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MR. DeMILLE, MEET MR. DISNEY

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin December 23, 2010 at 5:00AM

When I first became interested in old-time radio I didn’t comprehend just how strong a connection existed between the empire of the air and the movie industry during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. At first, Hollywood was wary of radio, just as it would be when television came along. Then the powers-that-be realized that radio wasn’t the enemy: it was a potential ally, capable of promoting its stars and upcoming movies to an enormous audience.
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When I first became interested in old-time radio I didn’t comprehend just how strong a connection existed between the empire of the air and the movie industry during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. At first, Hollywood was wary of radio, just as it would be when television came along. Then the powers-that-be realized that radio wasn’t the enemy: it was a potential ally, capable of promoting its stars and upcoming movies to an enormous audience.

Cecil B. DeMille confers with guest star Joan Crawford in this publicity shot for Lux Radio Theater. In truth, DeMille was merely playing the role of host, and never directed any actors on the show, but for appearance’s sake, he “posed” as its director on the air and off.

It got to the point where Los Angeles supplanted Chicago, and to some degree New York, as the focal point of national broadcasting, because that’s where—

—the movie stars were.

Lux Radio Theater started out as a New York show in 1934, but a short time later the sponsor, or advertising agency (which actually produced the show), succumbed to the lure of Hollywood and built the program into a mainstay of the airwaves that America tuned into every week for twenty years.

The original host of Lux was Cecil B. DeMille, and the show made him even more of a household name than he already was through his work in movies—just as television would do for Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s and 60s. Every star in Hollywood, it seems, appeared on the show at one time or another, but one of its most prestigious guests was not an actor at all. It was Walt Disney, who appeared on the show several times, and then permitted Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to be adapted for broadcast in 1938. You can learn more about the Disney-Lux connection in a first-rate article that Greg Ehrbar has written for the D23 website, home base for the Disney fan club. You can read it HERE.

If he or I have piqued your interest and you want to learn more about old time radio, allow me to unabashedly plug my own book, The Great American Broadcast, which is available HERE.

This article is related to: Journal