon from his three hundred years of misery. Laughton and O'Brien reprise their roles in the original 1944 MGM film, based on the story by Oscar Wilde and adapted for radio by Sanford Barnett. Hosted by producer Hal Wallis, the program features Eric Snowden, Boyd Davis, Claire Verdera, Ed Emerson, Gerald Mohr, Gloria Gordon, Edward Marr, Clifton Young, Robert Cole, Charles Seel, Norman Field, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, June 18, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap and Spry Shortning
I'll Be Seeing You
Starring Joseph Cotten and Dorothy McGuire
While serving a six year prison term for accidental manslaughter, Mary Marshall (Dorothy McGuire) is given a Christmas furlough to visit her uncle and his family in a small Midwestern town. On the train she meets and begins to fall in love with Zach Morgan (Joseph Cotten), an army sergeant on leave who is suffering from battle fatigue and shell shock. Based on the poignant 1944 Selznick International film, the story was adapted for radio by Sanford Barnett from the play by Charles Martin and the screenplay by Marion Parsonnet. Hosted by director William Keighley, the show features Regina Wallace, John Parrish, Barbara Drake, Ken Christy, Jeff Corey, Edward Marr, Sanford Bickart, Charles Seel, Franklyn Parker, Janet Scott, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, December 24, 1945 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap
Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, and Donald Crisp
A disillusioned former jockey named Mi Taylor (Mickey Rooney) drifts into the lives of a family in small-town England, where he soon finds redemption by helping young Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor) prepare her wild but gifted horse for the Grand National Sweepstakes. Based on the classic 1944 MGM film, Donald Crisp also stars in this adaptation of the book by Enid Bagnold and screenplay by Theodore Reeves and Helen Deutsch, adapted for radio by Sanford Barnett. Hosted by director William Keighley, the cast features Janet Scott, Norman Field, Charles Seel, Truda Marson, Lois Boniston, John McGovern, Alec Harford, Jack Edwards Jr., Herbert Rawlinson, George Neise, Jerry Barnes, and announcer John Milton Kennedy.
Monday, February 3, 1947 - 60:00 - CBS, sponsored by Lux Soap and Spry Shortning