The Greatest Films on Radio
Bogie - Maybe the Best Ever
by Bill Russo
the Greatest Films on Radio
Tonight's movie is the 1951 Academy Award winning "The African Queen" starring Humphrey Bogart, reprising his role as riverboat captain Charlie Allnut.
The production is by The Lux Radio Theatre which created excellent radio movies from 1934 to 1955. The producers tried hard to hire as many original cast members as they could.
This adaptation features Humphrey Bogart in his Academy Award winning turn as the whiskey soaked sailor, pestered by a prim female missionary into attacking a World War One warship off the coast of Africa
Watch the 60 minute radio film here.
Irving Cummings, Radio & Film Director
The cinematic version of the film starred Katherine Hepburn, who also scored an Oscar win. For the radio movie, the producers were unable to get Hepburn, but did secure another award winning actress for her role - Greer Garson - always among the top ten female actresses of the 1940s.
The radio movie was produced in Hollywood for the Lux Theatre on CBS Radio and was broadcast before a live audience. Mr. Bogart and Miss Garson were each reportedly paid $5,000 for their performances. In 1951 this was pretty good money for doing a sixty minute radio gig.
Don't miss the interview segment after the movie, when Bogie and the show's host, Director/Producer Irving Cummings talk about Bogie's first film, which was made in Palm Springs when the temperature was 120 degrees.
The Historic Run of the Program
The Lux radio theater started out on the NBC Blue Radio Network in 1934. NBC had two radio networks until it was forced by the Government to sell off it's Red Network in 1943. That red network, which was the weaker of the pair, eventually became the ABC Radio (and Television) network.
In 1935, sponsor Lever Brothers, makers of Lux Soap, moved the program over to CBS where it remained for nearly two decades, until spending its final year, the 1954-55 season, back on NBC.
There was a television version of the Lux Radio Theatre, called the Lux Video Theatre, that ran from 1950 to 1957, but it never attained the success of the radio version, probably owing to the better visuals provided by radio.
The Red and Blue names of the NBC Radio Network had nothing to do with the content or quality of the programs or the webs, but was merely the color of the pins stuck into a map to show the cities where the networks had radio affiliates.
Lux Producer/ Director - C.B.
Himself was the Director
Film director extraordinaire Cecil B. DeMille, himself, hosted the wildly popular radio theatre from 1936 to 1945. He was forced off the job after he refused to pay a one dollar assessment demanded by AFRA (The American Federation of Radio Artists.)
After television came along the name was changed to AFTRA. The T is for Television - the American Federation of Radio & Television Artists.
The issue had to do with the union's fighting for a 'closed shop' - meaning anyone who worked would have to be in the union. DeMille was a member of the union but did not support 'closed shops'.
William Keighley - Actor/Director
After the Great DeMille
Director William Jackson Keighley, 1889 to 1984, took over as host after the strange departure of DeMille, and he was at the helm of the program from 1945 until Irving Cummings relieved him for the final three years of the broadcast.
The Lux Radio Theatre was one of the best things done by the great medium of dramatic radio. TLRT presented big budget productions with many of the original stars before a live Hollywood audience, every week for 39 weeks a season for 20 years.
There was only one time in history that the program did not use stars, or even actors. It was a program about soldiers, and featured regular American G.Is.
William Bendix - Riley on Radio, TV & Film
Another interesting radio movie on the Lux Theatre was "The Life of Riley". That radio adaptation of a film was about a movie which was a radio show.
The Life of Riley was a long running radio success starring William Bendix, before it became a movie, and later a TV show, still starring Bill Bendix, although Jackie Gleason had a one year stand as TV Riley, during a period that Bendix had other commitments .
Happy Halloween From Orson
More Lux Radio Trivia
From the 'creepy' department. In 1938 when the Lux Radio Theatre took its 13 week summer vacation, the replacement show was none other than The Mercury Theater. The creator of the Mercury theater was the 20 something young genius Orson Welles, fresh off of great success playing "The Shadow". He found even greater fame when his theater company took to the air on Halloween in October and produced the ultimate radio shocker, "The War of the Worlds".