Old time radio blog.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Film By Ear
If you like classic movies from Hollywood's 'golden era' (1927 - 1960), you'll probably love Lux Theater, NBC's University of the Air, Theater Guild, Screen Guild Theater, and Academy Award Theater.
Lux is the most famous, offering one hour adaptations of hundreds of popular films beginning in the mid-30's all the way up to the mid-50's. The plays usually featured one or more of the original stars or an equal replacement, such as Rosalind Russell subbing for Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce or Barbara Stanwyck taking Bette Davis' lead in Dark Victory -- often to great or better effect. Both of the Thin Man productions star William Powell and Myrna Loy; the couple also show up in their Manhattan Melodrama; Bill Holden and Gloria Swanson duel in Sunset Boulevard; Bogie & Bacall simmer in To Have and Have Not. Davis does appear in The Letter, albeit in a speeded-up version -- a technical glitch -- that lessens the impact. Bogart reappears for The African Queen, with Greer Garson subbing for Katharine Hepburn; Kate herself shows up in Undercurrent.
University was a late 40's - early 50's series based on great works of world literature created for various colleges; each episode has at least one name star and the books include Moby Dick, Howards End, Mrs Dalloway, Sons & Lovers, Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, Track of the Cat, and The Red Badge of Courage.
Theater Guild also has name talent focusing more on stage classics like Blithe Spirit and a fabulous Tallulah Bankhead version of All About Eve, which trumps the Lux version starring Davis herself!
Academy Award and Screen Guild offer half-hour versions of famous films -- including Davis in Jezebel and in The Little Foxes, Joan Crawford in Flamingo Road, Dana Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives, Carole Lombard in Tailored By Toni, et al -- which are great little time-killers.
Note: If you are more theater-inclined, Campbell Playhouse and its predecessor, The Mercury Theater are in a class by themselves -- and not just because they both feature Orson Welles as their artistic centers. The focus is more on non-Hollywood product like their infamous War of the Worlds production of 1938 that spooked millons across the country, a witty version of Schnitzler's sexy Affairs of Anatol which was years ahead of its time, and Welles' own take on Dinner At Eight which practically predicts his own future downfall.