Lady Esther Presents – Casablanca – 1943

casa

My Review

—Another ½ Hour Surprise—

Honorary Bogie Fix:

5 radio

The Lowdown

It’s a classic radio adaption of Hollywood’s most classic film! You can read my original synopsis of the film here. Despite the drastically shortened run time, the film still retains almost all of its most important plot points, although Sydney Greenstreet’s role of Signor Ferrari has been completely excised and Peter Lorre’s Ugarte appears in name only.

What I Thought

With three of its top stars (Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid) back to reprise their roles from the film, a lot can be forgiven for what’s left out in this greatly shortened version of Hollywood’s greatest film. Would it have been nice to hear Dooley Wilson and Claude Rains reprise their roles? Sure, but the actors that they have filling in do close enough impressions that their essence is still there. Would it have been fun to hear Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre back as well? Of course, but when you really consider how their roles were in the original film, it’s not surprising that they cut them for this brief adaption.

What makes this version work so well is that they followed the same formula used for the adaption of High Sierra – keep the love story, dump a lot of the atmosphere. We still get “As Time Goes By” and Paul Henreid once again lead’s the Café in a stirring rendition of “La Marseillaise” to shut those pesky Germans up, so I felt that this adaption has a slight edge over Lady Esther’s version of High Sierra since Sierra didn’t really have such iconic scenes to recreate.

What stuck out to me the most about this version though, was the fact that Rick Blaine really seems to be toying with Ilsa and Victor when it comes to the letters of transit. He says it’s purely business, but he refuses to give them to Victor despite the offer of a large monetary sum. He says he doesn’t want to give Captain Renault any reason to close down the nightclub, yet he doesn’t turn the papers over when given the chance. He tells Victor he’ll save Ilsa. He tells Ilsa that he’ll help her ditch Victor. He takes Renault to the airport with them instead of keeping him in the dark until Victor has escaped as if he wants the good Captain to know exactly how bad he’s been fooled. (Would anyone have questioned a forged signature on the papers?)

With just the audio to tell the story, is seemed much clearer to me that Rick was enjoying himself as he played games with all of the people involved – moving them around his own personal chess board – not sure of which way he wanted the game to play out. He had his own personal grudges and amusements to satisfy before even considering what might be the right thing to do. I would even say that there was a sense in this broadcast that he might not make the “right” choice in the end despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen.

Bogart and Bergman

How come these two didn’t make more films together?!? I hate to say it, but Bergman really steals the show here – recapturing her performance straight from the film. Their scene together as they remember their time in France is especially well done.

Again, Bogart delivers on his lines just as if you’re hearing audio from the movie. It wasn’t until hearing this version though, that I realized how much of his performance from the film is visual. The white tux. The smoking. The drunken sorrow at the table after hours. The contemplative chess. The thousand-yard stare as he holds a gun at the end. Much of his humor has been removed as well, so the character’s not nearly as mischievous as he was on the big screen. Still, I have a feeling that no one will be disappointed with his performance here.

The Rest of the Cast

No names for the supporting actors were given, but the actors playing Sam and Captain Renault do a great job of making us think Dooley Wilson and Claude Rains are back!

The Bottom Line

This one will make you want to watch the film again ASAP.

Lady Esther Presents – High Sierra – 1946

High Sierra Lady Esther

My Review

—Surprisingly Well Done— 

Honorary Radio Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes

The Lowdown

You can read my original synopsis of the film here, but this adaption has been edited down so drastically that many of the supporting characters have been axed in order to focus almost solely on the relationship between ex-con Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) and his moll-in-the-making, Marie (Ida Lupino).

What I Thought

The best radio film adaptions are able to pare down a 90+ minute film into just under an hour, giving us a heavy dose of the most dramatic moments and letting the main stars take over almost all of the focus. Here though, High Sierra is wheedled down to under 30 minutes and some of the film’s major supporting characters have been completely removed from the story altogether.

Gone are Henry Travers as the traveling farmer looking for a break in California and his young daughter who catches Bogart’s eye and provides much of the motivation for Roy Earle at the end of the film. Forget the long romantic conversations under the stars and the father/son relationship bonding. That whole subplot has been sliced out. Roy Earle’s sidekicks Red and Babe have been trimmed down quite a bit as well, as has Earle’s mentor and boss, Big Mac.

What’s left?  Well, there’s still a robbery. The thieves still meet in cabins in the woods. The mountain top standoff is still the climatic ending. But what the adaption spends 99% of its time on is the relationship between Bogart’s Roy Earle and Ida Lupino’s Marie. This entire radio program hinges on the ability of the two main actors’ to convince us that their relationship is more important than anything else in the script.

The verdict? It works wonderfully well.

When I saw that the show only lasted 28 minutes, I was ready for a real stinker, but the Lady Esther crew wisely keeps what we love most about Bogart and Lupino’s characters and shifts the script a bit to make their motivation to fall in love happen much more quickly and naturally than it does in the film. With no other woman for Bogart to fall in love with, Lupino’s encouragement and bravery impress him. He’s not looking for jewels, he’s looking for a life beyond crime – something that he sees potential for in Lupino. Lupino is on the run from her painful past and knows that the men she’s traveling with aren’t it. She meets Bogart. She likes Bogart. Bogart is her way out. With the other characters relegated to tiny bit parts, the heist becomes inconsequential and the story becomes more about whether or not these two multi-time losers can get away with their crime and actually enjoy a quality life together.

It’s better than it has any right to be, and at just under ½ an hour, it’s a great listen for your daily commute.

Bogart and Lupino

I would dare say that these two have more spark as a couple in the radio adaption than they do in the film. The script is trim and tight, both actors are performing so well that you’ll think you’re listening to audio from the film, and the short running time will leave you longing for more – in a good way.

Bogart comes off a bit softer here with his ‘crew’ than he does in the film. Instead of having an outside love interest, his story is contained neatly within his relationship with Lupino. It gives the character of Roy Earle a greater sense of maturity and loneliness that leads us to really pulling for him to fall in love with Lupino. To be honest, I really missed, “The Gun went…” *tap, tap, tap* scene, but I can let that go.

Lupino also comes off as much more sympathetic than she did in the film. This version of Marie is a woman that we can root for. Life has dealt her a bad hand, but perhaps this one job with this one guy can turn it around.

The Rest of the Cast

As per usual, we’re not given the names of any of the other cast members. But whoever they had filling in for Willie Best as Algeron was so spot on with his impersonation that they could have just as easily given Best credit. Likewise, the voice actor filling in for Barton MacLane as the ex-cop turned bad guy, Jake Kranmer, was another spot-on substitute.

So what if the sound man playing the part of Pard the dog sounds more like a man than a dog when he barks? That’s part of the charm of Old Time Radio, right?

The Bottom Line

Short, sweet, and surprisingly good.

Lady Esther and the Screen Guild Players – Across the Pacific – 1943

Across the Pacific Poster

My Review

—Drastically Abridged, but It Works!— 

Honorary Bogie Fix:

Radio Fixes 3 out of 5 Radio Bogies!

The Lowdown

For my synopsis of the storyline from Across the Pacific, you can read my original write up on the film here.

What I Thought

I know that I probably don’t need to say this, but you should definitely watch the film before listening to the broadcast.  Some of the bigger plot twists and character motivations are given away in the opening segment by the narrator.  From the very beginning we know who’s who and what they’re after.

That being said, I can’t really explain why this radio broadcast works so well.  Almost all of the actual action has been removed from the story except for two key scenes – one in which Bogart is knocked unconscious, and the big shoot out at the end – but the conversations between the three main leads keep things humming along at a crisp enough pace that you don’t notice.

We also get another taste of Bogart as the narrator, albeit briefly, when his character of Rick Leland breaks the fourth wall and interrupts the actual narrator to move the story along at the beginning.  It’s not nearly as much narration as he had during The Maltese Falcon broadcast a few weeks ago, but it’s kind of fun, despite the fact that he essentially spoils all of the film’s big surprises in order to jump ahead in the story.

What really makes this radio broadcast work is the chemistry and conversations between the three main leads.  Bogart and Astor seem to be just as smitten as in the original film, and Bogart and Greenstreet share so many sparks while working alongside one another that they could probably read the phone book and it would be captivating.  While this version of the story may not be as action packed as its source material, the writing is sharp and it gives us some of the best bits of dialogue from the film.

The Japanese stereotyping is still here, as it’s pretty central to the story, but it’s not nearly as heavy as it was in the film since we don’t get a visual on the characters.  Although, when Rick’s buddy Sam shows up, the accent is more than a little over the top.

All in all, if you’re a fan of the film you’ll find this an easy listen at just a little over half an hour.

The Bogart Factor

I downloaded this one from the Warner Archive Podcast, and unlike a lot of other classic radio broadcasts that survive from that era, this one’s crystal clear.  There’s a few times we hear the studio audience (see below for one example), and it reminds me again how lucky these folks were to have the chance to see these cinema legends firsthand recreating iconic roles.

There are no stutters or dropped lines here, as Bogart seems especially laid back behind the microphone.  Again, he’s brought his A-game to the broadcast and gives 100%.

The Cast

This is the film that sold me on Mary Astor, and while her part is significantly shortened for the radio, she’s great here.  I love the fact that she can deliver her lines in such a way that I feel like I can actually hear when she’s smiling.  Out of the three Astor broadcasts that I’ve listened to thus far, this one’s been my favorite as she really sounds just as attractive as Bogart’s dialogue makes her out to be.

Sydney Greenstreet is the real scene stealer here as so much of Bogart’s time is spent in exposition.  His laugh is much more subdued than it was in The Maltese Falcon radio broadcasts, but there is such joy in the delivery of his lines that I am once again envious of everyone who ever got to see him do live theater.

Classic Bogie Moment

Well, it seems that every classic Bogart film has at least one drunk Bogie scene.  I’m ready to state that every great Bogart radio appearance has at least one knocked out Bogie groan.  Not only does he get knocked out, but it takes two hits from Greenstreet’s goon, so we get double the groans before he hits the floor!  Unlike the knockout in the Falcon broadcasts though, the audience here giggles a bit.  What happened on stage to make them titter?  We’ll never know!

The Bottom Line

This certainly won’t quench a healthy thirst for a Bogart Fix, but it’s a nice way to spend a short drive.