The Screen Guild Theater

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The Screen Guild Theater
Bennygmjcrg.jpg
Jack Benny, George Murphy, Joan Crawford and Reginald Gardiner on the premiere of
The Screen Guild Theater (January 8, 1939)
Other names
  • The Gulf Screen Guild Show
  • The Gulf Screen Guild Theater
  • The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater
  • The Camel Screen Guild Players
  • Stars in the Air
  • Hollywood Sound Stage
  • Hollywood On Stage
Genre Anthology drama
Running time 30 minutes / one hour (13th season)
Country United States
Language(s) English
Home station
  • CBS (1939–48)
  • NBC (1948–50)
  • ABC (1950–51)
  • CBS (1951–52)
Host(s)
Announcer
Writer(s)
  • Bill Hampton
  • Harry Kronman
Director(s) Bill Lawrence
Producer(s) Bill Lawrence
Air dates January 8, 1939 to June 29, 1952
No. of series 14
No. of episodes 527
Audio format Monaural sound

The Screen Guild Theater was a popular radio anthology series during the Golden Age of Radio, broadcast from 1939 until 1952, with leading Hollywood actors performing in adaptations of popular motion pictures such as Going My Way and The Postman Always Rings Twice. It aired under several different titles including The Gulf Screen Guild Show, The Gulf Screen Guild Theater, The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater and The Camel Screen Guild Players. Fees that would ordinarily have been paid to the stars and studios were instead donated to the Motion Picture Relief Fund, and were used for the construction and maintenance of the Motion Picture Country House.

Dinah Shore and Gail Patrick in the CBS Radio studio at a rehearsal for "Belle of the Yukon" (February 12, 1945)[1]

Production[edit]

The Screen Guild Theater had a long run beginning January 8, 1939, lasting for 14 seasons and 527 episodes. Actors on the series included Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Eddie Cantor, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Bette Davis, Jimmy Durante, Nelson Eddy, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Johnny Mercer, Agnes Moorehead, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Shirley Temple, and Dinah Shore.

The series began with a variety format, with mixed success. The program increasingly came to rely on adaptations of major motion pictures—presenting a considerable challenge to writers who had to compress the narrative into 22 minutes.[2]:601

Fees these actors would typically charge were donated to the Motion Picture Relief Fund, in order to support the creation and maintenance of the Motion Picture Country Home for retired actors. A 1940 magazine article noted that The Screen Guild Theater was "the only sponsored program on the air which gives all its profits to charity."[3] Nearly $800,000 had been contributed by the summer of 1942.[2]:600

Notable broadcasts[edit]

"A table of highlights would run many pages," wrote radio historian John Dunning, who lists the following notable Screen Guild broadcasts:

Another notable broadcast, "The Blue Bird"[5] starring Shirley Temple, was presented on Christmas Eve in 1939, before the release of the film. Shirley Temple's parents declined an offer of $35,000 for her to perform a radio version on a commercial broadcast; instead, she presented it on the Screen Guild program without payment.[2]:601 An attempt was made on Temple's life during the show. As Temple was singing "Someday You'll Find Your Bluebird", a woman in the audience rose from her seat and pulled out a handgun, pointing it directly at her. The woman hesitated and was disarmed. It was later discovered that she had lost a child on the day it was publicly stated that Temple was born, and blamed her for stealing her daughter's soul.[7]

The series benefited during its 14th season (1950–51), when it was expanded to a full hour on ABC, although few broadcasts are known to have survived in radio collections:[2]:601[8]

Broadcast history[edit]

The Screen Guild Theater was hosted by George Murphy in 1939, and Roger Pryor for the remainder of its run.[2]:600

  • CBS (January 8, 1939–June 28, 1948), as The Gulf Screen Guild Show (1939–40), The Gulf Screen Guild Theater (1940–42), The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater (1942–47), and The Camel Screen Guild Players (1947–48)[2]:600
  • NBC (October 7, 1948–June 29, 1950), as The Camel Screen Guild Players[2]:600
  • ABC (September 7, 1950–May 31, 1951),[2]:600 as The Screen Guild Players[8]
  • CBS (December 13, 1951–June 14, 1952), as Stars in the Air[2]:600[8]
  • CBS (December 13, 1951–March 6, 1952), as Hollywood Sound Stage and Hollywood On Stage[2]:600[8]
  • CBS (March 13–June 29, 1952), as The Screen Guild Theater[2]:600[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2015-06-30. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. 
  3. ^ "Sunday's Highlights" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror 13 (5): 44. March 1940. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "The Gulf Screen Guild Theatre". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2015-06-30. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Screen Guild Theater". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2015-06-30. 
  6. ^ "The Camel Screen Guild Theatre". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2015-06-30. 
  7. ^ Black, Shirley Temple (1988). Child Star: An Autobiography. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. pp. 293–295. ISBN 9780070055322. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "The Screen Guild Radio Programs". Digital Deli Too. Retrieved 2015-06-30. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "The Screen Guild Theatre". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2015-06-30. 

External links[edit]