"Lux ... presents Hollywood!"
This was the opening announcement of the Lux Radio Theatre, one of the best-remembered anthology programs from the golden age of American radio. Every Sunday evening, over the NBC-Blue radio network (today’s American Broadcasting Company), listeners tuned in to hear hour-long radio adaptations of popular movies. The sponsor was Lever Brothers, now known as Unilever, and Lux toilet soap was at that time one of their best-selling products.
The Lux Radio Theatre originated in 1934 from studios in New York City, and at the beginning featured adaptations of Broadway plays. Lever Brothers moved the show to Hollywood on June 1, 1936, and the famous motion picture director Cecil B. deMille took over as host and director. From then on, the Lux Radio Theatre concentrated solely on presenting its versions of popular motion pictures. On most of the programs, the same actors that had starred in the movie version also appeared in the radio version. When those actors weren’t available, the parts went to other famous actors, and listeners got the added bonus of a different interpretation of the roles.
There would be an intermission after the first half of the program. The announcer might chat with an up-and-coming starlet, or a famous Hollywood personality would stop by for a visit. No matter what transpired during the intermission, at some point the talk inevitably turned to Lux Toilet Soap and its many virtues. Even deMille’s introductory remarks about the evening’s broadcast usually wound around to a mention of how the ladies in the audience could benefit from the use of Lux.
A labor dispute in January 1945 resulted in a change of host for the program. The American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA, the forerunner of AFTRA, The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) was supporting a proposition on the California ballot regarding the question of closed shops. To underwrite the campaign, AFRA assessed its members one dollar each. DeMille, vehemently opposed to closed shops, refused to pay the dollar and wouldn’t let anyone pay it for him. AFRA subsequently ruled that anyone not paying the assessment would be suspended and banned from the air, and deMille was forced to relinquish his hosting duties.
The Lux Radio Theatre went through a succession of guest hosts until December 1945, when director William Keighley became the new host. Keighley remained with the program until it left the air on June 6, 1955.
Buxton, Frank and Owen, Bill, 1920-1950: The Big Broadcast
. New York
: The Viking Press, 1972.
Various Lux Radio Theatre