Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"To Die With Honour When One Can No Longer Live With Honour": The Way It Was, 8 March

1937---What began as the one-act appendix (based on a John Luther Long story) to an otherwise failing David Belasco play (Naughty Anthony) ended up packing the theater---with the audience coming in only when it was time to perform that appendix. The theater otherwise was near empty.

One of those enthusiastic latecomers was composer Giacomo Puccini---who was impressed enough to compose a full opera based upon and expanded from that appendix. And, in due course, the tragic geisha known as Madame Butterfly found her way to Hollywood as a leisurely-paced 1932 film tragedy (there are those who believe its pace is a little too leisurely for the 21st Century audience) . . . and a 1937 radio adaptation not so leisurely paced but gently respectful of its root, even if its flow occasionally falters and its finale seems just a little too melodramatic.

Geisha Cio-Cio (opera star Grace Moore, a soprano whose film work introduces opera to many American filmgoers, here playing the role played by Sylvia Sidney in the 1932 film) attracts footloose American lieutenant Pinkerton (Cary Grant, reprising his role from the same film) on shore leave. He marries her simply to enjoy her until his leave is finished, thinking his abandonment frees her in divorce according to Japanese custom; she falls deeply in love with him, adopting his custom and his religion at the expense of her family's ostracism, and keeping their home as he knew it while waiting his return from America.

But when he returns, he's accompanied by his American bride, a surprise that compels heartbroken Cio-Cio ("butterfly" in Japanese) keep a secret from him while making a fateful decision for herself---and the son he'll never know she's borne him, in Madame Butterfly, tonight's edition of Lux Radio Theater. (CBS.)

Additional cast: Pedro de Cordova, Maryk Windheim, Crawford Kent. Host/producer: Cecil B. DeMille.

Tennessee-born Grace Moore has appeared on Broadway in her twenties (she famously introduced Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do" with John Steele in the 1923 edition of Berlin's Music Box Revues) before further training in France and debuting with the Metropolitan Opera in 1928, in another Puccini opera, La Boheme.

She will have spent sixteen seasons at the Met and performed operatic songs in concerts in the United States and Europe; she will have made, as well, a number of films beginning with 1930's A Lady's Morals (MGM, as Jenny Lind) and (with fellow Met vocalist Lawrence Tibbett) The New Moon, the latter the first film treatment of the Romberg operetta. (Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy will remake the latter film in 1940.)

Moore has earned an Academy Award nomination (for Best Supporting Actress) for her performance in 1934's One Night of Love; her final film will appear a year after her Lux Radio Theater performance, 1938's Louise, based on the Charpentier opera, a film in which Charpentier himself is involved, helping with cuts and libretto changes to make the opera film-worthy.

Her memoir, You're Only Human Once will be published in 1944 . . . three years before her death in the same plane crash that will kill Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden. Her life story will be adapted into the 1953 film So This Is Love, with Kathryn Grayson portraying her.


1943: "HE WILL RING A BELL WHENEVER HE WANTS TO SAY ANYTHING"---Film director/actor/producer Gregory Ratoff (the bad news: he directed the propaganda film Song of Russia; the good news: he will become one of two producers to buy the film rights to the James Bond franchise from Ian Fleming over a decade later), by remote from a West Coast studio, joins John F. Kieran, Franklin P. Adams, and pianist/composer/wit Oscar Levant (with whom Ratoff shared a common affection for Fred Allen, on whose show both men appeared more than once), with moderator Clifton Fadiman in New York, on tonight's edition of Information, Please. (NBC.)


1891---Sam Jaffe (actor: Fannie Hurst Presents, Cavalcade of America), New York City.
1899---Gladys Thornton (actress: My Son and I, The O'Neills), Florida.
1902---Louise Beavers (actress: Beulah, Screen Guild Theatre), Cincinnati.
1908---Franklyn MacCormack (announcer: Caroline's Golden Store, Jack Armstrong, All-American), Waterloo, Iowa.
1909---Claire Trevor (actress: Big Town), New York City.
1918---Alan Hale, Jr. (actor: The Smiths of Hollywood), Los Angeles.


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