THE DAMON RUNYON THEATRE
The Damon Runyon Theatre was another of Alan Ladd's Mayfair Transcription Company productions. Ladd, long an admirer of 'The Brighter Side', Damon Runyon's long-running newspaper column, initially signed Pat O'Brien to star as 'Broadway' in the program. Indeed we have an alleged audition from the program, titled "Princess O'Hara" in which O'Brien and Wendy Barrie are heard announcing the next production of the series, 'A Piece of Pie'. Newspaper listings of the era describe Pat O'Brien slated to cut all 52 programs upon completing principal filming of the Howard Hughes/RKO feature, The Boy with Green Hair. But the quixotic Hughes decided the 'message' element of The Boy with Green Hair was a bit too risky for late-1940s audiences. He directed that the film be re-shot, as needed, to remove the social intolerance message from the completed celluloid.
Newspaper accounts cite O'Brien as anticipating a New York recording session for all 52 episodes of The Damon Runyon Theatre sometime during the Summer of 1948. But owing to the re-shoot and re-cutting of The Boy with Green Hair, the movie wasn't completed until September of 1948. This may–or may not–explain Pat O'Brien's absence from the remaining episodes of The Damon Runyon Theatre–or whether any were recorded beyond Princess O'Hara. Given the common practice of cutting two to five transcribed recordings in one session, one might well imagine that O'Brien recorded as many as five Damon Runyon Theatre programs before his performances were cut short. But it's intriguing to wonder how many of the episodes they actually did record before O'Brien had to rush back to RKO's West Coast studios to complete The Boy with Green Hair.
As it turns out, Ladd tapped short-lived veteran Radio actor John Brown to voice the recurring 'Broadway' character so central to the exposition of every episode of The Damon Runyon Theatre. As most fans of the program would attest, John Brown's 'Broadway' was as good as it gets in Radio. Brown had already begun performing a similar character on My Friend Irma (1947) as Irma's (Marie Wilson) shiftless boyfriend, so the leap to yet another Lower East Side accent wasn't that great for Brown. Indeed, one wonders if Brown ever got out of character for the seven years that My Friend Irma aired over CBS.
Originally posted 2018-01-09 07:50:34.