During a week focused on movies, the Golden Age of Radio will come alive again in a weeklong salute to the Academy Awards starting Monday on KCRW-FM (89.9)
The noncommercial station has pulled together radio versions of 24 Oscar-winning films, chiefly culled from radio drama series of the 1940s and '50s, and will air them during its 1986 fund-raising drive, beginning at noon Monday.
The special series, titled "Academy Award Playhouse," opens with the radio adaptation of Frank Capra's 1934 classic comedy, "It Happened One Night," starring Oscar winners Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
"Academy Award Playhouse" will present "movies" from noon to 4:30 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., each weekday through March 31.
"Lux Radio Theatre," "Academy Award" and "Screen Guild Players" were among the radio series that did movie adaptations at a time when "the country stopped on a dime for 'Amos 'n' Andy,' " according to KCRW general manager Ruth Hirschman.
"Lux," one of the most popular radio shows of its day, nearly always remained faithful to the original casting. With the addition of convincing sound effects and live orchestras, the radio adaptations are "amazingly vivid and retain the energy and life" of the films, Hirschman said.
Some stars, such as Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, "just didn't do radio," Hirschman said. In the radio version of "The African Queen," Greer Garson took Hepburn's role, but Humphrey Bogart was still the male lead.
The voices recall "how formidable the acting power is because you can't see them," Hirschman said. Having no picture also emphasizes a well-written script, she said.
"You have to have a knockout script . . . lines like Bette Davis's 'Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night,' " she said, referring to the film "All About Eve."
Most of the radio adaptations were recorded after the movies were made, but at least one--the radio version of "A Star Is Born"--was recorded by Judy Garland before she took the leading role in MGM's musical film version.
With "Academy Award Playhouse," KCRW hopes not only to top last year's take of $500,000 but also to help bring back the regular practice of adapting film to radio.
The only non-American production in the KCRW series is also the most recent: BBC'S adaptation of "Amadeus," based on the original play that inspired last year's best picture Oscar winner.
The cavalcade includes the radio version of 1940's "Guest Wife," with Don Ameche, which Hirschman said was chosen in honor of the actor's first Oscar nomination this year (supporting actor in "Cocoon.").
"Forty-six years later, he'll hear it," she said.
The "Academy Playhouse" schedule includes:
Monday, noon-4:30 p.m.: "It Happened One Night," with Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable; "The Westerner," with Gary Cooper and Walter Brennen; "A Star Is Born," with Judy Garland, Walter Pidgeon; 7-8 p.m.: "Amadeus," with Paul Scofield.
Tuesday, noon-4:30 p.m.: "The Petrified Forest" with Ronald Coleman, Susan Hayward, Lawrence Tierney; "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," with Cary Grant, Claude Rains; "The African Queen," with Humphrey Bogart, Greer Garson. (Preempted at 7 p.m.)
Wednesday, noon-4:40 p.m.: "For Whom the Bell Tolls," with Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman; "You Can't Take It With You," with Edward Arnold, Robert Cummings, Fay Wray, Lee Patrick; "The Treasure of Sierra Madre," with Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Gerald Mohr; 7-8 p.m.: "The Informer," with Victor McLaglen.
Thursday, noon-4:30 p.m.: "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," with Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur; "Gaslight," with Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer; "How Green Was My Valley," with Walter Pidgeon, Roddy McDowell, Maureen O'Hara; 7-8 p.m.: "Watch on the Rhine," with Paul Lukas.
Friday, noon-4:30 p.m.: "Gentleman's Agreement," with Gregory Peck, Ann Baxter; "Guest Wife," with Don Ameche, Olivia De Havilland, Dick Forar; "Key Largo," with Claire Trevor, Edward G. Robinson, Edmund O'Brien; 7-8 p.m.: "Lost Weekend" with Ray Millard.
Monday, March 31, noon-4:30 p.m.: "The Grapes of Wrath," with Jane Darwell, Wally Maher; "My Sister Eileen," with Shirley Booth; "All About Eve," with Bette Davis, Ann Baxter, Reginald Gardine; 7-8 p.m.: "Yankee Doodle Dandy," with James Cagney.