Friday, July 1, 2016

Olivia de Haviland On the Air -- July 1, 2016

This post is part of  the Olivia de Havilland Centenary Blogathon hosted by Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Phyllis at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. On Friday, 01-July-2016, Miss de Haviland will be 100 years old.  

Commercial radio had begun in the United States in the 1920s.  The first national network, NBC, the National Broadcasting Company, began operating in 1926. The national networks and sponsors developed many types of programs, dramas, comedies and variety shows.  Recordings of radio shows from before the mid-1930s are very rare.  In part because of union contracts, shows on the national networks, NBC, CBS (the Columbia Broadcasting System) and MBS (the Mutual Broadcasting System) were broadcast live.  National shows were performed twice, once for the Eastern and Central time zones and once three hours later for the Pacific time zone.

Hollywood, after a short period of being worried about competition from the radio, embraced it as a mechanism to promote their movies and their stars.   Warner Brothers even started its own Los Angeles radio station, which is still called KFWB.  Warner Brothers star Olivia De Havilland made many appearances on the radio.  

Radio Mirror, October, 1937
Actress Olivia de Haviland famously never had an acting lesson.  In this article, "If You Want to Act," from the October, 1937 Radio Mirror, she says that "Any young actor should look at radio as his great opportunity ... Look at me.  Radio makes me a better actress every time I go on the air.  It gives me the inspiration and excitement I've never found in the movies.  And it's teaching me things about the job of acting the movies can't even touch!"  She speaks of the benefit of playing a story from beginning to end, building to a logical climax, rather than jumping around with lots of interruptions, as they do in movies.  Radio also gave her the opportunity to play with actors who were under contract to studios other than Warner Brothers.
In 1935, Olivia de Havilland's first big hit movie was Captain Blood, where she co-starred with Errol Flynn, who became a regular screen partner.

On 22-February-1937, an anthology show, The Lux Radio Theatre, which did weekly adaptions of popular movies, presented Captain Blood, with Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn, Henry Stephenson and Basil Rathbone.  The host was usually director Cecil B De Mille, but this week, he was away working on The Buccaneer.  Actor Herbert Marshall served as the temporary host.

In many cases, the original stars of a movie were not all available.  In 1934 Alexander Korda produced an adaption of Baroness Emma Orczy's novel The Scarlet Pimpernel. Leslie Howard played Sir Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel and Merle Oberon played his wife, Lady Blakeney.  Raymond Massey played the bad guy, Chauvelin.

On 12-December-1938, The Lux Radio Theatre presented The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Leslie Howard reprised his role as Sir Percy. Olivia de Havilland played Lady Blakeney.  Howard and de Havilland worked together again in Gone With the Wind.  I could not catch the name of the guy who played Chauvelin.  Cecil B De Mille was the host.
In 1941, Alfred Hitchcock directed Cary Grant and Olivia de Havilland's sister Joan Fontaine in Suspicion.  de Havilland was nominated for Best Actress for Hold Back the Dawn and Fontaine was nominated for Suspicion.  Fontaine won.  On 04-May-1942, Joan Fontaine appeared in Suspicion on The Lux Radio Theatre,  Brian Aherne played Johnny, Cary Grant's role.

On 18-September-1944, The Lux Radio Theatre repeated Suspicion.  Since network shows had to be broadcast live, they had to create a new production. This time, Olivia de Havilland played her sister's role and William Powell played Johnny.  I wonder if this added to the friction between the sisters.

Olivia de Havilland appeared on other types of shows as well.  On 04-October-1938, she appeared on the Bob Hope Show, a comedy-variety show.

Suspense was a drama anthology known as "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  On 07-September-1944 Olivia De Havilland appeared in "Voyage Through Darkness" with Reginald Gardiner.  I always like the series opening: "We hope to keep you in ... suspense." 

Search on the internet and you will find many more Old Time Radio shows featuring Olivia de Havilland.

We are lucky that she is still with us.  I hope she has a wonderful 100th birthday.

This post is part of  the Olivia de Havilland Centenary Blogathon hosted by Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Phyllis at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Thank you to Crystal and Phyllis for all the hard work.  Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read and comment on as many posts as you can.  Bloggers love comments.  

This post is my third blogathon post of 2016 and my 43rd since 2007.  This is my 25th blogathon.    This page has a list of all my blogathon posts. 


  1. I love listening to these old time radio shows - very interesting either to hear the original stars re-creating their roles or to get others giving their take. I had no idea that Olivia de Havilland and William Powell had starred in a version of Suspicion and am now thoroughly intrigued!

  2. Hi Judy. I love the way Olivia De Havilland played her sister's part. It is interesting to hear how the movies got adapted and how other actors interpreted the parts. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Very interesting, especially about "Suspicion".

    I appreciate your research and the tips. I'll be checking out these programs soon.

  4. Hi Caftan Woman. I'm glad you found it interesting. The programs are worth investigating. I'm looking forward to your post.

  5. Great post as always. I listened to a Joe E. Brown radio show once, but then I realized I must have a visual stimulues to pay more attention. But I'll try it again!
    Thanks for the kind comment!

    1. Hi Lé. I'm glad you visited. I got started listening to old-time radio when a San Francisco station played the shows at 10pm. I would go to bed and lie in the dark listening. It was good training.

  6. I agree with Olivia's views on "radio acting". It seems to be great training for an actor's voice – especially when you compare the vocal quality between classic Hollywood actors and today's actors, who seem to sound rather "flat".

    Great post! I'll have to come back later to listen to these episodes. I'm keen on Suspense and the Bob Hope Show. :)

  7. Hi Silver Screenings. Yes, she made some good points in that article. Actors don't have much variety in their voices nowadays. You'll enjoy the episodes. The programs intended for soldiers during the war have many interesting points, too.

  8. Fascinating post, and I'm grateful to you for drawing my attention to these old broadcasts: I've started listening to them, and am now unable to stop! Listening to Olivia's voice without the distraction of moving images is a real delight.

    1. Hi James. I'm glad you find them interesting. There are many good programs out there.

  9. I'm always thinking how I want to make a cd of some old programs to listen to in the car or at night. Thanks for including the links and the history of radio! I really want to listen to the Powell one :)

    1. Hi Phyl. Thank you for hosting the blogathon. A cd for the car is a good idea. Watch out for stuff that is too suspenseful or you might get distracted ;0)

  10. Very cool...I love it when I buy a classic movie DVD and it includes the Lux Radio Theatre or Mercury Theatre broadcast as a bonus feature (the Criterions of Hitchcock films always seem to have one). Back in the early-80s I'd stay up late during the summer to listen to the CBS Mystery Theatre episodes. I'll have to listen to some of your links!

  11. I love old-time radio! Both Suspense and Escape were so much fun, and I'm always amazed by the star power the Lux program could command. Thanks for all these links!

  12. Hi Todd. Isn't it great when they include the apaptions with the movies? I remember the CBS Mystery Theater. They used many of the people who had been radio stars.

    Hi Hamlette: That is a good point about Lux. They got some big stars, along with having Cecil B DeMille as host.


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