By Bob Stepno
“He’s a newspaperman, he’ll ruin his career,” the leading lady observes when Bob Hope, playing a reporter, threatens to go into show business.
“Love Is News” was a 1937 romantic-comedy film starring Tyrone Power, Loretta Young, and Don Ameche. But when Lux Radio Theater adapted it as an hour-long broadcast drama in 1940, they emphasized the “comedy” over the “romantic” by casting Bob Hope in the lead.
In short, it’s a tabloid tale about publicity and privacy — and 1940s radio loved it. The Lux production was only one of several broadcast adaptations by radio’s “anthology” series, including breezy half-hour versions at Theatre of Romance and The Lady Esther Screen Guild Players (or Screen Guild Theatre), which did the story three times.
The basic plot: Conniving newspaper reporter tricks heiress into an interview about her broken engagement; she gets even by announcing to all the other papers in town that she is marrying our reporter hero, making him endure the trials and tribulations of instant celebrity.
“I’ve put you in the headlines and I’m going to keep you there,” she tells him, as the obvious love-hate duel gets rolling. If there is any journalistic consciousness-raising about the ethics of fake news or invasion of privacy, it is probably lost in the meet-cute shenanigans and laughter. There was a war on, and enough serious news on other programs to justify some escape into silliness.
Director Cecil B. DeMille, the Lux series host, adds some comments on the “man bites dog” tradition of the press at the opening of the show, and admits that Hope took liberties with the script. Madeleine Carroll plays heiress Tony Gateson, the part Loretta Young created on screen, and Ralph Bellamy takes the Don Ameche role as city editor.
Newspaper movie fans will remember Bellamy from the classic newspaper screwball romance, “His Girl Friday,” as the non-reporter fiance of heroine Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russel), and victim of conniving editor and ex-husband Walter Burns, played by Cary Grant. This time Bellamy gets to be the unscrupulous toughguy editor trying to trick his star reporter into staying on the job by getting him to cover a big story — an echo of both “His Girl Friday” and its predecessor “The Front Page.” (Although comedies, those classics’ news story was a politically tinged hanging; in this lighter-weight film, its just a society-girl romance.)
Theater of Romance lived up to its series title in its half hour 1945 version, playing the story slightly less for laughs, with Dane Clark and Fay Emerson in the leads, Will Geer as a cantankerous country judge, Jack Hartley as the editor.
According to various oldtime radio websites, the Screen Guild program made three versions, in 1942 with Kay Kyser and Betty Grable, in 1943 with Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan, and in 1946 with Hope and Linda Darnell, who even got first billing in the broadcast. There also was tremendous live-audience response in her smooching scenes with Hope, who filled the show with Hollywood jokes and asides to the audience, like his familiar rascal character from the Hope and Crosby “Road to…” movies.
James Gleason, a frequent Hollywood choice for tough-editor roles, played the reporter’s boss in all three Theater Guild versions. The Benny and Hope versions are available in various online archives, although at least one apparently gives a copy of the Benny episode the 1942 date of Kay Kyser’s performance, cited as unavailable by another archive.
Comparing the Jack Benny and Bob Hope versions should be fascinating for fans of 1940s radio comedy… but it won’t add much to the journalism ethics discussion.
(See my overview page on radio adaptations of newspaper movies for more.)