“The Screenguild Theater” was a CBS Radio program that broadcast on Monday nights from 1939 to 1952 (ABC and NBC each broadcast a season towards the end of the series’ run). It featured Hollywood stars performing short radio adaptations of popular films, and the fees they typically charged for a radio performance were given to the Motion Picture Country Home for retired for retired actors, which is a real hospital and long-term care facility whose opening was presided over by Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan. Today it continues to operate as a service of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which has been proposing to close the hospital for several years.
In the Internet Archive’s Old Time Radio section (here) you can listen to well over 100 recordings from the series, which ran under several names depending on the current sponsor. Episodes there range from a fun version of Pinnochio (not as good as the classic Disney storybook album) to suspenseful interpretations of Hitchcock classics like Suspicion and Notorious. Even if you haven’t seen the film (and who the hell has seen Enchanted Cottage or Mr. Jinks Goes to Sea?) the programs are a lot of fun to listen to – If you’ve got to spend the afternoon painting a room or cleaning your garage it beats the hell outta the boring shit on you’ll hear on NPR.
We have a number of them in the shop, along with a variety of other albums from the “Golden Age of Radio” like Amos n Andy and Flash Gordon. I thought over the next couple Mondays we’d feature a few favorite radio programs, starting with a couple appearances by Humphrey Bogart. And that what brings us to…
Fans of Casablanca have notoriously rich knowledge of their beloved film and the “problems of three little people [that] don’t add up to a hill of beans,” making it a very difficult story to adapt.
It was twice adapted into a television series – once as Who Holds Tomorrow? with Charles McGraw as Richard Blaine in a 1955 pilot that was not picked up and once in the 80s with David Soul as Richard Blaine. Yep, this guy.
The David Soul Casablanca ran for seven episodes and was even nominated for a daytime Emmy. I have no idea if that’s a big deal or not. My favorite television adaptation of Casablanca was a 1995 Looney Tune starring Bugs Bunny as Rick:
This radio production from the Lady Esther era (a brand name that still exists today) features much of the original cast – notably the three stars Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid. It omits a number of subplots and events and squeezes some scenes together because the program is only a half hour long, after all. It was broadcast on April 26, 1943, not long after the film was a surprise success for Warner Bros.
A few of the best lines are oddly rewritten, shifted from scene to scene or flubbed. The absence of Claude Rains (who played Louis Renault in the film) hits hard because so many of the story’s best moments are created by the on-screen chemistry between Bogart and Rains. The subplot surrounding the neighboring Blue Parrot and it’s owner, Signor Ferrari, had to be cut for time, sadly eliminating my favorite character, Ugarte (who was played by Peter Lorre in the movie).
Still, it’s fun to listen to Bogart, Bergman and Henreid revisit their famous roles, so here – split into four tracks for better sound quality, is the 1943 “Screenguild Theater” production of Casablanca:
Next Monday: An exciting adaptation of another Humphrey Bogart classic brought to you by the makers of Lux Soap – tune in at the same time next week to hear the Lux Radio Theater‘s production of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not!!!