Radio: Lux Radio Theatre

"Lux presents...HOLLYWOOD."

Lux Radio Theatre was a popular radio drama series that ran on American radio from 1934 to 1955. It premiered on the NBC Blue Network, was picked up by CBS in 1935, then went to NBC the year before it went off the air. A companion television program, Lux Video Theatre, ran from 1950 to 1959.

Lux Radio Theatre did not present original programming. The show started out by presenting radio adaptations of popular Broadway plays. Within a couple of years the show began adapting popular Hollywood films, condensing them into the one-hour running time of the radio program. These were often performed by members of the original film cast: for example, James Stewart and Donna Reed both appeared in the March 10, 1947 broadcast of It's A Wonderful Life. And when they couldn't get the original stars they'd get other A-listers, like the October 18, 1944 broadcast of Suspicion, in which the show replaced Cary Grant with William Powell and replaced Joan Fontaine with her sister, Olivia de Havilland.

Cecil B. DeMille, when he wasn't making epic dramas, was the producer of Lux Radio Theatre for many years. The show was sponsored by Lever Brothers and used as a marketing device for "Lux toilet soap" (which still exists). Many of the Lux Radio Theatre recordings from throughout the show's run still survive and are available for download or for listening over the internet.


  • Audio Adaptation: Sometimes of stage plays, but usually of Hollywood films.
  • As Himself: Babe Ruth as Babe Ruth in the April 19, 1937 adaptation of Alibi Ike.
  • Bowdlerization: In A Free Soul, released in 1931 during The Pre Code Era, Ace Wilfong is a gangster, and Jan sleeps with him without benefit of marriage. In the Lux version that aired on Nov. 1, 1937, well after The Hays Code and the crackdown on Hollywood censorship, Ace is a gambler, and they do get married. See also Death by Adaptation below. Further, the deliberate murder that is a key plot point in the film was changed in the Lux adaptation to a Gun Struggle—see example below.
  • Broadcast Live: As were most other radio dramas, with the occasional entertaining blunder, like when Clark Gable botched his lines during the stage patter that ended the It Happened One Night show.
  • The Cameo: The June 8, 1936 production of The Thin Man featured an interview with silent screen star Theda Bara, who was in the audience. It is the only surviving recording of Bara's voice.
  • Cross-Cast Role: The 1939 adaptation of It Happened One Night includes a couple of creepy live commercial segments in which two obviously male actors voice two women enjoying the benefits of Lux soap.
  • Death by Adaptation / Spared by the Adaptation: The Bowdlerization of A Free Soul when it was staged by Lux in 1937 led to a wholesale revision of the plot. In the movie, Ace is Jan's violently possessive lover, and Dwight, Jan's old boyfriend, kills him after Ace threatens to make their relationship public and ruin Jan's reputation. In the radio version, after Jan starts hanging out with Dwight again, Ace confronts him, Dwight pulls a gun, and it's Dwight that is killed in the Gun Struggle that ensues. Ace is then acquitted of Dwight's murder, when it was Dwight being acquitted of Ace's murder in the film.
  • Flashback: The Pragmatic Adaptation of The Maltese Falcon (Feb. 8, 1943, with Edward G Robinson as Spade) used a Flashback during Spade's interrogation to introduce the character of Miss Wonderley, which the film did not do.
  • Framing Device / How We Got Here: The Sept. 15, 1941 adaptation of Lost Horizon uses a Framing Device in which Conway, on board a ship, tells the story of his journey to Shangri-La. This was different from the 1937 film, which used a straight narrative.
  • Gun Struggle: How Dwight meets his end after struggling with Ace in the Lux version of A Free Soul (see Death by Adaptation above). This was also a result of Bowdlerization, as in the 1931 film Dwight kills Ace and gets away with it, while by 1937 allowing a guilty party to escape punishment was strictly forbidden.
  • Impoverished Patrician: A Real Life example in the case of former Russian Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, who was interviewed for the May 15, 1939 broadcast of Tovarich.
  • Long Runners: Debuted in 1934, stayed on the air for 21 years, until television killed it along with all other radio drama.
  • Narrator: DeMille and other hosts served as narrators when necessary, like when Lux adapted Wake Island (Oct. 26, 1942), and DeMille had to describe the outcome of combat sequences that the audience couldn't see.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Irishwoman Maureen O'Hara was supposed to be playing an American businesswoman in Miracle on 34th Street, but when she reprised the part for Lux on Dec. 20, 1948, her voice starts to wobble into an English/Irish accent.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
    • Ida Lupino, playing an Englishwoman on the December 13, 1937 broadcast of The 39 Steps.
    • Ditto Virginia Bruce in My Favorite Blonde (October 19, 1942).
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • Films that were 90-120 minutes long were condensed to 45 minutes or so for the radio broadcast. For example, the adaptation of It's a Wonderful Life cuts the characters of Violet Bick and the Bailey family maid, as well as the scene with a drunk Uncle Billy leaving George's house.
    • See Flashback above.
    • In The Thin Man, Nick is alone when he discovers a body hidden beneath some hastily lain cement in Wynant's shop. For the 1936 Lux radio version, Nora is with him. The reason is that in the movie the scene where Nick discovers the body is largely dialog-free, including Nick recoiling and holding a handkerchief to his face after catching the smell. In the radio show, Nick and Nora talk about what they're seeing to help the audience follow along.
  • Product Placement: For Lux toilet soap. The host would flog Lux soap and there would usually be live commercials for Lux soap during the act breaks.
  • The Remake: Sometimes they'd do shows more than once. The 1944 broadcast of Suspicion mentioned above was the second time Lux did that film, Fontaine having reprised her role alongside Brian Aherne on May 4, 1942.
  • Running Gag: At the end of the show, the host would have a little chat with the cast, and at some point the host was guaranteed to ask the lead actress some kind of awkward, contrived question about her beauty routine, which the actress would answer by talking about how awesome Lux toilet soap was.
  • Setting Update: Oddly, the June 23, 1941 broadcast of The Shop Around the Corner updates the setting from Hungary to America. Or at least it seems to; many of the character names are changed to American-sounding names. The female lead's name is changed from "Klara Novak" to "Karen Smith".
  • Studio Audience: The show had one, which would applaud at the end and can sometimes be heard laughing and applauding during the program.
    • If the sound of applause is any indication, the Lux adaptation of It Happened One Night (March 20, 1939) had a studio audience of exactly one person.
  • Tempting Fate: The introduction to the Lux staging of The Front Page (June 28, 1937), says that Amelia Earhart couldn't make her scheduled appearance, but would be on the show next week after she completed her around-the-world flight. Earhart disappeared forever when her airplane ran out of gas somewhere in the vicinity of Howland Island on July 2, 1937.