Lux Radio Theater 1952 (US)
Running time: 45 Minutes
Valjean: Ronald Coleman — Javert: Raymond Massey — Fantine: Debra Paget
Special Guest Stars: Ronald Coleman! No kidding! But hey, wait... where's Michael Rennie?
Directed by Earl Ebi
Lux Radio Theater Production
M. Gillenormand: yes (in background)
Both Mlle. Baptistine and Mme. Magloire: only Mme Magloire
Thénardiers, after the inn: yes
Sister Simplice: yes
Gavroche's brothers: no
Mme. Victurnien: yes
Petit Gervais: yes
M. Mabeuf: no
Valjean is in prison at the beginning (later, in flashback
Bishop Myriel remains asleep during the robbery (unknown)
Fantine and Felix (small glimpse)
Valjean buries his money (unknown)
Valjean meets Cosette at the well
The second incident at Gorbeau House (somewhat)
Valjean and Cosette see the chain gang (sort of)
Lamarque's funeral is shown or mentioned
Story continues after Javert's suicide
The factory makes glass beads
The doll, Catherine (yes!)
The garden at Rue Plumet (sort of)
The Luxembourg Garden (not really)
The town's name is Montreuil-sur-mer (only Montreuil)
The man Valjean saves in Arras is named Champmathieu
Valjean's name becomes Fauchelevant
Eponine/Gavroche as Thénardier's child (yes, surprisingly)
P R O D U C T I O N N O T E S
The thing I really like about the radio plays is that I don’t have to look at costuming or set design or anything like that. All I have to do is listen to the words. And at 45 minutes, to get the gist of this huge work across, that’s a challenge already. However, this thing started out with two (well, three) minor strikes against it, and one major one, to wit:
First, and second, it was produced in the early 50’s, and it’s American. There’s such a postwar vibe running through the script that it’s hard to ignore, but it’s definitely an interpretation of its time.
Third, it’s only 45 minutes long, and that not only includes the announcer introducing the show, there’s also two commercials. Well, not real commercials as we know them now. The actors stop the production, and start talking about the sponsor, which in this case is Lux soap.
And the major strike?
It's almost a direct copy of the 1952 Michael Rennie Movie, already reviewed.
That being said, this had the potential for being a total disaster, one of those reviews that I live for, the cathartic kind that makes the sting of the listening to the production all better. But…
For all its goofiness with the plot, including the what-we’ve-come-to-expect-made-up-character-to-befriend-Valjean-and-advance-the-plot, for all the brevity, for all the production values that are better suited for radio shows such as Your Truly, Johnny Dollar or Dragnet, it wasn’t that bad. Okay, let me rephrase that: it wasn’t as bad as the movie version.
I mean, it’s a radio production and it has issues, and the Orson Welles radio drama still has them all beat hands down, but this is not the worst radio version. This is a very period piece, a little slice of the early 50’s that is at the same time kitchy and classic. And mercifully shorter than the movie script it’s based on.
The whole point of the Lux Radio Theater show was to bring recent movies to a wider audience by having the original casts recreate the feel of the movie in a Reader’s Digest condensed version. For the time it makes a load of sense: when it started in the Depression, everyone already had a radio but movies cost money to go to. Produced originally by famed director Cecil B. Demille, stars couldn’t wait to be a part of this show because it was more exposure for them and free advertising for their movie, as well as a promotional opportunity to plug any current project they had going.
This episode originally aired on December 22, 1952, and presented as a “Christmas present to our audience.” Had I been among the original listeners, I think I would have preferred a lump of coal.
As for the other details of the plot:
C A S T N O T E S
T H E B E S T T H I N G S A B O U T T H I S V E R S I O N
Mercifully brief, no video, and oh yes Ronald Awesome-In-A-Can Coleman!
T H E W O R S T T H I N G, S I N G U L A R ,