Recently I was reminiscing about the days before the Internet when if you wanted to see a movie or hear a song you had to either take pot luck with what was on television or save up your pennies and buy a recording. Nothing instant. Favorite film viewings were treasured experiences. I recall getting the TV Guide each week and my mother and I would circle the films that we wanted to watch. Hers in red; mine in blue. I was lucky to have parents who didn’t care when I slept. I would stay up all night watching movies on our giant 19-inch Panasonic black and white television set. If the movie was something really special, I would take our reel-to-reel tape recorder and capture the audio by putting the microphone to the tiny speaker. Over and over I would listen to the soundtrack of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE HAUNTING, and the Marx Brothers’ HORSE FEATHERS, acting them out and memorizing every line. (You should have seen the pillows fly during the ship capsizing scene!)
Photo from LegendaryJoanCrawford.com
After years of instant cinema gratification with DVDs and the Internet, I think we should reflect on how lucky film buffs are today. Decades before I was even born, the only way someone could revisit a film was either through a re-release of the feature, which was done for only really popular films such as GONE WITH THE WIND or FRANKENSTEIN, was to hear a dramatization on the radio.
Lux Radio was a weekly anthology program that recreated for radio the films of the day. Most of them we now regard as classics. Starting in 1935 on NBC with Cecil B. DeMille as the host such films as THE AWFUL TRUTH, DARK VICTORY, STAGE DOOR, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, ALL ABOUT EVE, LAURA, were all adapted for radio. There were several other programs that did this as well, including Academy Award Theater and Screen Director’s Playhouse. Whenever possible, the original cast was brought back to recreate their original roles.
These Reader’s Digest versions of these films are treasures. In the early 1970’s Chicago was blessed to have Chuck Schaden living in our city. He was a collector of old radio programs and he started his Those Were the Days radio program. It was my first time experiencing many of these classic films. And with my trusty tape recorder, I was able to capture many of them and re-listen multiple times to LIFEBOAT, W.C. Fields in POPPY, and LOST HORIZON. I had known these titles as radio productions years before I watched the actual films.
If you haven’t listened to one of your favorite films, you are missing a treat. May I recommend the website www.otrcat.org. I’ve been shopping from this site for years and it’s got the most complete collection of radio shows around. Click HERE to be brought to their Lux Radio Theater page and listen to the radio version of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL with Michael Rennie and Jean Peters in the Patricia Neal role.
YouTube has many shows that you can easily access. Here below, is Alfred Hitchcock directing a radio version of his film LIFEBOAT, with Tallulah Bankhead and Jeff Chandler.
Here Lionel Barrymore introduces the original cast of LAURA
Enjoy them on the big screen in your mind.