Theater Guild on the Air

Searching for more versions of The Importance of Being Earnest to collect, I stumbled across the John Gieldgud production of Oscar's Wilde's play which was adapted for radio in 1947. Gieldgud and company moved their British production to Broadway for a couple of months that year and appeared in their respective roles for the Theater Guild on the Air (TGA) adaptation on April 13th.

TGA began airing on September 9, 1945 with "Wings Over Europe," starring Burgess Meredith. The show was home to many adapted plays including "Hamlet," "Victoria Regina," "The Philadelphia Story," "An Ideal Husband" and "The Man Who Came To Dinner." Although this radio show seems mostly to have brought plays to the microphone, it managed to include a few film adaptations as well, such as "All About Eve "(which, is about the theater and feels a bit like a well-crafted play, so. . .).

You can find Theater Guild on the Air broadcasts at the Internet Archive.

Having spent a few days with Theater Guild on the Air radio broadcasts, I discern a very definite pattern. TGOA adapters seem to take liberties with the source material, more so than any other vintage radio theater program that I've come across.  With Lux Radio, Screen Guild Radio, etc. you'll get an hour-long or 30 minute reduced version of the source (a classic movie, usually) that hits the high points with essentially the same dialogue. Additions would occur if an action wouldn't make sense on the radio [A sight gag, for instance, would be cut or explained in dialogue].

But with TGOA there seems to be a different philosophy for the scripts: anything goes, almost. For instance, in Pride and Prejudice (Broadcast 11/18/1945) the 5 Bennet sisters are reduced to 3 and the middle class Bennets are the ones giving the extravagant parties instead of the wealthy Bingleys.

In an Arthur Arent adaption of An Ideal Husband (Broadcast 03/30/1952), Arent gives the lead a few new jokes which do not further the plot but are funny (especially in the way that Rex Harrison reads them off), but why? Isn't Oscar Wilde's dialogue funny enough?

I'm not complaining really; I just was not expecting this sort of devil-may-care treatment of well-known source material.

Now I'm wondering what they've done to MacBeth (Broadcast 05/11/1947). This should be interesting.


Post a Comment

Thanks for your contribution to Java's Journey.


About Java

"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email:


Blog Archive

Writer's Block Doesn't Stand a Chance