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War of the Worlds (Lux Theatre, 1955)

The version of The War of the Worlds broadcast by the Lux Radio Theatre on February 8th 1955 turned out to be one of the last shows ever made in its long and illustrious history. First heard on October 14th 1934, it had started life as an NBC show intended to reproduce Broadway hits, a fine idea at the time, but one with a fatal inbuilt flaw; there were only so many Broadway shows to choose from. With the show floundering for material, Danny Danker, an advertising executive on the Lux account was drafted in to find a fix, and quickly concluded that public interest was shifting inexorably toward Hollywood and so here surely was an almost unlimited new pool of popular talent and stories to draw upon. Shifting in July of 1935 to Hollywood and the CBS network, The Lux Radio Theatre never looked back.

Big name stars (though not necessarily the same ones who had made the original films) were drafted in from the very start. The first film to be adapted was Morocco, with Marlene Dietrich reprising her role as Mademoiselle Amy Jolly and Clark Gable stepping into the shoes of the character originally played by Gary Cooper. Another big draw was the host (and faux-producer) of the show, none other than the larger than life Cecil B. DeMille, who had some years earlier attempted to wrest the rights to The War of the Worlds from H.G. Wells. As a further matter of co-incidental interest, a young man by the name of Orson Welles would in 1938 host a summer replacement series for the Lux Radio Theatre. This of course was The Mercury Theatre On The Air, the vehicle for Welles' infamous War of the Worlds broadcast. In a case of what goes around comes around, Welles ended up taking several lead roles for the Lux Theatre during the mid 1940's, which one suspects must have rankled a little, given that he very likely saw himself and DeMille as competitors.


Dana Andrews

The Lux Radio Theatre version of The War of the Worlds was broadcast on the 8th of February 1955, less than 6 months before the curtain finally fell on the show. Dana Andrews and Pat Crowley took on the roles made famous by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson in the 1953 George Pal movie and are every bit as good as their celluloid predecessors, though it's fun to hear Crowley mangle her pronunciation of the word Nuclear. The radio version is consistently faithful 
Pat Crowleyto the plot of the film and at just 60 minutes, (less if you exclude the adverts) the pace never lets up for a moment. The sound is also superb, with the original Martian Heat Ray effect reused to great effect. Other than promoting the virtues of Lux Soap, the adaptation also served as a publicity tool for Pal's forthcoming picture, Conquest of Space, with the cast gathering at the end of the show to discuss its merits.

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See also in:

Downloads

1968

War of the Worlds, 1938. Listen to an audio clip of the Lux Radio Theatre as the Martians claim their first victims (MP3, 3.20 mins).

Radio

1926
Broadcasting The Barricades, Ronald Knox

Broadcasting The Barricades, Ronald Knox. An amazing precursor to the Orson Welles broadcast from England in which people became convinced the revolution had begun

1944
War of the Worlds, Santiago, Chile

The War of the Worlds. Santiago in Chile suffers a major panic when the Welles broadcast is remade to terrifying effect

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