Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This Gun for Hire

This Gun for Hire was a blockbuster noir classic in 1942. It starred Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd and Joan Blondell. The tale is based on the Graham Greene novel of the same title. It was a great film, I've caught it on late night TV and Most of it's on Youtube these days available free in all it's quasi-legal glory. It was re-made in 1990 and the remake was lame. But we don't talk about novels or movies here. This here blog is about the radio machine.

This Gun for Hire was performed less than a year later by Lux Radio Theater as an hour-long feature. Their radio theatre version starred Alan Ladd, Joan Blondell, and Laird Cregar. Notice Alan Ladd appeared in both the film and radio versions. It was hosted by Cecil B. DeMille. More here.

The program Lux Radio theatre broadcast on the NBC Blue Network from 1934 through 1955. This Gun for Hire is a perfect example of what Lux Radio Theater did in that era. While the series debuted in 1934, working out of WJZ. The sponsor Lever Brothers movedit to a CBS studio in Hollywood in 1936. The intention was to use the Hollywood talent pool, and adapt hot movie scripts. It worked. They were producing plays with 50 players and paying paying actors as much as $5,000 for a single appearance! the shows were downright extravagant.Below is the first 3:00 of the program with the intro by Mr. DeMille. You can get the full program free here.

The radio debut had strange timing though. This Gun for Hire was Broadcast on Jan. 25, 1943 in the middle of the 9th season of Radio Lux. That turned out to be the very day before Ladd entered the military as a private. Lad's star was born on the silver screen, but it had to stay on hold until he returned from his tour of duty. The announcer in that era would have been John Milton Kenney. Lux radio theatre died a slow death. It's reatings grew every season for it's first 10 years on air. then essentially descended slowly from 1942 to 1955 when it crapped out with worse ratings than it had in it's first season 21 years earlier. More here.DeMille stopped hosting the program in 1945 giving up the mic to William Keighley. But, he didn't leave quietly or even willingly. DeMille had a dispute with the AFRA (American Federation of Radio Artists) union. He didnt' like strikes, and he didn't like pro-labor bills. btu to appear as a narrator on air at a union shop he had to be a member. He owed $1 in dues and the union used that to oust him. He was suspended from the union and barred from apearing on air. He was bitter. He called them communists for years later. More here.