Screen Snapshots

Screen Snapshots

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Lux Radio Theater # 2 - So You Want to Be a Movie Star?

Make Me a Star (1932)

One of the underlying themes of the Lux Radio Theater is that of Hollywood as a shaper of dreams. As well as selling cakes of soap, the program makers are also selling the idea of Hollywood as the place to look towards for glamour, fashion, fame and fortune. Even the adverts for Lux throughout the show take the form of the weekly adventures of some unnamed starlets on the studio back lot discussing why they don’t have skin as smooth as Carole Lombard’s (Hint: it’s got something to do with Lux). The various Hollywood experts and insiders that appear on the show not only give a glimpse behind the curtain but also give advice, on everything from next season’s fashions to, in this case how to break into acting.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to find out whether you would have had what it took to become a star in the Hollywood of 1936, here’s your chance…

On the July 27th episode (Chained starring Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone), host Cecil B. DeMille interviews the dramatic coach for MGM studios, Oliver Hinsdale and asks the immortal question, “How can I get into the movies?”

Mr Hinsdale starts off by advising the prospective starlet to get some theater experience and to “live without food” in the quest to give your all to the dramatic arts. He then gives his formula for success in movie acting:

An actor should have “imagination, idealism, sincerity, knowledge of life, a true love of mankind and a good appearance”. He goes on:

“The aspiring actor must have a broad vision and understanding, a cultivated mind, he should know of history, literature, painting, sculpture, music. He should know his Bible. His body must be healthy, active and respond to his bidding. (He should have) a fine clear complexion which denotes health and vitality.”

He then plugs Lux (well, it was in his contract) then continues:

“You do not need to be beautiful. Marie Dressler and Wally Beery never won beauty contests. If you are beautiful don’t be misled into thinking that is all that is required to get into movies. The ranks of Hollywood’s unemployed are full of those with nothing but beauty. I’ve tested at least 100,000 young men and women for the screen…of these only 17 made the grade. Among them are Jean Parker, Robert Taylor, Irene Hervey, Martha Sleeper, Mary Carlisle, Robert Young, Betty Furness, Michael Whalen and Virginia Bruce.”

He ends by apologizing if his advice has been overly negative but adds, “We always need talent. Your chance will come when you are ready and only then. Good luck”

And with that the hopes and dreams of thousands of aspiring stars where forever crushed. The cries of “What, you mean it involves hard work!?” were at that moment heard throughout America and the collective youth of 1936 heaved a resigned sigh and went back to reading the stories about how Kay Francis wears her hats in Photoplay.

It's interesting to think of how many actual stars in 1936 fitted the description given. I doubt John Barrymore or Errol Flynn had healthy bodies that responded to their bidding. And as for being well versed in the arts, well...

So if you think you’ve got the qualifications to make in mid ‘30s Hollywood and have a time machine handy, be sure to read these words, and for goodness sake make sure you pack some Lux!

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