Mar 30, 2021
Academy Award, one of the more prestigious Hollywood radio programs, premiered on CBS on March 30, 1946. The series presented recreations of films that had been nominated for or won - you guessed it - the Academy Award. The Oscar distinction set it apart from other Hollywood anthologies like The Lux Radio Theatre and Screen Directors Playhouse. Humphrey Bogart, Ginger Rogers, Gregory Peck, and Lana Turner were just some of the stars who appeared at the microphone to recreate their screen roles on the air.
Ultimately, that Oscar-prestige helped to spell a premature end for the series, as the cost for licensing the mentions of the Academy Awards (combined with the big salaries for the Hollywood stars) proved prohibitive for a long run. The program came to an end after only 39 episodes, despite being a hit with audiences.
To celebrate the show's anniversary, here are some of my favorite big screen adaptations from the short run of Academy Award.
"Stagecoach" - Claire Trevor is among the passengers on this eventful trip through the west. John Ford's classic film comes to radio without co-star John Wayne, but it's still a great production following an unlikely band of travelers as they try to survive the elements and an Indian attack en route to safety. (Originally aired on CBS on May 4, 1946)
"The Maltese Falcon" - Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet recreate their roles in this abridged production of the classic film noir drama. Sam Spade is on the hunt for the titular black bird, and he's surrounded by characters who will try to woo him or kill him to steal the prize for themselves. (Originally aired on CBS on July 3, 1946)
"Young Mr. Lincoln" - John Ford's tale of the pre-presidential life of Honest Abe gets the radio treatment with original star Henry Fonda. He's superb as Lincoln as a young attorney trying to clear two men of a murder charge. (Originally aired on CBS on July 10, 1946)
"Foreign Correspondent" - One of several Hitchcock films adapted for the program, this radio play finds Joseph Cotten stepping in for Joel McCrea as a reporter abroad in the earliest days of World War II. He stumbles into an assassination plot and must stay alive to get his story back to his readers in the United States. (Originally aired on CBS on July 24, 1946)
"Shadow of a Doubt" - Alfred Hitchcock's favorite film of all the pictures he directed gets a great radio adaptation with Joseph Cotten back at the microphone. He recreates his role as Uncle Charlie, the lovable relative who comes to town with a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head. His niece and namesake Charlie begins to suspect her beloved uncle may be hiding a murderous secret. (Originally aired on CBS on September 11, 1946)