On the Air: Radio as portrayed in Golden Age cinema

by I_Won-t_Dance | created - 20 Dec 2012 | updated - 30 May 2015 | Public

A list of films portraying radio singers and radio broadcasts in the 1930s and 1940s. The "live broadcast" scenario was often used to good effect in slapstick comedies and, of course, musical films. Never having experienced the Golden Age of Radio firsthand, I love getting a glimpse of what it was like in classic films.

This is not a list of radio programs, but rather films which are, at least in part, about radio - announcers, singers, sponsors, contests etc.. By no means complete - any suggestions welcome!

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1. Foreign Correspondent (1940)

Passed | 120 min | Action, Romance, Thriller

On the eve of World War II, a young American reporter tries to expose enemy agents in London.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders

Votes: 16,816 | Gross: $3.48M

Joel McCrea's rousing speech at the end..

2. Love Is on the Air (1937)

Passed | 59 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Andy McCaine is the ace crime reporter for a radio station. However, his exposés of corruption in high places gets him in trouble with the sponsor of his show, E.E. Nichols, who is in ... See full summary »

Director: Nick Grinde | Stars: Ronald Reagan, June Travis, Eddie Acuff, Ben Welden

Votes: 179

3. Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934)

Passed | 89 min | Comedy, Musical

Unscrupulous agent Rush makes singing waiter Clayton a big radio star while Peggy, who has lost her own radio show, helps Clayton.

Director: Ray Enright | Stars: Dick Powell, Pat O'Brien, Ginger Rogers, The Mills Brothers

Votes: 332

4. The Loudspeaker (1934)

67 min | Comedy, Drama

A young man from a small town heads to New York, determined to become a radio star. He achieves his goal but in the process alienates those around him.

Director: Joseph Santley | Stars: Ray Walker, Julie Bishop, Charley Grapewin, Noel Francis

Votes: 30

5. High Hat (1937)

Approved | 70 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

An opera singer whose career is on the wane finds newfound fame doing popular songs on the radio.

Director: Clifford Sanforth | Stars: Frank Luther, Dorothy Dare, Lona Andre, Gavin Gordon

Votes: 25

6. Road to Happiness (1941)

Passed | 84 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

Jeff Carter, a singer down on his luck, turns to radio acting as a means of supporting his young son Danny. With the support of his son and his press agent Charley Grady, Jeff ultimately ... See full summary »

Director: Phil Rosen | Stars: John Boles, Mona Barrie, Billy Lee, Roscoe Karns

Votes: 59

7. Meet the Boy Friend (1937)

Passed | 63 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

A heartthrob singer, Tony Paige, also known as "America's Boyfriend" decides to wed a Swedish actress. His manager doesn't want this because he is afraid of Tony losing female fans so he ... See full summary »

Director: Ralph Staub | Stars: Robert Paige, Carol Hughes, Warren Hymer, Pert Kelton

Votes: 75

8. Every Night at Eight (1935)

Approved | 80 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

After being fired from their jobs, three friends decide to enter an amateur contest at a radio station.

Director: Raoul Walsh | Stars: George Raft, Alice Faye, Frances Langford, Patsy Kelly

Votes: 96

9. Sweet Music (1935)

Passed | 100 min | Musical, Romance

College band-leader "Skip" Houston keeps his band together after graduation, they turn professional, and they are a big hit on the radio and in nightclubs. He falls in love with Bonnie ... See full summary »

Director: Alfred E. Green | Stars: Rudy Vallee, Ann Dvorak, Ned Sparks, Helen Morgan

Votes: 106

10. Professional Sweetheart (1933)

Passed | 73 min | Comedy, Romance

A vice-free radio singer wants to experience the dark side of life, so a press agent convinces her sponsor to choose a "professional sweetheart" from her fans.

Director: William A. Seiter | Stars: Ginger Rogers, Norman Foster, Zasu Pitts, Frank McHugh

Votes: 481

11. The Big Broadcast (1932)

Passed | 80 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

A radio-singer, Bing Hornsby, is none-too-concerned about his job, and an affair with Mona leads to his dismissal. When it appears Hornsby is getting and paying a lot of attention to his ... See full summary »

Director: Frank Tuttle | Stars: Bing Crosby, Stuart Erwin, Leila Hyams, Sharon Lynn

Votes: 179

12. Puddin' Head (1941)

Approved | 80 min | Comedy, Musical

Harold l. Montgomery, the scatterbrain vice-president of the United Broadcasing System, is dismayed when he learns that one-foot of the ground on which the station's imposing new structure ... See full summary »

Director: Joseph Santley | Stars: Judy Canova, Francis Lederer, Raymond Walburn, Slim Summerville

Votes: 27

13. Sweet Surrender (1935)

Approved | 85 min | Musical, Romance

Arrested when he gets into a fracas, while escorting the girl he has hitherto loved only from afar, noted ballet dancer Delphine, to her car, Danny O'Day, famous radio tenor, is late for ... See full summary »

Director: Monte Brice | Stars: Frank Parker, Tamara, Helen Lynd, Russ Brown

14. Up in the Air (1940)

Approved | 62 min | Action, Comedy, Music

A none-too-popular (nor good) radio singer, Rita Wilson is murdered while singing on the air in a radio studio. Radio page boy, Frankie Ryan, and his janitor pal, Jeff, solve the mystery ... See full summary »

Director: Howard Bretherton | Stars: Frankie Darro, Marjorie Reynolds, Mantan Moreland, Gordon Jones

Votes: 227

15. One Hour Late (1934)

Passed | 74 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

When the romance between radio-singer Eddie Blake and Bessie Dunn goes sour through a series of misunderstanding, Bessie packs to take a week-end trip with the station boss,Stephen Barclay,... See full summary »

Director: Ralph Murphy | Stars: Joe Morrison, Helen Twelvetrees, Conrad Nagel, Arline Judge

Votes: 31

16. What's Cookin' (1942)

Approved | 69 min | Comedy, Music

A group of entertainers visit the home of a radio singer to try to get her to book them on her show.

Director: Edward F. Cline | Stars: The Andrews Sisters, Patty Andrews, Maxene Andrews, Laverne Andrews

Votes: 36

17. Sing While You're Able (1937)

Approved | 66 min | Musical, Comedy, Romance

A toy company owner and his daughter find a singing hillbilly in the Arkansas backwoods and take him back to the big city in hopes of helping their radio show ratings.

Director: Marshall Neilan | Stars: Pinky Tomlin, Toby Wing, Bert Roach, Sam Wren

Votes: 11

18. Behind the Mike (1937)

Approved | 68 min | Comedy, Romance

Complications ensue after a radio producer insults a sponsor.

Director: Sidney Salkow | Stars: William Gargan, Judith Barrett, Don Wilson, Sterling Holloway

19. There Goes Kelly (1945)

61 min | Mystery, Comedy

Two young men working as pages at a radio station try to get an audition for a girl they know who wants to be a singer. When the station's star singer is murdered, they decide to solve the crime themselves.

Director: Phil Karlson | Stars: Jackie Moran, Wanda McKay, Sidney Miller, Ralph Sanford

Votes: 37

20. Freddie Steps Out (1946)

Passed | 75 min | Comedy, Musical

A high school student is mistaken for a famous radio singer who goes missing. Complications ensue.

Director: Arthur Dreifuss | Stars: Freddie Stewart, June Preisser, Warren Mills, Anne Rooney

Votes: 31

21. Who Done It? (1942)

Approved | 77 min | Comedy, Film-Noir, Mystery

Two dumb soda jerks dream of writing radio mysteries. When they try to pitch an idea at a radio station, they end up in the middle of a real murder when the station owner is killed during a broadcast.

Director: Erle C. Kenton | Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Patric Knowles, William Gargan

Votes: 2,039

22. I Live for Love (1935)

Approved | 64 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

Donna (Del Rio) is a diva of the stage and wants her lover Rico (Alvarado) as her leading man. To keep this from happening, the producers (Churchill, Cavanaugh) grab Roger Kerry (Marshall) off the street and say he has a contract.

Director: Busby Berkeley | Stars: Dolores del Rio, Everett Marshall, Guy Kibbee, Allen Jenkins

Votes: 82

23. Pot o' Gold (1941)

Approved | 86 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

Jimmy, the owner of a failed music shop, goes to work with his uncle, the owner of a food factory. Before he gets there, he befriends an Irish family who happens to be his uncle's worst ... See full summary »

Director: George Marshall | Stars: James Stewart, Paulette Goddard, Horace Heidt, Charles Winninger

Votes: 1,443

24. True to Life (1943)

94 min | Comedy

A writer for a radio program needs some fresh ideas to juice up his show. For inspiration, he rents a room with a typical American family and begins to secretly write about their true life ... See full summary »

Director: George Marshall | Stars: Mary Martin, Franchot Tone, Dick Powell, Victor Moore

Votes: 61

25. Whistling in Brooklyn (1943)

Passed | 87 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

Radio crime show host "The Fox" finds himself on the trail of a serial killer while a suspect himself.

Director: S. Sylvan Simon | Stars: Red Skelton, Ann Rutherford, Jean Rogers, Rags Ragland

Votes: 508

26. Murder Is News (1937)

Approved | 55 min | Mystery

A radio reporter does a story on the infidelity and divorce of a wealthy and powerful businessman. The man invites the reporter to his mansion for a chat, but when he gets there, he finds ... See full summary »

Director: Leon Barsha | Stars: John Gallaudet, Iris Meredith, George McKay, Doris Lloyd

Votes: 59

27. Remote Control (1930)

Passed | 65 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

A radio announcer (Haines) suspects a cohort sends coded messages over the air to his bank-robber friends.

Directors: Nick Grinde, Malcolm St. Clair, Edward Sedgwick | Stars: William Haines, Charles King, Mary Doran, John Miljan

Votes: 551

28. Torch Singer (1933)

Passed | 71 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

When she can't support her illegitimate child, an abandoned young woman puts her up for adoption and pursues a career as a torch singer.

Directors: Alexander Hall, George Somnes | Stars: Claudette Colbert, Ricardo Cortez, David Manners, Lyda Roberti

Votes: 513

29. Broadway Gondolier (1935)

Approved | 99 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

Dick Purcell is an American taxi driver who wants to become a singer promoting cheese products. Oddly he thinks the way to do it is to become a gondolier from Venice. Along the way he sings and woos a sassy secretary Alice.

Director: Lloyd Bacon | Stars: Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Adolphe Menjou, Louise Fazenda

Votes: 191

30. The Phantom Broadcast (1933)

Not Rated | 72 min | Mystery

A handsome radio singer has it all--fame, money, adoring fans--but what no one knows is that his accompanist, a hunchbacked piano player, is actually the voice behind the arrogant, abusive ... See full summary »

Director: Phil Rosen | Stars: Ralph Forbes, Vivienne Osborne, Arnold Gray, Gail Patrick

Votes: 102

31. Tuned Out (1935)

21 min | Short, Music

Ruth, is on tour and singing on the radio, unknown to her husband, as The Dixie Song Bird. Herbert Rawlinson, her husband writes the Dixie Song Bird a fan letter that indicates he may a bit... See full summary »

Director: Alfred J. Goulding | Stars: Ruth Etting, Herbert Rawlinson, Renee Whitney, Vernon Dent

32. The Great American Broadcast (1941)

90 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance

After WWI two men go into radio. Failure leads the wife of one to borrow money from another; she goes on, after separation, to stardom. A coast-to-coast radio program is set up to bring ... See full summary »

Director: Archie Mayo | Stars: Alice Faye, Jack Oakie, John Payne, Cesar Romero

Votes: 211

33. Page Miss Glory (1935)

Approved | 93 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

A chambermaid impersonates the fictional subject of a composite photo that won a beauty contest, with whom a famed aviator falls in love.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Marion Davies, Pat O'Brien, Dick Powell, Mary Astor

Votes: 1,157

34. Are You Listening? (1932)

Passed | 73 min | Drama

A radio writer/producer accidentally kills his wife and then attempts to escape an on-air hunt for him.

Director: Harry Beaumont | Stars: William Haines, Madge Evans, Anita Page, Karen Morley

Votes: 431

35. Dancing Co-Ed (1939)

Passed | 84 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

Right before the dancing Tobins ought to film a new production, his wife tells Freddy Tobin that she's pregnant. So the producer desperately has to seek a replacement and starts a ... See full summary »

Director: S. Sylvan Simon | Stars: Lana Turner, Richard Carlson, Artie Shaw and His Orchestra, Artie Shaw

Votes: 335

36. Two Girls on Broadway (1940)

Passed | 73 min | Musical, Romance

Eddie sells his song to a Broadway producer and also lands a job dancing in the musical. He sends for his dance partner-fiancée Molly who brings her younger sister Pat. Upon seeing Molly ... See full summary »

Director: S. Sylvan Simon | Stars: Lana Turner, Joan Blondell, George Murphy, Kent Taylor

Votes: 308

37. Two Girls on Broadway (1940)

Passed | 73 min | Musical, Romance

Eddie sells his song to a Broadway producer and also lands a job dancing in the musical. He sends for his dance partner-fiancée Molly who brings her younger sister Pat. Upon seeing Molly ... See full summary »

Director: S. Sylvan Simon | Stars: Lana Turner, Joan Blondell, George Murphy, Kent Taylor

Votes: 308

38. The Lady Has Plans (1942)

Approved | 77 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Some dastardly criminals have stolen some top secret plans and tattoo them on the back of a woman so she can sell them to the highest bidder in Lisbon. This woman plans to take the place of... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Lanfield | Stars: Ray Milland, Paulette Goddard, Roland Young, Albert Dekker

Votes: 123

39. Walking on Air (1936)

Approved | 70 min | Comedy, Musical

A stubborn young woman hires a struggling singer to play her obnoxious suitor in a scheme to overturn her father's objections to the man she really wants to marry.

Director: Joseph Santley | Stars: Gene Raymond, Ann Sothern, Jessie Ralph, Henry Stephenson

Votes: 190

40. Hot Rhythm (1944)

Passed | 79 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

Jimmy O'Brien (Robert Lowery)and Sammy Rubin (Sidney Miller), write jingle commercials for radio, and meet Mary Adams (Dona Drake), who wants to break into radio as a soloist for a band. ... See full summary »

Director: William Beaudine | Stars: Robert Lowery, Dona Drake, Tim Ryan, Irene Ryan

Votes: 69

41. Love Thy Neighbor (1940)

82 min | Animation, Comedy, Musical

Jack Benny is preparing his New Year's Eve radio broadcast but takes time out to take his valet Rochester to meet his girlfriend Josephine arriving on a steamer. Fred Allen and his sister ... See full summary »

Director: Mark Sandrich | Stars: Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Mary Martin, Verree Teasdale

Votes: 85

42. Behind the Headlines (1937)

Passed | 58 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Eddie Haines is a radio reporter with Station KBC. He is always getting the scoop, which infuriates those at the New York Star, which happens to employ his ex-girlfriend Mary Bradley. But ... See full summary »

Director: Richard Rosson | Stars: Lee Tracy, Diana Gibson, Phillip Huston, Paul Guilfoyle

Votes: 157

43. Advice to the Forlorn (1933)

Approved | 62 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Los Angeles newspaper reporter Toby Prentiss is continually in trouble with his editor. He is demoted to running the paper's "Miss Lonelyhearts" advice column because he missed the scoop on... See full summary »

Director: Alfred L. Werker | Stars: Lee Tracy, Sally Blane, Paul Harvey, Sterling Holloway

Votes: 57

44. Weary River (1929)

Passed | 86 min | Drama, Romance

A gangster is put in prison, but finds salvation through music while serving his time. Again on the outside, he finds success elusive and temptations abound.

Director: Frank Lloyd | Stars: Richard Barthelmess, Betty Compson, William Holden, Louis Natheaux

Votes: 362

45. Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)

Approved | 87 min | Comedy, Musical

A small town electrician becomes a hit singer in New York and gets involved with a gold digger, a thief, an opera singer and the woman he loves.

Director: Alfred E. Green | Stars: Kenny Baker, Frank McHugh, Alice Brady, Gertrude Michael

Votes: 118

46. A Millionaire for Christy (1951)

Approved | 91 min | Comedy, Romance

This hilarious comedy gave MacMurray a chance to show his comedic chops as Peter, a radio personality who is told he's just inherited two million dollars by a gold-digging secretary.

Director: George Marshall | Stars: Fred MacMurray, Eleanor Parker, Richard Carlson, Una Merkel

Votes: 382

47. A Voice in the Night (1941)

95 min | Drama, War

Hitler's doctor is gradually realising that the Nazi regime isn't as good as it pretends to be when his friends start to "disappear" into the camps. His wife is courted by the party and ... See full summary »

Director: Anthony Asquith | Stars: Clive Brook, Diana Wynyard, Raymond Huntley, Derek Farr

Votes: 192

48. Reveille with Beverly (1943)

Approved | 78 min | Comedy, Music, Romance

Beverly Ross moderates an 5:30 am radio show with swing music, dedicated to the local servicemen. Two buddies of her brother have a chance to meet her and both fall in love. One of them is ... See full summary »

Director: Charles Barton | Stars: Ann Miller, William Wright, Dick Purcell, Franklin Pangborn

Votes: 258



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