Nov 22, 2009

Lux Radio Theater

I was born in 1981, roughly the same time that video was becoming popular. I missed the revolution though, the sudden availability to movie fans (albeit often in rather compromised form, thanks to 'pan and scan') of their enduring favourite movies (and, yes, an endless cavalcade of crap too).

Generations prior to mine will remember a time when the only way to see movies again was on TV, and before that only a select few titles would be re-accessible, through re-releases. Recently, on BBC Radio 4, there was an episode of Archive Hour about a really rather extraordinary programme called Lux Radio Theater, on which, from 1935 to 1954 recent and popular movies were adapted for radio, often with the original stars, but sometimes with different casts (albeit still with actors drawn from the top rank of Hollywood talent), creating alternate versions of the movie, a strange sort of paralell reality in which Casblanca starred Alan Ladd and Hedy Lamarr, Carole Lombard (pictured) played opposite Bob Hope, rather than Robert Montgomery, in Mr and Mrs Smith, and Ray Milland and Frank Lovejoy were the Strangers on A Train.

At the time, Lux Radio Theater must have been a wonderful way to revisit movies, and today it is a stunning archive of the golden age of Hollywood, with some highly enjoyable bookends featuring the week's stars and show 'producer' and presenter Cecil B. DeMille. The banter is probably closely scripted, but it's fun, and what I've heard of it has a nice loose feel.

You can find some episodes on youtube, but you can find a hugely extensive library of episdoes at the internet archive. I highly recommend, if you are at all interested in classic film, that you give this show a listen.

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