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That Lombard 'Lux' debut: Adapting 'Godfrey' for radio, part 1



Imagine having that much fun with your ex! Carole Lombard and William Powell had been divorced for nearly five years when this photo was taken in early May 1938 -- but about two years earlier, the pair (on good terms since their split) had teamed for a screwball comedy triumph in "My Man Godfrey." Now, they were about to reprise their roles as lovably flighty heiress Irene Bullock and hobo-turned-butler Godfrey on radio...specifically "Lux Radio Theater," to air on CBS that May 9.

We've noted this broadcast before, Carole's debut on the popular series of cinematic adaptations, but today we'll go in-depth on it. First, this image, one I'd never seen until recently, showing Lombard and Powell meeting photographers:



For Powell, this was a return to the public eye. Following the death of Jean Harlow the previous June, Bill completed the film "Double Wedding" with Myrna Loy, toured Europe and developed rectal cancer. Lombard was among the many friends of his who guided him through this uneasy period.

By now, many newspapers covered radio along the lines of motion pictures, including a columnist for several California papers named Homer Canfield. His "Radiologic," seen here from the May 9 Ventura County Star, previewed the "Godfrey" adaptation, including a story about Carole playing a good-natured gag on her ex:




Canfield gave "Godfrey" four stars; one guesses he attended a dress rehearsal. And note the broadcast began at 5 p.m., which for modern-day Los Angeles ears would come in the middle of the drive home. In those days, LA and the Pacific Coast were four hours behind the Eastern time zone, not three.

The Belvidere (Ill.) Daily Republican gave a preview:



That day, the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison noted how "Lux" officials created a radio version of the "Godfrey" script, which in the movie had many ad-libs under the direction of Gregory La Cava. (Cecil B. DeMille is cited as ordering this, but he was a figurehead host; director Frank Woodruff wielded the real power on the show.)



What happened next? Tune in tomorrow and find out. For now, listen to the 1938 "Lux" broadcast:



At about this time, Lombard left Paramount, and her dressing room went to a former big band singer who worked with her in "Swing High, Swing Low." She'd become iconic for her work in the Hope and Crosby "Road" pictures -- that sultry sarong lady, Dorothy Lamour, star #12 in our 20-day list:

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