The Spirit of Christmas Past in Old Hollywood


Nowhere was the Holiday spirit kept better than in Old Hollywood. As a sign of those times, when Bing Crosby first recorded “Silent Night” in 1935, he thought it was wrong to accept payment and donated his fee to charity. There is a wealth of vintage carols and old time broadcasts available on the Internet but here at OHIC we are pleased to present some rare material that you are not likely to find elsewhere. In the links that follow we will hear unscripted Christmas greetings from President Franklin Roosevelt, a live session with Glenn Miller and his Orchestra just two weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack, plus a young Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney providing unscripted commentary of the Christmas Parade along Hollywood Boulevard, and much more.

President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

First let’s begin our trip back in time by returning to December 24, 1940, as FDR concludes his Christmas greetings by making a suggestion involving the White House Christmas Tree that has been followed to this day:

Christmas 1941 was unlike any before or since. Barely two weeks earlier the United States was suddenly thrust into the Second World War, which had been raging in Europe for two years already. America had been officially neutral but all that changed when the Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. Pacific Naval Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. Outwardly, the 1941 Holiday season seemed the same as past years but everyone knew that the New Year would bring dramatic changes in their lives as the nation converted to a war footing.

None were fated to be more affected than popular bandleader Glenn Miller, who would be lost flying over the English Channel just days before Christmas 1944. Of all the celebrity war casualties such as Leslie Howard and Ernie Pyle, none would be mourned more than Miller. So let’s return to Christmas Eve 1941 to hear Glenn and his band broadcasting live on his bi-weekly 15-minute Chesterfield Time:

Of the younger generation, perhaps the most popular circa 1940 were Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney (it is remarkable that Mickey is still with us for Christmas 2012!). Judy was known for a lot more than THE WIZARD OF OZ, and Mickey was more versatile than his numerous ANDY HARDY films would suggest (which also co-starred Judy).

Typical of that time, their many radio appearances were scripted and rehearsed but we found a fascinating 15 minutes that is unscripted and quite spontaneous as Judy and Mickey provide commentary on the Christmas Parade along Hollywood Boulevard. We are guessing that the event is likely Christmas 1940, which means that Judy is all of 18 years old and Mickey is 20. Given their tender ages, it is surprising how articulate they are as they exchange greetings with their fans:

Lionel Barrymore (grand uncle of Drew Barrymore) seemed to own Christmas from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s with his annual portrayal on the air of Ebeneezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Even now, it is easy to surf the web and hear several different performances of Lionel as Scrooge.

But here at OHIC we give you Lionel Barrymore in A MODERN SCROOGE that was presented by the U.S. Treasury on Christmas Eve 1942 with Fredric March in support. Think of Scrooge if he had lived during WWII America and asked to buy War Bonds, and you’ll have the basic idea behind this energetic little play:

Jack Benny didn’t exactly “own” Christmas the way Lionel Barrymore did, but the holiday spirit of gift-giving conflicted perfectly with his cheapskate character. Year after year from about 1934 through the 1970s, a Jack Benny Christmas Show meant an unsentimentalized treatment of the holidays from a tightwad’s viewpoint.

Trying to select one Benny show from among the decades is difficult because there’s not a clinker in the lot. But the holiday broadcasts from 1938 are particularly caustic and this particular one from December 11, 1938 is a classic of sarcasm. Besides Jack, the show’s regulars are announcer Don Wilson, Mary Livingston (who was Jack’s wife in real life but plays a sort of gal Friday on the show), bandleader Phil Harris (who developed into a very fine comedian), and of course, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, who gets the biggest laughs of all. It is to Jack’s eternal credit that he didn’t care who got the big laughs on his show as long as there were big laughs:

Let’s conclude this visit to Christmas Past with something truly rare. Long before Barrymore as Scrooge or Benny as a gift-giving cheapskate helped to define the Holiday season, it seemed that Christmas did not officially arrive until Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink sang “Silent Night” at the stroke of Midnight. This Austrian-Czech contralto was considered one of the finest opera singers of her day – in the 19th century! She was popularly called Mother Schumann-Heink because she had seven children (by three husbands!) and one stepson. She became an American citizen in 1905, but had sons fighting on both the American side and the German side during the First World War (1914-1918). Her loyalties were unabashedly American and she sang tirelessly at the camps throughout that war.

By the 1920s, the radio networks would combine and across the land at Midnight on December 25th was heard the distinctive voice of Mother Schumann-Heink singing “Stille Nacht” like an angel from on high. She even had her own weekly radio show in 1934 (sponsored by Gerber Baby Foods, of course) where at the age of 73 she handed out lots of advice to her listeners between songs. Many people who lived back then felt that Christmas was never the same after her passing in 1936 but we like to think that she would be pleased to know we can still hear her proclaim Peace on Earth in the 21st Century:

Silent Screen Stars on Radio

We’re celebrating the publication of our new book, OLD HOLLYWOOD IN COLOR 3: WHEN SILENT STARS SPOKE, so this seems like a good time to devote a post to this particular topic. There’s a lot of Hollywood mythology surrounding the fate of silent movie stars when they made talkies, and even such hit films such as SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) only served to reinforce those myths. The fact is that most silent screen stars did just fine in talkies and the ones who stand out because they didn’t do well are a distinct minority. You can read more about it in the book (a shameless plug) but here let’s actually listen to the silent stars themselves when they broadcast on radio.

Let’s take a look at, well, really listen to, three silent stars who never made any talkies: Theda Bara, William S. Hart, and Rudolph Valentino. Strange to say, as talkies supplanted the silents beginning in 1928 and finishing the job by 1929, some stars just walked away from their fame and fortune. Some like Constance Talmadge had become independently wealthy while others married into money or went into business, especially southern California real estate. Perhaps the most famous of early screen stars – we’re referring to the 1910s – was Theda Bara, the movies’ first sex goddess or “Vampire” as they were called then:

Theda’s name is supposedly an anagram for “Arab Death” but I have no idea of its significance. Her real name was Theodosia Goodman and by all accounts, she was nobody’s fool. Here’s an effective study of light and shadow:

By now you’re probably wondering how Bara came by her reputation, at least based on these two photos. OK, here’s one of the most iconic photos of Theda Bara from the lost film, CLEOPATRA (1917):

Now that we’ve been properly introduced, just click below to hear Theda Bara on the November 9, 1939 broadcast of Texaco Star Theater. You’ll hear host Ken Murray, comedian Irene Ryan (who later played Granny on TV’s “Beverly Hillbillies”), and singer Kenny Baker who asks Theda a very good question:

William S. Hart was film’s iconic cowboy star in the 1910s into the early 20s. A New York stage-trained actor – he played Messala in BEN-HUR in 1899 – he transferred his genuine love of the West into a lucrative movie career as a star, writer, producer and director:

Bill Hart retired before talkies came in but he recorded a beautifully spoken prologue to his last film, TUMBLEWEEDS (1926) when he reissued it in 1939.

But Hart occasionally made an appearance on radio in the 1930s to recite his own poem, “Pinto Ben.” Here is Rudy Vallee introducing him on the December 13, 1934 broadcast of the Fleischmann’s Hour:

Rudolph Valentino was the super star of such silents as THE SHEIK (1921), BLOOD AND SAND (1922), and MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE (1924) among many other hits.

Sadly, Rudy didn’t live to make a talkie but he was broadcasting in 1923, long before most of his movie star colleagues were.

None of Rudy’s broadcasts were recorded but he did make two commercial recordings in 1923, thus preserving his singing voice.

At any rate, he carries a nice tune and the timbre of his voice at least suggests that Rudy had a good chance of success in the talkies:

Mae Murray was a Ziegfeld Follies dancer who enjoyed a successful film career from the mid-1910s through the 1920s:

Mae can be easiest described as a successor to Theda Bara although instead of having an exotic sort of mystique like Bara, Mae was a straightforward American gal with a frank sex appeal:

By now you probably want to see one of Mae Murray’s iconic photos to understand her appeal of nearly a century ago:

Unike Theda Bara, Mae did make a few talkies but not successfully. So her appearance on the December 6, 1939 Texaco Star Theater is noteworthy. Host Ken Murray gets in some laughs by the fact that he and Mae have the same last name:

Mary Astor was still in her teens when she played leading lady opposite such celebrities as John Barrymore and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. She is all of 17 here in BEAU BRUMMEL (1924):

By the 1940s it seemed that Mary Astor had been around forever although she was still a relatively young woman. She transitioned superbly to sound films, so much so that many people would forget that once she was a silent film star. She ably added radio broadcasting to her list of accomplishments:

We’re in luck because next we have a complete performance by Mary in the popular half-hour suspense show called, well, “Suspense” that was broadcast live on February 16, 1943:

Lillian Gish’s career in silent films preceded everyone else listed here, having made her first films in 1912 working for director D.W. Griffith. And she was still starring in films through 1987 with THE WHALES OF AUGUST.

Lillian made her best-remembered films during the 1920s such as WAY DOWN EAST (1920), ORPHANS OF THE STORM (1921), both directed by D.W. Griffith, THE WHITE SISTER (1923), LA BOHEME (1926), THE SCARLET LETTER (1926), and THE WIND (1928), among many others.

Gish made her first talkie in 1930, ONE ROMANTIC NIGHT, but didn’t care for the new medium. She moved to New York where she continued her career in the theater, on radio, and occasionally, in films such as DUEL IN THE SUN (1946), and eventually on television. Among her more unusual broadcast appearances are as a guest panelist on the popular quiz show, “Information Please.” No, Lillian wasn’t slumming because only the brightest and best of celebrities were permitted to appear on the show. Here is Lillian Gish on the October 11, 1938 live broadcast of “Information Please”:

We have barely scratched the surface of exploring silent stars on radio. Perhaps in a future post we can hear from Gloria Swanson, Norma Talmadge, Richard Barthelmess, John Barrymore, Conrad Veidt, and even D.W. Griffith. Do you have any requests?

OHIC Surpasses 20,000 Hits – Let’s Go to the Ziegfeld Follies to Celebrate!

It seems like just a few months ago that we were celebrating 10,000 hits. As a matter of fact, it WAS just a few months ago – March in fact. At any rate, breaking the 20,000 bench mark is a cause for celebration so……..

Before there was Hollywood, there was Broadway. And the most influential shows on the Great White Way that would have a profound influence on films were the incredible annual productions of the Ziegfeld Follies that were produced from 1907 through 1931. I’m referring to the original shows from the creative genius of Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, Jr., himself.

Film buffs will know that MGM made three impressive films around the Follies: the biopic extravaganza, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936), starring William Powell in the title role; THE ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941) starring Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr; and the Technicolor delight, THE ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (1946). Mr. Ziegfeld also got into film production during the early talkie era with GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL (1929) and co-producing (with Sam Goldwyn) his stage hit WHOOPEE (1930), starring Eddie Cantor.

Ever the showman and entrepreneur, Ziegfeld creatively continued producing the Follies – on radio! In 1932, the entire nation could attend the Ziegfeld Follies on the Air, as the new show was called. Without further ado, let’s celebrate our 20,000 mark by hearing this live half hour broadcast from New York City on April 10, 1932. The talent lined up for this show include the legendary songstress Helen Morgan, dialect comedian Jack Pearl, and Leon Errol re-enacting his role in a scene from SALLY, a Ziegfeld hit of 1920. Of course, you’ll hear Mr. Ziegfeld himself who is on hand to welcome you:


No, he doesn’t look much like William Powell but “Ziggy,” as his friends called him, had a personality to make up for any deficiency in looks. We catch a glimpse of that commanding persona in his radio remarks.

Helen Morgan, the beautiful but ill-fated star of Ziegfeld’s landmark production, SHOW BOAT in 1927. Helen would repeat her role as Julie in the 1936 film version of SHOW BOAT:

Leon Errol was a funny man for all seasons, transitioning very nicely from performing and directing in the theater during the teens and 20s, to starring in movies during the 1930s and 40s. He would never be confused with, say, Chaplin, but he was a master of slapstick and could be relied on to keep audiences rolling in the aisles. In films he worked well with stars such as Ethel Merman and Lupe Velez, and even his old Follies sidekick, W.C. Fields. But Leon seemed to know when to hold back for his co-stars and when he could let loose:

Our radio broadcast includes a wonderful scene from SALLY, which made Marilynn Miller into a Broadway star. It didn’t hurt Leon Errol either:

The ZIEGFELD FOLLIES OF THE AIR ran through June 1932 and ended when Ziegfeld died suddenly of a lung infection in July – remember, those were the days before antibiotics. Today, Florenz Ziegfeld is largely remembered for three films bearing his name.

BONUS: listen to the 1936 radio trailer for THE GREAT ZIEGFELD:

Tyrone Power & Annabella in BLOOD AND SAND – 1941 Live!

We will be visiting the Twentieth Century-Fox studios in our next post for a promised Hollywood party. But leading up to it, let’s check out one of the most beautiful films this studio produced during the Golden Age.

BLOOD AND SAND, or Sangue y Arena to use its original Spanish title, was an international best selling novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez in 1908. Your blogmeister read this book recently (as a free ebook) and found this century-old tale quite contemporary. In effect, the matadors of yesteryear were the rock stars of their day. The story of the rise and fall of a young matador was a natural vehicle for Rudolph Valentino in 1922, following on the heels of his breakthrough film, THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921), which was also based on an Ibanez novel. A generation later, this story of the bullring was refurbished for Tyrone Power and given the Technicolor treatment. Here is an original poster for its Spanish release:

This morality tale was as big a hit with audiences in 1941 as the Valentino version had been two decades earlier. Within only a few months of its premiere, Tyrone Power and his actress wife, Annabella, reported to the Lux Radio Theater to perform an adaptation for millions of listeners worldwide. Just click on the arrow below to hear the complete hour-long live broadcast of October 20, 1941:

Tyrone Power had successfully starred in the remake of Doug Fairbanks’ 1920 hit, MARK OF ZORRO, the year before in 1940. So playing Juan Gallardo, the ill-fated matador of BLOOD AND SAND, seemed a no-brainer – and it was:

Annabella played the role that Linda Darnell had in the film, the sweet but long-suffering Carmen, wife of the unfaithful Juan. Here she is in a boyish role for SUEZ (1938):

Annabella met Tyrone Power during the making of SUEZ and they married shortly afterwards. Here they are with Loretta Young on the right in SUEZ:

Young Gallardo is flush with his new-found success and is easily infatuated by femme fatale Dona Sol, played by Rita Hayworth:

Success in the bullring brings other distractions, especially when Juan’s Friend, Manolo, played by Anthony Quinn, becomes his rival:

Hayworth’s role as the seductress was her big break and thereafter she seemed to play a variation of Dona Sol in most of her subsequent films through the 1950s:

Ernest Hemingway memorably called the sport of bullfighting “death in the afternoon,” usually death for the bull, sometimes death for the matador, sometimes for both:

Carmen decides to visit Dona Sol to ask if there’s any truth to the gossip about her relationship with Juan. Alas, Carmen finds him living with her:

Things begin to turn ugly as he hears gossip:

The 1941 BLOOD AND SAND is available on dvd and is easily one of the best Technicolor films you will ever see. Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 version is also available on dvd and holds up very well against its talkie remake. The Valentino charisma helps enormously:

Rudy with director Fred Niblo on the set. Check out Rudy’s costume:

Does this look familiar? Yes, it’s Rudy’s costume as it exists today. Your blogmeister only guessed at the color when I colorized the photo above sometime ago but we came fairly close:

BONUS: Rudolph Valentino Sings! Rudy died in 1926 just before sound films arrived so how well he would have fared in talkies will always be one of the great “ifs” of film history. However, Rudy did leave us two sound recordings that he made in May 1923. He sings in both so we still don’t really know how well his speaking voice sounded or, indeed, how well he spoke English. At any rate, this is one of them:

Valentino as Juan Gallardo enjoying his fleeting success:

Hollywood Party at MGM – 1937 Live!

During these summer months we’ll visit the mighty studios of Old Hollywood. We will be hearing from Twentieth Century-Fox and Paramount Pictures in the next few weeks, but this time let’s visit the largest of the old studios, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM boasted that it had “more stars than there are in heaven” and nobody disputed the claim.

MGM produced an hour-long weekly radio show broadcast directly from its sound stages and managed to showcase just about everybody on its payroll, even writers and directors. The broadcast of December 23, 1937, is a good example. The show, GOOD NEWS OF 1938, was sponsored by Maxwell House Coffee. The master of ceremonies is James Stewart, with regulars Frank (Wizard of Oz) Morgan, and Fanny Brice (the original “Funny Girl”). The music maestro is Meredith Willson who later wrote THE MUSIC MAN. This particular show is a celebration of Cole Porter’s ROSALIE that was about to open at 300 movie theaters nationwide the following day. The film’s stars are on hand to perform: Nelson Eddy, Eleanor Powell, and Ray Bolger. Most interestingly, the host of the ROSALIE party is none other than Louis B. Mayer, the legendary mogul of MGM.

The entire show is performed live and and you can hear the complete broadcast by clicking the arrow below:

Young Jimmy Stewart as he looked in the late 1930s. His post-war film career would be so distinguished that his pre-war years as an MGM star have been somewhat overshadowed. Ironically, his best film from those early years, the iconic MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939), would be made on loan-out from MGM at Columbia.

Frank Morgan gags it up for the camera in this original color photo. He became more or less typecast in befuddled comedy roles but every so often he turned in a serious performance, such as in THE MORTAL STORM (1940), where he proved that he was a fine dramatic actor too. Even on radio, he was given serious roles from time to time:

If MGM was king of the studios in Old Hollywood, then Louis B. Mayer was king of the movie studio moguls. Mayer tends not to get complimentary treatment in film histories but there is some evidence that he appreciated people who respected him and could be loyal towards those individuals:

Fanny Brice was a singer and comedienne (as women comedians were then called) who starred on Broadway for many years in the Ziegfeld Follies from about 1916 to the early 30s. She developed the character of Baby Snooks for stage skits but brought it to radio in 1937 on this MGM program as a weekly regular. Brice’s creation was a huge hit and she and Hanley Stafford, who played her long-suffering Daddy, continued with their own series until her death in 1951.

Ilona Massey, a Budapest beauty who Mayer brought to MGM (as he relates during the broadcast), was introduced in ROSALIE. She was teamed with Nelson Eddy in BALALAIKA (1939), an underrated film that deserves revisiting.

Cover art for sheet music has changed over the past 75 years but white teeth have always been in style:

Eleanor Powell began her professional dancing career at age 13, becoming a popular MGM star by her early 20s.

ROSALIE was a huge production that managed to be consistently entertaining despite its lumbering two hour running time. Cole Porter’s music helped a lot but eliminating the big finale, a ballet set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, might have improved the overall impact.

Meredith Willson was a classically-trained musician who played in John Phillip Sousa’s band and with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. At the time of this broadcast, he served as NBC music director and created arrangements of the songs heard on the show.

Movie studios also used radio extensively to promote their new releases. Since we’ve mentioned BALALAIKA, let’s hear the radio promo for the film from the “Leo Is On the Air” series of 15-minute infomercials (as we might call them today):

Quiz for fans of film musicals: do you recognize the music at the very end of the promo? The melody was taken from another MGM film made nearly a decade earlier and is regarded as one of the most sought-after “lost films” of the early sound era:

The answer is below in the Comments section.

James Cagney & the Real George M. Cohan as YANKEE DOODLE DANDY – Live!

Happy Fourth of July! What better way to celebrate Independence Day than by visiting one of the most patriotic movies to come out of Old Hollywood. Timing is everything – YANKEE DOODLE DANDY was in production when the bombs fell over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. By the time the film was in theaters, America was in the thick of the Second World War and this movie’s message could not have been more appealing:

Joan Leslie as Mary and James Cagney as George M. Cohan try to impress unimpressed music publishers with the song, “Harrigan.”

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY premiered in late May 1942 but didn’t go into general theatrical release until the fall that year. In anticipation of the general release, radio’s Screen Guild Theater opened its new season on October 19, 1942, with a half-hour adaptation of the movie starring most of the film’s cast including James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Jeanne Cagney, Richard Whorf, and C.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall. Even “FDR” shows up and with more dialogue than he has in the film version! Best of all, those wonderful Warners orchestrations arranged by Leo Forbstein, Ray Heindorf and Heinz Roemheld were used in the radio version. Just click on the arrow below to hear the complete live broadcast:

Here is the REAL George M. Cohan circa 1932 when he was about 54. Compare his expression with that of Cagney in the photo above. Jimmy C. worked hard to imitate the mannerisms and tics of George M. including talking out of the side of his mouth and duplicating Cohan’s unique “stiff-legged” dancing technique:

Recorded performances by the real George M. Cohan are few and elusive. He made a handful of acoustical records in the 1910s, along with a few silent films, and two talkies in the early 30s. But none of this limited material shows Cohan performing any of his hit songs. Fortunately, ASCAP, the music union, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1939 and staged an impressive array of legendary songwriters performing their own hits in Carnegie Hall, New York. NBC radio broadcast the concert of October 4, 1939, so you only have to click on the arrow below to hear George M. singing a couple of his all-time hits. The music interludes where the audience goes wild is because the 61 year-old Cohan is dancing!

One of many examples of poster art to promote the film:

One the best-remembered moments in the film and radio broadcast – “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you.”

More poster art with Frances Langford joining Cagney in singing “Over There,” Cohan’s inspiring patriotic song he wrote in 1917 during the First World War:

Cohan sheet music was republished in conjunction with the film but no commercial records of any songs from the film were made by Cagney or anybody else connected with the movie:

As noted, Cagney worked hard to capture the personality of George M. but studio publicity seemed more intent on promoting the Cagney persona:

Finally, as a sort of Fourth of July bonus, OHIC brings you the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso in his rendition of George M. Cohan’s WWI song:

Click on the arrow below to hear Caruso sing (in English and then in French) “Over There” as recorded on July 11, 1918:

Ronald Colman & Ida Lupino in Du Maurier’s REBECCA – Live!

Daphne Du Maurier’s best seller REBECCA became a natural for a film version and, indeed, producer David O. Selznick, barely finished making his monumental GONE WITH THE WIND, hired British director Alfred Hitchcock to do the job. Today, we can’t imagine anybody else but Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in the leading roles but, in fact, Selznick negotiated with Ronald Colman to play Maxim De Winter before “settling” on Olivier when Colman decided against accepting the role. When the film became one of the biggest hits of 1940, Colman may very well have regretted his decision.

However, radio came to the rescue in early 1941 with a full hour adaptation of REBECCA with none other than Ronald Colman playing Maxim De Winter. The Joan Fontaine role (Du Maurier never gave this character a name) was played by Ida Lupino, an actress who was then tackling challenging roles on the screen. Judith Anderson (later Dame Judith Anderson) repeated her screen role of Mrs. Danvers. If you are a fan of this film (and who isn’t?), you’ll be fascinated by this radio version.

Just click the arrow below and within a few seconds you’ll be hearing the commanding voice of Cecil B. DeMille introducing REBECCA and its stars exactly as heard live on Monday, February 3, 1941, in a broadcast heard from coast to coast, and via shortwave around the world:

Cecil B. DeMille hosted the Lux Radio Theater for nine years and was credited with boosting the show’s ratings to as high as 50 million listeners per broadcast:

Ida Lupino strikes a pose reminiscent of Joan Fontaine in REBECCA:

A dapper Ronald Colman in the 1920s:

By 1940, it was almost forgotten that Colman had been a major silent film star before the talkies arrived. His breakthrough film was BEAU GESTE (1926):

During the silent era, Colman played swashbucklers and was teamed with Vilma Banky in a series of romantic films. Sound films revealed his unique “velvet voice” and Colman effortlessly transitioned from the silent screen to the talkies:

Ida Lupino’s ambition went beyond acting and by the late 1940s she was one of the very few women directors in Hollywood:

Ronald Colman and Ida Lupino starred together onscreen in the 1939 film, THE LIGHT THAT FAILED, based on the story by Rudyard Kipling and directed by William Wellman. This excellent film’s continued absence from home video is a puzzling omission:

Stayed tuned through the end of this broadcast when legendary movie producer David O. Selznick is interviewed by Mr. DeMille. It is rare to hear Old Hollywood producers and directors speak for themselves.

Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland in GREEN LIGHT – Live!


Film buffs know that Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland made eight popular films together between 1935 and 1942. Some are considered all-time classics such as CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935), THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), and DODGE CITY (1939), pictured at left. Less well-known is the fact that Errol and Olivia were favorite guests on radio at that same time. Typically, they appeared separately but the big ratings came with joint appearances in adaptations of their films.

Our new post focuses on the radio version of one of Flynn’s earliest films made in 1937, GREEN LIGHT. The movie is available from the Warners Archives as a MOD (Made on Demand) dvd. Olivia did not co-star in this film but for radio she portrayed the character played by Margaret Lindsay in the film, thereby adding a very special ninth work to the Flynn-de Havilland canon.

On Monday night, January 31, 1938, Errol and Olivia joined host Cecil B. DeMille (on the left below) in the live network broadcast of GREEN LIGHT. Venerable actor Sir C. Aubrey Smith (on the right) provided superb support to the young stars. The gentleman next to DeMille is a newspaper editor who was heard during the show’s intermission:

Click on the arrow below and within five seconds you will be transported back in time to hear the complete one-hour live broadcast of GREEN LIGHT exactly as it was heard from coast-to-coast, and via shortwave around the world, on January 31, 1938:

GREEN LIGHT is an inspirational drama based on a popular novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, a Lutheran minister. He is perhaps best remembered today for the novel, and later film, THE ROBE (1953), among other works. In the story, Errol Flynn plays a successful young surgeon whose career is ruined when he is forced to take the blame for a botched operation that was actually caused by a prominent older doctor. To make matters worse, he meets and falls in love with a young woman who turns out to be the daughter of the lady who died in the operation. Anita Louise plays the love interest in the film, and Margaret Lindsay played Dr. Flynn’s faithful nurse and gal Friday, Frances Ogilvie. Olivia de Havilland plays the part of Ogilvie in the radio broadcast:

GREEN LIGHT was a welcomed change of pace from Flynn’s swashbuckler roles but at age 28, he was not yet mature enough as an actor to give his character, Dr. Newell Paige, the nuances that a more accomplished actor might have brought to the role. However, Flynn’s personal charm and charisma make up for his lack of gravitas as an actor. A photo from the film with a beautiful setter (I think) as Flynn’s companion:

Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays the role of Dean Harcourt, a well-known clergyman who advises those who seek his counsel on the mysteries of faith and life. Harcourt is considered the alter ego of author Douglas. On radio, Sir C. Aubrey Smith commandingly played the character. Apparently, one had to be knighted to play the role:

The story climaxes when Flynn joins a colleague in Montana who is researching a treatment for spotted fever. Believing that his infamous reputation bars him from having anyone’s respect, Flynn uses himself as a guinea pig to experiment with an antidote for spotted fever. But life has many strange turns and twists, as Dean Harcourt advises, and when all seems lost we receive a “green light” to move forward. From left to right: Errol Flynn, Walter Abel, Margaret Lindsay, Anita Louise, and Henry O’Neill as the surgeon who actually botched the operation:

This may be a stretch but in some respects GREEN LIGHT’s story is a sort of parable of Errol Flynn’s own life. Over the next few years, Flynn became an established star, and seemingly had everything most people would desire. But in 1942 he was prosecuted for statutory rape, i.e., the two women involved were under-age. The trial was handled as a humorous(!) diversion to the terrible war news of the day (in 1942, America was actually losing World War II). Flynn was acquitted of all charges but, as his friend actor David Niven later observed, Flynn seemed to go into a “spiritual decline” because the notoriety of the trial turned his name and reputation into a laughing stock. Unlike Dr. Paige in GREEN LIGHT, Flynn was not able to reverse his downward spiral and even today his name is synonymous with living well but not wisely.

Humphrey Bogart in Shakespeare’s HENRY IV – Live

As a sort of tribute to this week’s celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, here at OHIC we are adding a bit of Will Shakespeare to our usual offerings. The summer of 1937 saw the two major radio networks, NBC and CBS, in a dueling Shakespeare competition. NBC offered John Barrymore in “Streamlined Shakespeare” each Monday night during that long-ago summer. Directly conflicting was CBS’s impressive array of Hollywood stars stepping out of their usual screen personas to play famous Shakespearian characters in hour-long adaptation of eight of the Bard’s plays. So join us for a Monday night in late August 1937, when listeners from coast to coast could hear HENRY IV broadcast live from Hollywood, starring Walter Huston in the title role, Brian Aherne as the Prince of Wales (Prince Hal, successor to the throne), Humphrey Bogart as Harry Hotspur (one of the rebels against the King), Walter Connolly as the comical Sir John Falstaff, and Dame May Whitty as Mistress Quickly, the tavern proprietor. She was 71 at the time of this broadcast and appeared in films right up until her death at the age of 82.

Please click the arrow button below and within five seconds you will be transported to August 23, 1937, to hear a celebrated group of Golden Age film stars strut their stuff in HENRY IV. All are quite good but Bogart is clearly the actor that attracts our attention in what appears to be his one and only foray into Shakespeare:

We have not found any photos of this broadcast, but the following images show Bogie as he was in the mid and late 1930s at the time of the HENRY IV broadcast.

Although he had been making movies since 1930, Bogart’s breakthrough film did not occur until 1936 when he and Leslie Howard (pictured here with Bette Davis) repeated their stage roles in the hit film, THE PETRIFIED FOREST. Bogie later repeated his role of escaped bank robber, Duke Mantee, on television in 1955:

Bogie and Bette Davis were also co-starred on radio in the late ’30s:

During those years Bogie played the bad guy in films opposite James Cagney, and also Edward G. Robinson, pictured here in BULLETS OT BALLOTS (1936):

Years later, a sombre Bogart, with Robinson, attend funeral services for his HENRY IV co-star Walter Huston on April 11, 1950:

Another portrait of the youthful Humphrey Bogart in 1937, when his iconic roles in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) and CASABLANCA (1942) must have seemed a long way off:

Marlene Dietrich – Live in 1937!

Marlene Dietrich became a star with the classic 1930 German film, THE BLUE ANGEL, were she played a siren who ruins men’s lives. In the 1960s she headlined at luxurious nightclubs where she was known as the “World’s Most Glamorous Grandmother.” In between these career bookends she became an American citizen, and when the Second World War came, she not only joined scores of other stars to entertain the troops in camps around the world, Marlene actually joined the U.S. Army for four years!

But the 1930s is the era that saw Marlene Dietrich in her prime, if not at her peak. Most of her 30s films are available today on dvd, yet it is largely forgotten that she also starred on live radio in adaptations of her famous movies. OHIC is pleased to present the broadcast version of Marlene’s 1933 film, The Song of Songs, where both she and Lionel Atwill repeat their screen roles. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. performs the role played by Brian Aherne in the film, and show is hosted by Cecil B. DeMille.

Click on the arrow below to hear the complete one-hour live broadcast of the Lux Radio Theater exactly as heard coast to coast and by shortwave around the world on December 20, 1937:

While you are listening, OHIC provides some examples of the stunning artwork used to promote the film:

The two sides of this movie herald, above and below, indicates how THE SONG OF SONGS was promoted in South America:

An older but no less glamorous La Dietrich still broadcasting:

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