Command Performance was Hollywood’s gift to the men and women serving overseas during World War II. Produced by the US War Department with 100 percent donated labor and facilites, the show featured appearances by performers as requested by servicemen. Each show featured a star MC, musical acts, comedy, and variety. Today’s episode was produced June 30, 1942. Spencer Tracy serves as host, with appearances by Groucho Mrx, Barbara Stanwyck, Victor Borge, and Mary Lee, among others.
In the fourth in our series of Lux Radio Theater programs, we mov beyond the Cecil B. DeMille years, to the William Keighley era. DeMille left his position as host after nine years, following a dispute with theAmerican Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA). After months of on-air auditions Keighley was named permanent host in November 1945, Keighley was a film director whose credits included; Brother Rat, The Streat With No Name, and The Man Who Came to Dinner. Today’s episode of Lux, from November 15, 1948, stars John Garfield and Jane Wyman in Body and Soul.
In part 3 of our Lux Radio Theater series, we take a look at Lux during World War II. Like most other radio series of the time, Lux included its share of war stories and other patriotic plays, but never abandoned the series’ focus on the glamorous, and more carefree side of Hollywood. War-themed plays mirrored the fare being offered on the nation’s movie screens, and on at least one occasion in the summer of 1942, Lux handed sponsorship of the show over to the US government, which re-christened the show, The Victory Theater, and used the episode to pitch war bonds. Male stars who had served in the military were welcomed back to the Lux stage with great fanfare, as were women stars who toured army camps stateside and overseas. Episodes during and after the war often featured pitches for war bonds, or human-interest stories about military personnel and civilians involved in the fight.
This week’s episode, from April 24, 1944, is called This Land is Mine. It’s the story of a small town in Europe, and its resistance of the Nazi occupation. The radio show is based on the 1943 film of the same name, which also starred Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Sullivan.
Today we hear Lux episode 245, Dark Victory. It aired on January 8, 1940. The film version, starring Bette Davis and George Brent, had been released in April 1939, smack dab in the middle of Hollywood’s greatest film year. Lux had presented another version of Dark Victory in April 1938, with Barbara Stanwyck and Melvyn Douglas in the lead roles. But in 1940, it was not the play, but the pairing of Academy Award winners Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis that Cecil B DeMille raved about in his introduction. Davis and Tracy had earned two Oscars apiece by then, having each won acting awards at the most recent Oscar ceremony in 1939. Tracy’s Oscar was his second in a row. Davis had won her first in 1936. In short, Davis and Tracy were at the top of their game, and Lux made the most of their pairing on radio. Davis would go on to be nominated for another Oscar for her performance in <em>Dark Victory</em>. She lost to Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind.
With this episode, I begin a five-part series focusing on the history of Lux RadioTheater, the most successful, longest-running radio drama series in history.
We begin with the first Lux Radio Theater broadcast to originate from Hollywood. In The Legionnaire and the Lady, MarleneDietrich recreates her role in the 1930 film, Morocco. She stars with Clark Gable, who takes the part played by Gary Cooper in the film. From this star-studded beginning, Lux built a phenomenal 20-year run, and sold a whole lot of soap flakes.
NBC’s 1950-52 variety series, The Big Show was a last ditch effort to stave off the coming domination of television. The series starred Broadway actress and raconteur Tallulah Bankhead as mistress of ceremonies. It was a lavish, star-studded production. Each episode ran an unusual 90 minutes, and cost the network $100,000 apiece to produce. Radio stars, including Fred Allen were semi-regulars, as were a surprisingly wide array of film and variety performers. The show, which was typically produced in New York, traveled occasionally to Hollywood, and, in the 1951-52 season, to London. Aside from generating a buzz for the show, taking The Big Show on the road allowed the producers to bring on a different collection of famous guests. In the April 1 1951 episode we’re featuring today, Ethel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Groucho Marx, and Bob Hope are among the guests. The episode was broadcast from Hollywood, soon after the Academy Awards honored All About Eve as Best Picture. Starring Bette Davis, the movie was based on Tallulah Bankhead’s life in the theatre. You’ll hear a few “Eve” references in this episode of The Big Show, along with congratulations for show semi-regular, Judy Holiday, who took home the Best Actress prize for her performance in Born Yesterday.
Dick Powell began his film career as a juvenile leading man and crooner in musical comedies of the early 1930s. Bored by musicals, Powell remade his image in the 1940s as a hard-boiled film noir hero. His first major noir role was as Philip Marlowe in the 1944 film, Murder, My Sweet. In 1945, Powell began his first radio series, Rogue’s Gallery, playing private eye Richard Rogue. The culmination of Powell’s radio career came in 1949 when he starred as Richard Diamond, Private Detective, in the Blake Edwards-penned series. On today’s show, we hear an episode of each series.
Cary Grant takes Joseph Cotten’s role in this Screen Directors’ Playhouse production of Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. The 1950 radio adaptation also features Grant’s third wife, actress Betsy Drake. There are at least three other radio adaptation of Shadow, some featuring a member of the original cast.