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Original Victory Theater header art

The Victory Theater Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Victory Theater

The United States Office of War Information (OWI) sponsored and provided the concept for Victory Theater with the help of CBS and Cecil B. DeMille
The United States Office of War Information (OWI) sponsored and provided the concept for Victory Theater with the help of CBS and Cecil B. DeMille
First Nighter performance announcement for Victory Theater from Aug. 8, 1942
First Nighter performance announcement for Victory Theater from Aug. 8, 1942

Background

" We interrupt ''Radio Theatre'' for a short-run series titled "Victory Theater." After the eight week summer run of ''Victory Theater,'' ''Radio Theatre'' will return to the air and continue its policy of presenting full hour dramatic shows with famous players in available stage and screen plays. "

Consisting of only eight installments, Victory Theater was by no means a toss-off program. It was eight weeks chock full of the best the CBS Network had to offer in the way of drama and talent.

The Office of War Information's Office of Facts and Figures was responsible for approaching the broadcast networks with the idea of obtaining commitments of blocks of prime time airtime to get out their various War messages. The first of the O.W.I. programs to take to the air was Victory Parade, over NBC. Beginning at 6 p.m Sunday night, the 7th of June, 1942 and running through August 23, 1942, NBC mounted a 12-week series of Victory Parade renditions of some of their most popular prime time Radio features, such as Baby Snooks, The Red Skelton Show, and The Jack Benny Program.

CBS' imposed contribution to the War effort was Victory Theater, produced in cooperation with and under the auspices of the Office of War Information. As with Victory Parade that preceded it by a month, O.W.I. War messages were delivered in place of commercial announcements, as a vehicle for disemminating messages of national importance to the wider public.

CBS relinquished the time normally occupied by "Lux Radio Theatre" for the production, as well as its facilities. All actresses and actors as well as directors, producers, and sponsors donated their talents and resources to the effort. All of the artists who donated their services received a V-for-Victory silver pin in recognition of their contributions. Mel Ruick, who had announced Radio Theatre since June 1, 1936 was not on the broadcast, however, as he had left for an assignment with the Army Air Forces. [Mel Ruick was the husband of ''Radio's First Lady'', Lurene Tuttle, and the father of Barbara Ruick, an actress in her own right, who married the great American composer, John Williams.]

None other than the great Cecil B. DeMille volunteered himself and his staff to produce and direct the inaugural program, "The Philadelphia Story," starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Lieutenant James Stewart, and Virginia Weidler, a Broadway Stage Pulitzer Prize-winner and the 1940 hit movie in which all four actors appeared.

Seven other top CBS programs were initially scheduled for Victory Theater:

July 27 Your Hit Parade
August 3 Major Bowes' Amateurs
August 10 "First Nighter" with a drama entitled "Nest of Eagles"
August 17 Big Town with Edward G. Robinson in a drama entitled What America Means To You
August 24 Amos 'n'Andy
August 31 "Joe Smith, American" on The Screen Guild Theatre
September 7 Fred Allen's Star Theater

There had been as many as four performances contemplated for the August 24 and August 31 Victory Theater productions:

  • A Silver Theatre production
  • A Screen Guild Theatre selection, The Unconquerable People, starring Bob Burns
  • A Screen Guild Theatre selection, Joe Smith, American
  • An Amos 'n' Andy Special: Love Comes to Andy Brown

Apparently, the Office of War Information eventually settled on the Amos 'n' Andy Special for the August 24, 1942 production. While we don't have an exemplar from which to prove which of the other three program selections actually aired on August 31, we do have a newspaper provenance indicating that it was Screen Guild Theatre's production of Joe Smith, American that was ultimately selected for the August 31 program.

The O.W.I. tapped CBS again later in the year, launching Victory Front, a format similar to both Victory Parade and Victory Theater, but this time in a 15-minute daytime format, comprised mostly of special installments of popular CBS daytime serial dramas, such as The Goldbergs.

Series Derivatives:

Lux Radio Theatre; AFRS ''Hollywood Radio Theatre''; Amos 'n' Andy; Screen Guild Theatre; Fred Allen's Star Theater; Big Town; Your Hit Parade; Major Bowes' Amateurs
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Patriotic Variety and Drama
Network(s): CBS.
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): None
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 42-07-20 01 Radio Theatre: The Philadelphia Story
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 42-07-20 to 42-09-07; CBS; Eight, hour-long or 30-minute programs; Mondays, 9 p.m. [partial summer replacement for Lux Radio Theatre]
Syndication: The Office of War Information
Sponsors: The Office of War Information
Director(s): Cecil B. DeMille
Principal Actors: Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, Virginia Weidler, Barry Wood, Joan Edwards, Barbara Luddy, Les Tremayne, Edward G. Robinson, Edward Arnold, Victor Moore, Amos 'n' Andy, Robert Young, Ruth Hussey, Fred Allen
Recurring Character(s): Cecil B. DeMille [Host]
Protagonist(s): Varied from production to production.
Author(s): None
Writer(s)
Music Direction: Mark Warnow and Orchestra
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Cecil B. DeMille [Host]
Estimated Scripts or
Broadcasts:
8
Episodes in Circulation: 2
Total Episodes in Collection: 2
Provenances:

Billboard reviewed Victory Theater's premiere in its August 1st 1942 issue
Billboard reviewed Victory Theater's premiere in its August 1st 1942 issue
RadioGOLDINdex; Hickerson Guide; Radio Goes to War, by Gerd Horten.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were the log of the radioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings.

We invite you to compare our fully provenanced research with the '1,500 expert researchers' at the OTRR and their Victory Theater log, which the OTRR claims to be correct according to their 'OTTER log'. We've provided a screen shot of their current log for comparison, HERE and HERE to protect our own further due diligence, content and intellectual property.

As will be noted, the OTRR cites no entries in their Victory Theater log while at the same time citing the radioGOLDINdex page which discloses at least one of the episodes of the canon of Victory Theater.

Digital Deli Too RadioLogIc


OTRisms:

  • The Martin Grams' Radio Drama and its Victory Theater log page remains flawed:
    • Victory Theater was never intended to counter NBC's Victory Parade as Grams expansively suggests. Both Victory Parade and Victory Theater--as well as the CBS' Victory Front program later that year--were imposed on the two networks by the Office of War Information's Office of Facts and Figures. The OWI approached the networks, suggested a block of time for a particular campaign and the networks attempted to accomodate the government. It wasn't a competition. It was an imposition--from the networks' viewpoint, anyway.
    • Any doubts anyone might have can be easily dispelled with the intro to each special program in the series, introduced as "The United States of America Presents . . . ," at the opening of each genuine exemplar from the brief canon.
    • Grams' Victory Theater log inaccurately cites specifics of the Victory Theater productions that were aired:
      • Grams fails to note that The Philadelphia Story was a Lux Radio Theatre presentation, presented as one of the installments of Victory Theater. It was understandably rebranded simply Radio Theatre so as to remove any reference to Lux.
      • Nor does he note Your Hit Parade as the second episode of Victory Theater
      • Nor does he note the derivation of Episodes 4 and 7 as being Victory Theater renditions of First Nighter and Screen Guild Theatre, respectively.
      • He overlooks entirely the final presentation, a Victory Theater rendition of Fred Allen's [Texaco] Star Theater

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[Date, title, and episode column annotations in
red refer to either details we have yet to fully provenance or other unverifiable information as of this writing. Red highlights in the text of the 'Notes' columns refer to information upon which we relied in citing dates, date or time changes, or titles.]







The Victory Theater Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
42-07-20
1
Radio Theatre: The Philadelphia Story

Y
42-07-20 Mason City Globe-Gazette
KGLO-CBS' "Radio Theater," directed by Cecil B. DeMille, is the first in a series of top CBS programs to be heard on the "Victory Theater" opening Monday from 8 to 9 p.m. Space ordinarily devoted to commercial announcements is used for messages from the office of war information. The time, talent and facilities for the weekly series are contributed to the government by CBS, the stars, writers, directors and advertising agencies connected with the program.

42-07-20 Wisconsin State Journal - Four Stars to Inaugurate Victory Theater Series - Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Lieut. James Stewart, and Virginia Weidler will appear in the inaugural program of the summer Victory Theater series at 9 tonight over WBBM. The stars will present a radio version of "The Philadelphia Story."
42-07-27
2
Your Hit Parade
N
42-07-27 Mason City Globe-Gazette
Columbia's "Your Hit Parade," with Barry Wood, Joan Edwards, the Hit-Paraders and Mark Warnow's orchestra, is heard in the second "Victory Theater," presented for the Office of War Information over KGLO-CBS Monday from 8 to 8:30.
42-08-03
3
Major Bowes' Original Amateurs
N
42-08-03 Mason City Globe-Gazette
Major Bowes' amateurs are presented on "Victory Theater" for the office of war information Monday on KGLO-CBS at 8 p.m.
42-08-10
4
First Nighter: Nest of Eagles
N
42-08-08 Mason City Globe-Gazette
The summer vacation at the "Little Theater Off Times Square" is interrupted for a command performance Monday, when "First Nighter" is broadcast on the KGLO-CBS "Victory Theater" from 8 to 8:30 p.m. 42-08-10 Wisconsin State Journal - 8 p.m. -- Victory Theater (WBBM): Barbara Luddy, Les Tremayne, others, in "Nest of Eagles."
42-08-17
5
Big Town: What America Means To You
N
42-08-17 Mason City Globe-Gazette
Columbia's "Big Town," with Edward G. Robinson, in a drama entitled "What America Means To You," is heard on "Victory Theater," presented for the Office of War Information over KGLO-CBS Monday from 8 to 8:20 p.m.

42-08-24
6
Amos 'n' Andy Special: Love Comes to Andy Brown
Y
[Silver Theater originally scheduled]

42-08-24 Capital Times
Screen stars Edward Arnold and Victor Moore take the stage with Amos 'n' Andy for a special appearance on Victory Theater, tonight through WBBM at 8 o'clock. The program is presented in cooperation with the Office of War Information.
42-08-31
7
Screen Guild Theatre: Joe Smith, American
N
[Bob Burns: The Unconquerable People originally scheduled]

42-08-31 Mason City Globe-Gazette
KGLO-CBS's "Screen Guild Theater" produces an adaptation of MGM's picture, "Joe Smith, American," starring Robert Young and Ruth Hussey, for the KGLO-CBS "Victory Theater," Monday, from 8 to 8:30 p.m. Young re-enacts his original role and Miss Hussey takes the part of his wife which Marsha Hunt played in the picture. The drama is abased on an original story by Paul Gallico. It concerns an average American, a war plant worker, who is waylaid by axis agents in an attempt to get secret military plans. Joe Smith staunchly refuses to reveal the vital iinformation though he is given a brutal third degree. He escapes, and eventually uses native American resourcefulness to lead the authorities to the agents' hideout where they are captured.

42-09-07
8
Fred Allen's Star Theater
N
42-09-07 Charleston Gazette - 9:00 Victory Theater, Guest Series--CBS.

42-09-07 The Gleaner - Victory Theatre (CBS) 9 p.m.






The Victory Theater Program Biographies




United States Office of War Information
(Sponsor)

Government War Information agency
(1942-1947)

Founded: Washington, D.C., U.S.A., Under Executive Order 9182 of June 13, 1942.

Radiography:

1942 Victory Theater
1942 Victory Parade
1942 Victory Theatre
1942 Victory Volunteers
1942 An American In England
1943 An American in Russia
1942 You Can't Do Business With Hitler
1943 A Passport for Adams
1943 Words At War
1945 Alice In America
1945 America Views the News
1945 Meet The Army
1947 One World Flight


The United States Office of War Information (OWI) sponsored and provided the concept for Victory Theater

William B. Lewis circa 1942
William B. Lewis circa 1942

Former CBS News Director Elmer Davis sits at his typewriter as Director of the Office of War Information circa 1942
Former CBS News Director Elmer Davis sits at his typewriter as Director of the Office of War Information circa 1942

Elmer Davis before all major network mikes in his role as Director of the OWI
Elmer Davis before all major network mikes in his role as Director of the OWI

The OWI's Comprehensive Homemaker's War Guide from 1942 (OWI Poster No. 20)
The OWI's Comprehensive Homemaker's War Guide from 1942 (OWI Poster No. 20)

The OWI's famous It's A Woman's War Too! poster
The OWI's famous It's A Woman's War Too! poster

The OWI's famous Four Freedoms Poster by Norman Rockwell (OWI Poster No. 47)
(OWI Poster No. 47) This is what was at stake once we entered the War. The OWI's famous Four Freedoms Poster by Norman Rockwell.
This is the poster and the idea that every right-wing organization or party in America has denounced as a legacy of The FDR Years. The irony is that it wasn't FDR's brainchild. It was the OWI's--a 'homeland security' organization.
The implementing charter for the Office of War Information was established with FDR's Executive Order 9182 of Jun 13, 1942. Insofar as Radio is concerned, it's first precept best informs its eventual influence over Radio between 1942 and 1947:

"a. Formulate and carry out, through the use of press, radio, motion picture, and other facilities, information programs designed to facilitate the development of an informed and intelligent understanding, at home and abroad, of the status end progress of the war effort and of the war policies, activities, and aims of the Government."

It was William B. Lewis and the radio group he'd assembled within the government to air the joint, four-network broadcast of the This Is War programs who caught the attention of the Office of War Information. After the success of the This Is War broadcasts, the OWI established a Radio Bureau in July 1942, and appointed Lewis as its first director. The OWI Radio Bureau became the OWI's domestic branch and main government organ at home.

As head of the Domestic Radio Bureau of the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF), then later as head of the Radio Bureau of the Office of War Information, Lewis became the point man to reassure an anxious radio industry that the commercial structure of American radio would ''remain unchanged.'' William Lewis argued that ''radio was valuable only because of the enormous audiences it created."

It was Lewis' prinicipal aim to make use of radio's popularity without unduly disrupting its structure and schedule. Lewis was instrumental in populating the Radio Bureau with men and women from radio stations, the networks, and advertising agencies alike. In Jan 1943 he was promoted to Assistant Director of the OWI's Domestic Branch, further extending his influence to other media such as ''motion pictures, graphics and magazines.''

In the case of commercial radio, Lewis' office developed a simple, but initially effective plan for radio's participation in the war. He helped develop the Network Allocation Plan (NAP), by which radio programming would integrate war messages on a ''rotating schedule''--twice a month for weekly programming and once a week for daily programming. Lewis' overarching dictum was that "Radio propaganda must be painless."

Lewis' OWI Radio Bureau suggested and set in motion a CBS drama project to be produced by Edward R. Murrow and written and directed by Norman Corwin. It was initially produced in England in cooperation with the BBC and titled An American In England. It may come as no surprise that both William B. Lewis and Elmer C. Davis, the Director of the O.W.I., had prominent positions with CBS before and after World War II.

The OWI itself was becoming entangled in a deepening morass of problems with both the Networks and their commercial sponsors. The understandable demands for more and more of these patriotic propaganda programs, while clearly raising public interest in the War effort, its progress, and the extraordinary demands it was making on the American economy, were placing commercial Radio programming at a distinct disadvantage.

Commercial Radio had been a seemingly limitless cash cow for sponsors and the networks alike--prior to America's official entry in The War. While America's performers were unstinting in their willingness to volunteer for all manner of patriotic anthologies of one sort or another, America's commercial sponsors weren't quite as philanthropic or altruistic as a group--to put it mildly.

While it was certainly true that for some industries, the War was clearly a boon, many other industries were suddenly experiencing shortages of what had once been a free-flowing logistics and raw materials supply. The dramatic rationing that was at first suggested for these industries, then imposed upon them--since very few of them actually complied with suggested guidelines--caused as many industries to founder as to thrive.

Those industries that were foundering began demanding all manner of price supports, tax incentives and offsets, union-organizing sanctions, and government subsidies. Kinda rings a familiar bell, doesn't it? Network Radio, as an industry, was no exception. In the final analysis, despite the endless stream of patriotic anecdotes regarding Network Radio's contributions to The War Effort, the ugly reality was quite a different story. The pressures being exerted on the networks from government agencies such as the Office of War Information's Radio Bureau, the Office of Price Administration and the War Department were playing the devil with both their commercial sponsors and the 'business' of Network Radio. These were undercurrents that Network Radio--and Television--wouldn't soon forget.




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