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Radio / Lux Radio Theatre

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"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.

Tropes listed below are those unique to the radio broadcasts, as opposed to tropes taken from the films the radio show was adapting.


  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • The Lux production of The Petrified Forest (Nov. 22, 1937) was like all other Lux shows barely half the length of the movie it was adapting, but they still threw in a scene not found in the film, in which Duke Mantee robs a bank.
    • Act 3 of Pinocchio (Dec. 25, 1939) opens with Jiminy Cricket telling of how Pinocchio escaped Pleasure Island being pursued by the Coachman and his goons. This was an idea considered for, but dropped from, the actual film, where Pinocchio ends up escaping undetected.
  • Artistic License – History: Discussed Trope when William Dieterle, director of The Life of Émile Zola, is interviewed (May 8, 1939). He says straight-up that telling a good story is more important than getting every little fact right when making a movie.
  • 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.
  • As You Know: The decision to frame A Tale of Two Cities (March 26, 1945) as a How We Got Here story told by Sidney Carton to the seamstress in prison, results in Carton telling the seamstress stuff like how the French Revolution broke out in 1789.
  • 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.
    • In the original stage play Men in White, Barbara dies from a botched abortion. In the Jan. 4, 1937 Lux adaptation, she's killed when Dr. Ferguson crashes the car while driving drunk.
  • 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: Sometimes the show would have essentially random celebrity interviews. For Death Takes a Holiday on March 22, 1937, DeMille interviewed silent screen star Blanche Sweet. 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.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Noël Coward gave a talk during an act break of the December 28, 1936 broadcast of Cavalcade.
    • DeMille appears in-story As Himself in the November 10, 1941 adaptation of Hold Back the Dawn. This was a recreation of the scene in the film where director Mitchell Leisen appears as himself.
    • William Dieterle, who directed The Life of Émile Zola, is interviewed during an act break of the May 8, 1939 Lux adaptation of that movie. He talks about Artistic License – History (see above).
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Drop: In Ruggles of Red Gap (July 10, 1939), Ruggles the butler drops the tray in shock when his boss tells Ruggles that he lost Ruggles in a game of poker. Ruggles picks the tray up (apparently), only to drop it again when his master confirms that it's true.
  • 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.
  • Guest Host: From time to time when DeMille or Keighley couldn't make it. Leslie Howard, Edward Arnold, and Lionel Barrymore all pinch-hit for DeMille on occasion.
  • 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.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: DeMille describes the Lux broadcast of Bachelor Mother (Jan. 22, 1940) as "a series of gay adventures."
  • The Host: Cecil B. DeMille from 1936 to 1945. William Keighley, not quite as famous as DeMille but a well-known film director in his own right, hosted the program from 1945 to 1952.
  • How We Got Here: A Tale of Two Cities (March 26, 1945) is staged this way. The seamstress doomed to die along with "Charles Darnay" in prison realizes that he is not Charles Darnay at all. The man who has taken Darnay's place on Death Row then tells the whole story of how things came to this.
  • 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.
  • Little Did I Know: In their adaptation of Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket uses the phrase during a transition between scenes.
    Jiminy: (narrating) Yessir, there we were, free as the air and on our way back to Mister Geppetto's. But little did we know, little did we know, that even then, new deviltry was hatching. Down in a waterfront dive known as the Red Lobster Inn, Honest John, and his crony Gideon sat drinking beer. With them was a companion, an evil-faced, leering Coachman...
  • Long-Runners: Debuted in 1934, stayed on the air for 21 years, until television killed it along with all other radio drama.
  • Medium Awareness: The Lux version of Our Town (May 6, 1940) gets the Medium Awareness across in a different way. In the Lux show, DeMille mentions the cobblestone streets of Grovers' Corners when the Stage Manager interrupts him to say that Grovers' Corners does not have cobblestone streets. The Stage Manager interacts with DeMille and the announcer going into and out of act breaks for the rest of the play.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the stage version of Our Town the Stage Manager plays three different parts: Mr. Morgan the druggist, Mrs. Forrest, and the minister at the wedding. In the Lux show, he's called "Newton Morgan".
  • 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.
    • The broadcast of Pinocchio (Dec. 25, 1939) had Jiminy Cricket take on the role of narrator, just as he did in the first few minutes of the film.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
  • 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.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The Lux version of Alice in Wonderland (Dec. 24, 1951) ends with Alice awakening from her dream, only for a hidden Mad Hatter and March Hare to make a comment about her, something that wasn't present in the film itself.
  • 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.
    • The original film version of Cavalcade lets the audience know that Edward and Edith are on the RMS Titanic by focusing in on a life preserver. That wouldn't work for a radio show, so the 1936 Lux adaptation includes some original dialogue in which Edward and Edith receive a telegram addressed to them aboard the Titanic.
    • In the original Notorious, Devlin finds the uranium ore in a random bottle while he's snooping around the basement, in a dialog-free scene. In the Lux version (Jan. 26, 1948), Devlin has intelligence on a 1934 vintage bottle, so he and Alicia are specifically looking for one.
    • In Pinocchio, Honest John's companion Gideon was The Voiceless, but in the Lux version, he makes Goofy-like chuckles to make himself known to the listener.
  • Product Placement: For Lux 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.
    • The adaptations of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio had no studio audience, as Walt Disney wanted to keep up the illusion that his animated characters were real, so recorded applause was used in those broadcasts.
  • 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.