The Lux Radio Theatre featured film stars from every studio. In radio play scripts adapted from popular films, these actors had an opportunity to publicize current or future projects, keep their names before the public, and stretch different muscles in the very different realm of acting on radio, before a studio audience.
These shows were produced and hosted by famed director Cecil B. DeMille. In 1940, William Powell and Myrna Loy recreated their roles in “Manhattan Melodrama” with Don Ameche in the Clark Gable role. In 1944, Teresa Wright recreated her role in “Shadow of a Doubt,” with William Powell in the Joseph Cotten role. Greer Garson and Ronald Colman had a chance to recreate their roles in “Random Harvest,” and Ronald Colman, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and C. Aubrey Smith recreated their roles in “The Prisoner of Zenda.”
Lux wasn’t the only game in town, however. “The Screen Director’s Playhouse,” “Academy Award Theatre,” and “Screen Guild Players” were others which used the same formula of adapting film scripts to radio, in most cases trying to use the original stars. Some programs were more successful than others. One wonders about the logic of the “Screen Guild Players” attempt to adapt “The Best Years of Our Lives,” a very long movie, into a half-hour radio script. At least “Lux” shows were an hour.
Though original players Frederic March, Myrna Loy, and Teresa Wright were in the radio version, most of the other characters and scenes had to be cut out to fit the story in a half-hour format. It was less an adaptation of “Best Years” than the Cliff Notes. One rather comic aspect is that in the film, March, just home from the service, nervously offers his wife, played by Myrna Loy, a cigarette. She responds, “Have you forgotten, Al? I don’t smoke.” This illustrates their long absence from each other.
However, the “Screen Guild Players” version was sponsored by Camel Cigarettes, so refusing a cigarette was out. Instead, he offers her coffee and she says, “Don’t you remember, Al? I don’t drink coffee.” You can imagine the actors’ and the audience’ eyes rolling over that one.
Most of the radio scripts were fairly faithful, and the shows a lot of fun to hear. Today the Lux Radio Playhouse on Vine Street where the Lux shows were produced is now the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre. Like all theaters, it must be filled with an interesting collage of theater ghosts. Standing before microphones, perhaps, dropping each page of dialogue on the floor.