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Lux presents Hollywood!

Sunday 3/7/21

Old Hollywood had quirks that I like, which resulted in work that we can enjoy now--bonus work/material, in a way. For instance, films would often shoot in Spanish language versions, which is why we have a second version of Dracula, made on the same sets that were used for the famous 1931 Bela Lugosi picture.

Lux Radio Theatre was an hour-long program that ran from 1934 to 1955, which specialized in radio versions of Hollywood films, with the original cast--or as much as the original cast as they could get. So you heard the same actors, in a different medium, doing the same lines--or some of them--and sometimes putting new spins on those lines. For instance, there's a version of The Wizard of Oz, which I've shared in these pages, from 1950, with Judy Garland reprising her role as Dorothy eleven years later. Some of the films even have multiple radio versions with Lux, ala, Miracle on 34th Street, which I've also put up in this journal.

Thought I'd gather some of my favorites and put them here. There's a lot to work through, for those who like this kind of thing, which is addictive. Great for listening when you're wide-eyed and energetic, and great for bedtime, too.

From mid-March, 1939, we have this Lux version of Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, with Clark Cable and Claudette Colbert back in their original roles. I think Capra, like Leo McCarey, is a fascinating auteur who is not spoken of as an auteur. After making the picture, Colbert said to a friend that she had just been in the worst movie. She honestly thought it was awful. I think she probably felt a bit different later, when she saw how it all came together, and its effect.

Body and Soul (1947) is, in my view, the best sports picture ever made. John Garfield is back in this Lux version from November 1948. Fine actor, so expressive with his face, but possessing an ideal radio voice for drama, too.

Orson Welles had a desire to direct 1942's The Man Who Came to Dinner, and would later star in a 1972 television version, but eight years after the original movie came out. Clifton Webb--who was somewhat Welles-like in the titular role--and Lucille Ball returned to give the material the Lux radio treatment. Perfect for Christmas, also.

Winchester '73 is a badass Anthony Mann Western from 1950 with Jimmy Stewart. There are some great, dark Westerns where Stewart channels that edge, I-am-ready-to-die quality of George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life. The latter is a horror film in parts. No one ever talks about that. And it's as dark as American cinema has ever been. The darkness lifts, but that movie goes into parts of the forest that others do not. Stewart had that range, and in November 1951, he brought the intensity to Lux.

I pitched a piece recently on The Day the Earth Stood Still--for Easter--and the 1951 film certainly makes its case that those whose lives are oriented around attacking, end up attacking themselves the most. Resonant idea for 2021. Lux returned to the work in early 1954.

Pickup On South Street (1953) is not the same without Richard Widmark--one of my favorite actors--but this Lux production from summer 1954 retains Thelma Ritter, and she's awesome.

And speaking of Leo McCarey: his 1937 picture, The Awful Truth, birthed what we think of as the Cary Grant character. Grant didn't want to play his role in the movie the way that McCarey suggested. But he did, and the rest, as they say, etc. So how neat is this Lux show from early 1955, with Grant acting once again, almost two decades later, in The Awful Truth? And Irene Dunne is also back!


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