Screen Snapshots

Screen Snapshots

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Lux Radio Theater # 3 - A Miscellany of Mostly Made Up Facts

I've been slowly making my way through the vast archive of Lux Radio Theater episodes and now, having listened to the existing shows from 1936 to 1939 I thought I would share with you some of what I've learned about Hollywood's top stars. In these early episodes, often the most interesting moments are the banal chats with either the Hollywood insider of the week or the stars of the play itself. Invariably during the heavily scripted banter we end up learning some minor fact about the lives of our Hollywood idols, and here, in all their sordid glory are a collection of the most trivial!

Now, I'm in no way implying that any of these fascinating facts have any basis in reality or truth. Some are obviously studio propaganda, but some could be true. However, they struck me as either entertaining, stupid or just plain odd. Some of these titbits are interesting if you read between the lines, as they tell you a lot about what the studios wanted the public to think about particular stars, whilst others tell you absolutely nothing whatsoever.

There are two stars that, based on the sheer volume of implausible (and the occasional plausible) facts given I've had to reduce their presence. The first is Errol Flynn, who I've included based on a few of the more obviously preposterous facts, while ignoring the many fictions given about his colourful life before movies. I'm not getting into that mine field of half truths, thank you very much. The other is Cecil B. DeMille, who if we are to believe him, invented everything, discovered everyone and inspired the making of every great moment in cinematic history. He may be right, but after a while it gets a bit tiresome, so he's been cut out.

Anyway, here's the first instalment of interesting facts, a sort of "Everything I Wanted to Know about Hollywood I Learned from the Lux Radio Theater"

  • Lily Pons has the smallest shoes in Hollywood, size one and a half. She also has a village in Maryland named after her

  • Adolphe Menjou has a parrot that speaks English, French and Italian

  • Dolores Del Rio has never seen a football game

  • Shirley Temple’s life insurance policy is void if she takes up arms in defence of her country or if she meets death due to intoxication

  • Lionel Barrymore invented the moveable microphone

  • Ruth Chatterton sponsors air derbies

  • Warner Baxter’s appendix is on his left side instead of the right

  • Robert Montgomery carries on a perpetual game of backgammon with Frank Morgan

  • Edward G. Robinson can put an egg in his mouth and turn a hand spring without cracking the shell

  • Cecil B. DeMille is the landlord of the famous Brown Derby restaurant

  • Grace Moore is writing a book of international recipes

  • Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy never need to wear make up on the screen due to their natural tans

  • Ida Lupino prefers to wear sneakers and is an excellent mimic. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra have played her music

  • James Stewart is the owner of over 30 stray cats, who were attracted to him by his accordion playing

  • Victor McLaughlan has a sports stadium, drills and manages a troop of two thousand horsemen and sponsors a championship group of motorcycle riders

  • Charles Ruggles is a dog fancier

  • Errol Flynn was a member of the 1928 British Olympic boxing team

  • Reginald Denny designs and markets model aeroplanes

  • Ginger Rogers has installed a soda fountain in her home. She also likes roller-skating, knitting and saving old wrapping paper

  • Barbara Stanwyck paid for her stable boy’s wedding and danced there all night

  • Cecil B. DeMille started the first commercial passenger airline

  • According to studio trainers, the best boxers in Hollywood are Gary Cooper, George Raft, Sir Guy Standing, Jack Oakie and Ida Lupino

  • Joe E. Brown is spending a month being a radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs and has a sports column for the Los Angeles Examiner

  • Errol Flynn is a Dublin born globetrotter who first saw a Douglas Fairbanks film while at school in Ireland

  • Although he became movie star, Robert Taylor still regularly attends medical lectures as his father was a doctor who wanted him to go into medicine

  • Hollywood's most avid collectors of handkerchiefs are Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, Joan Blondell, Jeanette MacDonald, Gracie Allen and Tyrone Power, who prefers silk ones

  • Fred MacMurray has given up the saxophone and now practises target shooting

  • Now, isn't your life more complete now that you know all that stuff about your favourite star? And personally I really hope that the James Stewart one was true...


    1. What a really interesting article! I really hope that the story about the cats is true too.

    2. That was fun!

      I know the info on Reginald Denny (he ran a factory) and Ginger Rogers (it's in her autobiography) are true.

      I can easily imagine Fred MacMurray target shooting, but I can't imagine him giving up his saxophone.

    3. What fun! I've collected a bunch of Lux shows and always get a kick out of them. They were sure a great publicity tool.

      A post I wrote a couple years ago has some really interesting links on Reginald Denny. I was fascinated to learn about his "other" career. He helped invent the first drones used by the U.S. Army, and one of his companies was bought by Northrop.

      Best wishes,