Hitchcock Out To Sea

Scripted radio drama in your home prior to the mass adoption of television and streaming that is so commonplace today. #hitchcock #Steinbeck #radio

Prior to the mass adoption of television as the entertainment medium of choice at the end of the 1950’s, radio was king. Much like what would be replicated later on television, you could easily find news, music, game shows, comedy and scripted dramas. The latter here was an amazing feat to pull off, given that motion pictures were still an amazing draw.

Often, heavyweights from radio, like Orson Welles, would enter into film with a cast they had worked with in broadcast, knowing that if the actors could be believable and win over audiences with just their voices, they would be naturals in a visual format. However, many big name movie stars still performed on radio, including Bob Hope and one of the most recognizable names in film history, Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock (l) and Bankhead at an awards dinner in October, 1943, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

Hitchcock often jumped at the opportunity to work in radio, as it was less expensive than film and an opportunity to bring his work to a new audience or attempt something prior to bringing it to screen. In this program, he is revisiting his classic 1944 film Lifeboat, a WW2 drama that is unlike much of his other work: instead of the usual thriller, he presents a scenario where people from different backgrounds must confront a common enemy to survive.

“I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle.”

Alfred Hitchcock

Tallulah Bankhead reprises her role as Connie, and much like in the film, she again steals the show with her confident, husky and sultry voice. The screenplay was a treatment of an original story by John Steinbeck. When she made the original film six years prior, it was her first big screen acting role in over 11 years, after spending over a decade in theatre.

Lobby poster for the Alfred Hitchcock film Lifeboat, 1944, from which the radio play is based. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

This program, originally broadcast on the 16th of November 1950 on NBC, will play uninterrupted. It will also be only the second time a commercial advertisement will be broadcast on “What You’re Not Listening To”, as I have decided to retain all of original elements of the program to present the broadcast just as it was heard over 70 years ago.

John Steinbeck, 1939. Photo by Sonya Noskowiak, courtesy of UC San Jose.

In a very strange irony, Hitchcock, one of the most celebrated film directors in history, never won an Oscar. His 1940 film Rebecca, with Sir Lawrence Olivier, did win for Best Picture. Steinbeck, one of the most celebrated American authors in history, would go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. Bankhead did very few films and only had a short career in radio, but won numerous awards for her stage work. She was also openly bisexual before the term had come in common parlance.

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr. 
Host, Show Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher, Videographer and Writer

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