Monday, 10 January 2011
CBS Studio One Production: Under The Volcano 29th April 1947
I have just discovered that you can listen to the above broadcast on the Internet Archive.
The idea of a radio production of Under The Volcano came about after Lowry met Fletcher Markle and Gerald Noxon in March 1947. Lowry had been on his way back to Dollarton following a visit to New York for the publication of the novel. The three met in a Toronto bar across the street from the CBC buildings where Markle and Noxon had worked on radio drama projects.
Fletcher Markle was a Canadian film and television writer and producer who was with the CBS programme "Studio One". Gerald Noxon had worked with Markle in Canada and together they adapted Under The Volcano for the first transmission of the CBS "Studio One" production.
Lowry accepted appears to have accepted the limitations of the adaption of turning his complex novel into a 60 minute play. Noxon sent Malc the following telegram which Lowry answered positively which gave the go-ahead for the production:
COLUMBIA BROADCASTING WANT TO DO ONE HOUR RADIO VERSION OF VOLCANO FOR NETWORK. FLETCHER MARKLE DIRECTING SELF WRITING RADIO VERSION. THEY OFFER YOU $350 FOR SINGLE PERFORMANCE RIGHTS RECOMMEND YOU ACCEPT.PUBLICITY EXCELLENT FOR BOOK SALES.PLEASE REPLY TO ME CARE OF FLETCHER MARKLE CBS NEW YORK CITY. VERY URGENT.
The adaption featured Everett Sloane as the Consul and Ann Burr as Yvonne.
Here is the publicity blurb which appeared in Billboard magazine prior to the broadcast:
As it turned out, Lowry was unable to hear the transmission on the night due to a friend's radio set breaking down. CBS eventually sent him a recording of the broadcast on a shellac disc. The only documentary comments with have of what Lowry thought of the production come in a letter to Noxon dated June 21st 1947 (See Letters of Malcolm Lowry and Gerald Noxon Pgs 144-45). Malc was pleased that the reviews had been positive but says he was "hellishly disappointed not to hear it over the radio". The recording sent by CBS appears to have been of poor quality which seems to have affected Lowry's enjoyment of the production but he adds that "we got a good idea and enjoyed it". Lowry's only criticism was the following:
"Sloane's odd interpretation, everyone else was to the contrary, was my chief criticism. I know he's a damn fine actor, but I cannot see why he emoted Lostweekendwise so much. He could have just spoken plenty of horrors, and poetry too, and it would have been more all right by me; but I guess I reckon without the difficulties."
It is interesting to read Malc's description of Sloane's performance in terms of the novel/filmThe Lost Weekend. The Lost Weekend's appearance before Under The Volcano haunted Lowry for ever more. With hindsight, Lost Weekend has none of the depth of Under The Volcano and only shares the subject matter of alcoholism.
In 2011, the production seems odd and stilted to my ears demonstrating how difficult it is to distill a novel like Under The Volcano into one hour. I agree with Lowry that Sloane's interpretation is off key and doesn't fit with my idea of the Consul!