Suspended Animation #220
Last week, I introduced you to the Old Time Radio world of the Lux Radio Theater that featured adaptations of Disney feature films. Here are the remaining four episodes:
• December 25, 1939 Pinocchio
The animated feature itself would not be released until February 1940 so Walt probably saw this as a great advance promotion to build interest in the film. Once again there is no live audience for this show with recorded applause inserted at the end of each act and for DeMille as the host.
Cast: Walter Catlett (Honest John the Fox), Stuart Buchanan (Gideon the Cat and Barker Number Two at Pleasure Island), Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Charles Judels (Stromboli and Coachman), Frankie Darro (Lampwick), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Gepetto), Evelyn Venable (Blue Fairy), Grace Nielson (singing voice of Blue Fairy), Earl Hodgins (Barker Number One), Florence Gill (Cuckoo and Figaro), Joe Pennario (Alexander), Clarence Straight (Donkey and Barker Number Three), Ernest Carlson, Jean Forsyth, Eric Burtis Jr. and Jackie Morrison.
Most of the original animated feature cast reprised their roles in this version. Florence Gill who was not in the original film was the voice of Clara Cluck in the theatrical shorts and in The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air. Just as Clarence Nash often supplied incidental bird sounds for the Disney cartoons, Gill did the sound of condors, chickens, hens and roosters in some of them.
In this adaptation, Jiminy Cricket provides additional narration to describe characters and scenes to help bridge the story.
Mr. DeMille introduced the show: “Greetings from Hollywood, ladies and gentlemen. This is a night that weaves a spell over the world – a time of reverence and rejoicing. Of family reunions and storytelling by the fire. On this enchanted night, we can all believe implicitly in stories like Pinocchio. Walt Disney transformed this old children’s classic into a modern classic of the screen, giving new life to the little people.
“You met him at our microphone last year when we presented Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This year, his chair is empty. But he has sent us Pinocchio. Walt is busy getting Pinocchio ready for its national screen release through RKO in February. And besides, Mr. Disney’s moving into a fine new studio in Burbank – the house that Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Snow White built. Tonight we introduce his latest character, for the first ime, in the house that Lux built.
“In the two years of work on Pinocchio, 500 artists made about two million drawings of such likable people as Pinocchio himself, Jiminy Cricket, the Blue Fairy and Old Geppetto, the woodcarver. The Blue Fairy accomplishes some very wonderful things in Pinocchio.
“And she ought to feel right at home here. Because Lux flakes, too, has quite a reputation as the doer of good deeds. They’re the kind of good deeds that make life easier in your household, when Lux flakes plays the good fairy to our feminine listeners.
“I feel we can make you see the beautiful color of the Disney pictures, as we bring you the story and spirit of Pinocchio. It’s the spirit of all small boys, who’d rather look for adventure than go to school.
“Now just put yourself in the place of Geppetto, the woodcarver. Suppose you had made a puppet, a little wooden boy. And then all of a sudden, the puppet began to talk and move about like a real boy. I believe you’d be ready for almost anything to happen. And that’s the best frame of mind I can suggest for you now, as The Lux Radio Theater curtain goes up on Act I of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.”
January 29, 1951: Treasure Island
This was the only Lux adaptation of a live-action Disney feature film. Kathryn Beaumont was the intermission guest to promote the upcoming Alice in Wonderland film to be released in July 1951, where she voiced Alice.
Cast: James Mason (Long John Silver), Bobby Driscoll (Jim Hawkins), Nigel Bruce (Squire Trehawney), Charles Davis (Narrator), Ben Wright (Dr. Livesay), Bill Johnstone (Captain), Herb Butterfield, Bill Conrad, Jay Novello, Eric Snowden, Ed Max, Norman Feld, Lou Krugman, Eddie Marr and Dorothy Lloyd.
The feature film had been released in June 1950 with Robert Newton as Long John Silver. Newton, known for his chronic alcoholism, did not reprise this role that he would later re-create for the 1954 film Long John Silver and the 26 episode 1955 television series The Adventures of Long John Silver.
Mason, who would later famously portrayed Captain Nemo in Disney’s 1954 film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, took his place.
Other than Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins, none of the original film cast appeared. Ben Wright who played the doctor would later voice Roger Radcliffe in One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Rama in The Jungle Book, and Grimsby in The Little Mermaid. He worked extensively in radio at the time.
Yes, Bill Conrad was the same actor who would go on to appear in television series like Cannon and Jake and the Fatman and as the narrator of Rocky and Bullwinkle. He was a hugely popular radio performer appearing on many shows and was probably best known as Marshall Matt Dillon in radio’s Gunsmoke that he would begin in 1952.
• December 24, 1951 Alice in Wonderland
The animated feature had been released in July 1951. The intermission guest was Adriana Caselotti who was the voice of Snow White in the Disney animated feature.
Cast: Ed Wynn (Mad Hatter), Kathy Beaumont (Alice), Jerry Colonna (March Hare), Sterling Holloway (Cheshire Cat), Bill Thompson (White Rabbit), Gale Gordon (Caterpillar) Verna Felton (Queen of Hearts), Joe Kearns (Doorknob), Gil Stratton Jr. (Tweedle Dee), Jack Kruschen, Doris Lloyd, Norma Varden, Jonathan Hole, Margie Liszt, Marion Richmond, Leone Ledoux, Eddie Marr and David Light.
In a break from the previous Disney animated feature adaptations, the voice artists were credited because Walt had hoped the celebrity of some of the performers would help the box office for the film.
The new host for the Lux Radio Theater was William Keighley who opened the broadcast with the following:
“Christmas greetings from Hollywood, ladies and gentlemen. Now that all the presents are wrapped, the Christmas tree decorated, the stuffing made for the turkey, and you’re all worn out, why don’t you draw up a chair, and let us tell both you and the children a story. A story you’ll both enjoy, because it’s the Lewis Carroll classic, made into an enchanting picture by Walt Disney, Alice in Wonderland.
“And as our stars from the original cast, we have Kathy Beaumont playing Alice, Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter, Jerry Colonna as the March Hare, and Sterling Holloway, of course, as The Cheshire Cat.
“You know, Hollywood has always been known as a Wonderland too. Partly because of its glamorous actresses — beautiful women who protect the wonder of their skin perfection with Lux toilet soap facials. We’re proud to say that nine out of ten screen actresses are Lux girls. Now, here’s Alice in Wonderland.”
Much of the original film cast reprised their roles but Gale Gordon (who had also been radio’s Flash Gordon and later a foil for comedian Lucille Ball on television) took over the role of the caterpillar from Richard Haydn.
• December 21, 1953 Peter Pan
The film was released February 1953. The intermission guest was once again Aridana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White in the animated feature.
Cast: Bobby Driscoll (Peter Pan), Kathryn Beaumont (Wendy), John Carradine (Captain Hook and Mr. Darling), Bill Thompson (Mr. Smee) Herb Butterfield (Narrator), Christopher Cook (John), Richard Beals (Michael), Mary Flynn (Mrs. Darling), Billy Bletcher (Indian Chief), Michael Miller (Cubby), Stuffy Singer (Foxy), Earl Keen (Nana), Shep Menken and Eddie Marr as pirates.
Billy Bletcher was not in the original film but he was well known as the voice of Pete in the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck shorts. Candy Candido had done the voice of the Indian Chief in the film. Dick Beals who is best known as the voice of Speedy Alka-Selzer took over from Tommy Luske to play Michael.
Most significantly, Hans Conreid was replaced by John Carradine who was doing a one man stage show in Hollywood at the time. In addition, he was still active as both a performer in movies and as a guest star on popular television series.
Walt was an intermission guess on the December 20th, 1937 episode to promote the upcoming Snow White release. He also earlier appeared as an intermission guest on September 28th, 1936. On the January 28th, 1954 episode, Walt was presented with an award by Wade Nichols of Red Book magazine during the broadcast..