Monday, January 30, 2017

"Theatre Guild on the Air" in Birmingham in 1947

In a couple of recent posts on this blog I've covered two world movie premiers that took place in Birmingham in 1947 and 1952. I've also done a blog post on Birmingham native and film star Mary Anderson. As noted in the article below, Anderson had returned to Birmingham in November 1947 for the world premier of her film Whispering City and a public appearance at Pizitz. The film premier benefited the Crippled Children's Clinic and was held at the Empire Theater on Third Avenue North.

I noticed some other interesting activities in this piece as well. Anderson had accepted a role in an episode of the "Theatre Guild on the Air" radio program to be broadcast from the city's Municipal Auditorium on November 23. She and other celebrities, including her co-star in that episode, Robert Mitchum, also accepted an invitation to watch the Crippled Children's Clinic football game played at Legion Field on Thanksgiving Day. Others who watched included sports broadcaster Harry Wismer and opera star Helen Jepson. Anderson then convinced her studio bosses to also have her new film's world premier in Birmingham.

Let's take a look at the football game and the radio production.

The web site of the Alabama High School Football Historical Society has a history of the "Crippled Children's Classic" game played annually at Legion Field for many years. The game started in 1935 as a contest between local college freshman teams, but by 1943 local high school teams played in the game. In 1947 Ramsey defeated Woodlawn 25-0. All proceeds went to support the clinic.

Founded in New York City in 1918, the Theatre Guild was an organization dedicated to the production of non-commercial plays. The Guild mounted over 200 productions and was a major player on Broadway into the 1970's. The group first tried radio in 1943-4, and on September 9, 1945 launched "Theatre Guild on the Air". The series continued on radio until June, 1953, when it moved to television. The radio version featured many famous plays and actors during its run. 

The hour-long episode broadcast in Birmingham that November evening was no. 94, "The Straw" written in 1922 by Eugene O'Neill. The story follows two characters during their stay at a tuberculosis sanitarium. 

Robert Mitchum returned to Alabama in August 1987 for a few days of filming aboard the USS Alabama for the TV miniseries War and Remembrance

According to a log of episodes, this one was Mitchum's only appearance in Theatre Guild on the Air. Anderson appeared in at least two other productions. Huntsville native Tallulah Bankhead also appeared in an episode broadcast in 1952.

Birmingham News 9 November 1947

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

Robert Mitchum in July 1949

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Listal

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