Lux Radio Theater – Bullets or Ballots – 1939

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My Review

—Great for Robinson Fans— 

Producer:  Cecil B. DeMille 

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 2 out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

A cop (Edward G. Robinson) goes undercover to bust up the organization of a big time racketeer (Otto Kruger).  All the while, he has to keep his numbers running gal pal (Mary Astor) happy while trying to steer clear of a gun toting henchman (Humphrey Bogart).

What I Thought

I’m really getting into these Lux Radio Theater recreations of some of Hollywood’s most classic movies – especially when the original stars are on hand to recreate their roles.  Here we have Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart reprising their roles from the film, and while Joan Blondell doesn’t reappear, she is replaced by Mary Astor and it’s pretty satisfying to hear her work with Bogart again.

Robinson, much like Bogart, translates perfectly to the radio.  Whenever he’s speaking, it sounds just like audio from the film.  It didn’t give me the same classic film fix that the radio versions of The African Queen or To Have or Have Not did, but it’s listenable, and it’ll probably get another play on my next long car drive.

There’s a fun, and very staged, interview with a real criminologist during the intermission, and Cecil B. DeMille is producing, so he does the introductions.  Plenty of advertisements are made for Lux Toilet Soap.  The only real complaint that I had was that this show wasn’t taped in front of a live audience, so anytime there’s applause, it’s clearly just DeMille and a couple of stage hands, making the production seem a little bit smaller.

Plus, character actor Frank McHugh isn’t back to play his role from the film, which is always a loss!

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s back as ‘Bugs’ Fenner, and unfortunately the part seems to have been trimmed back quite a bit.  It’s neat to hear him recreate the role, but when you don’t get to see him brooding in the background during all the gangster scenes, the lack of menace is a noticeable loss for the production.

He sounds just like the ‘Bugs’ from the film and it’s always fun to hear Bogart interact with Robinson, but there’s not quite enough here for a solid Bogart fix if you need one.

The Cast

Edward G. Robinson is the undercover cop, Johnny Blake.  Robinson’s a professional, and he seems to be putting in as much energy for the radio show as he did for the film.  If you’re a Robinson fan, you’ll certainly enjoy the broadcast.

Mary Astor is the numbers running racketeer Lee Morgan.  The part’s been trimmed from when Blondell had the role, so there’s not a whole lot to work with here.  But we get to hear her team with Bogart again, and the two have a couple of good scenes together!

Otto Kruger is playing the role that Barton MacLane played in the film, racketeer Al Kruger.   Again, with the roles trimmed for radio, he doesn’t get a lot of time to shine, and frankly, who can live up to MacLane?  The guy was great in the film!

Classic Bogie Moment

There weren’t really enough scenes for anything to pop out, but like in my review of the film, I’d like to point out that ‘Bugs’ was right the whole time!  Blake was still working for the cops, and if Kruger and the rest of the gang had just listened, they would have been a lot happier – and alive!

How many times was one of Bogart’s gangsters actually smarter than his cohorts, and yet he still always seemed to end up at the wrong end of a gun.  Oh, well . . .

The Bottom Line

Worth a listen if you’re a Robinson fan or if you’d like to hear Astor and Bogart get back together for a few scenes.

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