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Original NBC's Pulitzer Prize Plays header art

The NBC's Pulitzer Prize Plays Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> NBC's Pulitzer Prize Plays

Joseph Pulitzer, the St. Louis newspaper publisher who posthumously founded The Pulitzer Prize endowment.
Joseph Pulitzer, the St. Louis newspaper publisher who posthumously founded The Pulitzer Prize endowment.

The first two of NBC's Pulitzer Prize Plays aired out of the WJZ studios in New York before moving to the KFI studios in Hollywood
The first two of NBC's Pulitzer Prize Plays aired out of the WJZ studios in New York before moving to the KFI studios in Hollywood

June 8 1938 announcement of O'Neill's 'Strange Interlude' to be presented in two, one-hour parts
June 8 1938 announcement of O'Neill's 'Strange Interlude' to be presented in two, one-hour parts.


Radio, long criticized for being weak on the drama side, especially in the summer months, decided in the summer of 1937 to do something about it and announced a departure to the usual fare of music programming by adding  drama to its summer line-up in the form of Streamlined Shakespeare.

Though starring none other than John Barrymore in all six episodes, Streamlined Shakespeare was not well received by the critics or the audiences.  Not that they did not appreciate drama being added to the summer lineup, but mainly because the dramas had to be cut too much to fit the timeslot and the thought that there was too much Barrymore and not enough Shakespeare.

Despite the fact that Streamlined Shakespeare received little critical praise, NBC decided to give classic American drama another serious try in 1938, announcing that the new summer season would include a cycle of Pulitzer prize-winning plays, titled Pulitzer Prize Plays.

From the May 16th 1938 edition of The Daily Messenger:

     NEW YORK -- Carrying forward the policy established last year of presenting serious drama in the summer, the NBC network announces that for the new season it will broadcast a cycle of Pulitzer Prize plays.
     Starting June 2 and for the next three months, there will be a Pulitzer play on the WJZ-NBC list of stations, each Thursday night drama to last an hour.  The opener is "Craig's Wife," by George Kelly, which won the award in 1925.
     Altogether one or two more than a dozen of the 20 Pulitzer plays will be included in the series, among them "Strange Interlude," "Men in White," and "Both Your Houses."
     It is the intention to use the regular list of radio actors and not "big name" talent.  Adaptations and direction also will be by the regular staff, with the New York studios as the originating point.
     Last summer's series was highlighted with the Shakespeare dramas.

At opening time, they did not know exactly how many, or which of the Pulitzer prize-winning plays they would air, but as of the broadcast of the second week all of the eleven dramas had been scheduled.

Of the twenty plays that had been awarded a Pulitzer Prize Certificate by 1938, eleven were ultimately chosen to air during the 12-week run (Strange Interlude was performed in two, 0ne-hour parts).  They were:
  • Craig's Wife by George Kelly, awarded 1925-26
  • Anna Christie by Eugene O'Neill, awarded 1921-22
  • Icebound by Owen Davis, awarded 1922-23
  • In Abraham's Bosom by Paul E. Green, awarded 1926-27
  • Why Marry? by Jesse Lynch Williams, awarded 1917-18
  • Both Your Houses by Maxwell Anderson, awarded 1932-33
  • Men In White by Sidney Kingsley, awarded 1933-34
  • Alison's House by Susan Keating Glaspell, awarded 1930-31
  • Beyond the Horizon by Eugene O'Neill, awarded 1919-20
  • They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard, awarded 1924-25
  • Strange Interlude by Eugene O'Neill, awarded 1927-28 
The series was originally broadcast from New York, then beginning with Icebound, in the third week, it began airing from Hollywood.

From the June 16, 1938 edition of The Times and Daily News Leader:

Homer Canfield's RADIOLOGIC

. . . Pulitzer Play, KGO, KWG 6-7
     If the above mentioned "Music Hall" sounds-off as a little on the silly side for your mood of the evening, try NBC's "Blue" web for the air version of Owen Davis' 1923 Pulitzer prize winning play, "Icebound."
     Owen Davis, Jr., son of the author, and Beverly Roberts, leading lady of the films have the major roles.
     This is the first in the series to come from Hollywood, and the local lads and lassies are doing everything in their power to show New York how it should be done.  Expect a bang-up show with Frank Hodek supplying the background music.

Though not highly publicized with spot ads or articles other than the normal newspaper listings, there were a couple of stand-outs that merited extra mention.  From the June 23rd 1938 edition of The Logansport Press:
     Paul Green's powerful and tragic drama, "In Abraham's Bosom," which won the Pulitzer Prize for best American play in 1927, will continue the National Broadcasting Company Pulitzer Prize Plays series when it is presented over the air for the first time on Thursday, June 23.  A cast composed almost entirely of Negro actors will be employed in the dramatization, to be heard from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m., CDST, over the coast-t0-coast NBC-Blue network.
. . . and from the August 17th 1938 edition of The Dunkirk Evening Observer:


Young Actress Well Known Here Heard
Thursday in "Strange Interlude."
      Miss Barbara Weeks, who is one of the best-known radio actresses of the day, heads the cast of N.B.C's production of Eugene O'Neill's "Strange Interlude" which will be broadcast Thursday night of this week.     Miss Weeks is a niece of Mrs. Joseph Rieger of Central avenue, and as a child spent much of her time here.  She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin R. Weeks of Binghamton.     In "Strange Interlude," she plays the part of Nina Leeds, a young woman when the play opens, and the mother of a grown son at the conclusion of the drama.  Because of the length of the play, it will be given two successive Thursday evenings.     Miss Weeks has been heard recently on other outstanding programs.  She appeared last week with Gladys Swarthout, and was in the recent radio production of "Anna Christie," also in the series of Pulitzer prize plays.

All in all, the series provided twelve weeks of powerful drama that likely went over well with audiences, proving that drama in the summer season was a welcome change.  Sadly, no exemplars are in general circulation today for us to hear.  But, in the event they should turn up, I'm sure they will be met with the same appreciation for great drama as when they were originally broadcast.

Series Derivatives:

Streamlined Shakespeare
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Play Adaptations
Network(s): NBC
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): Unknown
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 38-06-02 01 Craig's Wife
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 38-06-02 to 38-08-25; NBC; Twelve, 60-minute programs; Thursday evenings
Syndication: NBC Orthacoustic
Director(s): Clarence Meisner, James Church
Principal Actors: Chrystal Herne, Frank Wilson, Juano Hernandez, Homer Smith, Vivian Martin, Margalo Gillmore, Earle Larrimore, Pauline Lord, Agnes Moorehead, Mercedes McCambridge, Owen Davis Jr., Beverly Roberts, James Meighan, Barbara Weeks
Recurring Character(s):
Protagonist(s): None
Author(s): George Kelly, Eugene O'Neill, Owen Davis, Paul E. Green, Jesse Lynch Williams, Maxwell Anderson, Sidney Kingsley, Susan Keating Glaspell, Sidney Howard
Writer(s) Clarence Meisner, James Church [Adapters]
Music Direction: Frank Hodek
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Ben Grauer
Estimated Scripts or
Episodes in Circulation: 0
Total Episodes in Collection: 0

Alison's House announcement from July 20th 1938

RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.

Notes on Provenances:

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

Digital Deli Too RadioLogIc


The correct title of 38-07-21 is Alison's House, not Allison's House or Alison House, and the author is Susan Keating Glaspell, not Glasfell.

The author of 38-06-30 Why Marry? is Jesse (not Jessie) Lynch Williams.

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The NBC's Pulitzer Prize Plays Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
Craig's Wife
38-06-02 New York Times
10:00-11:00 P.M.--Play,
"Craig's Wife," With Chrystal Herne--WJZ.

38-06-02 Evening News
WJZ-NBC--9, first of Pulitzer Prize play seris, "Craig's Wife."
Anna Christie
38-06-09 New York Times
10:00-11:00 P.M.--Play,
"Anna Christie," by Eugene O'Neill--WJZ.
38-06-16 New York Times
10:00-11:00 P.M.--Play,
Owen Davis's "Icebound"--WJZ.
In Abraham's Bosom
38-06-23 New York Times
10:00-11:00 P.M.--Play, Paul Green's
"In Abraham's Bosom."--WJZ.

38-06-23 Lowell Sun
10.00 WBZ--Pulitzer Prize Plays--
"In Abraham's Bosom," by Paul Green with Frank Wilson, Juano Hernandez and Homer Smith, in principal roles.
Why Marry?
38-06-30 New York Times
10:00-11:00 P.M.--Play,
"Why Marry?": With Vivian Martin--WJZ.
Both Your Houses
38-07-07 New York Times
9:00-10:00 P.M.--Play,
"Both Your Houses," by Maxwell Anderson--WJZ.
Men In White
38-07-13 Logansport Pharos-Tribune
"Men In White," Sidney Kingsley's dramatic idealization of the medical profession awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the finest American drama produced on Broadway during the season of 1933-34, will be presented as the next in the National Broadcasting Company's current series of plays, Thursday, July 14 at 7 p.m. CST, over the NBC-network.

38-07-14 New York Times
Men In White.
Alison's House
38-07-21 New York Times
9:00-WJZ--Play--Alison House.

38-07-21 Wisconsin State Journal
7 p.m.--Pulitzer Prize Play (WIBA, WLS):
Susan Glaspell's "Alison's House."
Beyond the Horizon
38-07-28 New York Times
Beyond the Horizon by Eugene O'Neill, with James Meighan, Margalo Gillmore and Earle Larrimore.
38-08-04 New York Times
Berkshire Festival by Boston Symphony Orchestra, Direction Serge Koussevitzky; Cecelia Society; Jeannette Vreeland, Soprano; Paul Althouse, Tenor; Anna Kaskas, Contralto; Norman Cordon, Basso; Olin Downes, Music Critic.
They Knew What They Wanted
Sidney Howard's
"They Knew What They Wanted" is another interesting play to be broadcast over NBC this week. One of the outstanding Theater Guild successes, the play will be given in the series of Pulitzer prize-winning productions. A sophisticated comedy, the play concerns a genial Italian grape-grower named Tony, and the attractive young girl he gets as his bride. The girl falls in love with a handsome young man, but in the end returns to Tony. Time: 6 p.m., Thursday.

38-08-11 New York Times
9:00-10:00 P.M.--Play,
"They Knew What They Wanted," With Pauline Lord and Others--WJZ.
Strange Interlude Part 1
38-08-18 New York Times
9:00-10:00 P.M.--Play,
O'Neill's "Strange Interlude," Part I--WJZ.
Strange Interlude Part 2
38-08-25 New York Times
9:00-10:00 P.M.--Play,
O'Neill's "Strange Interlude," Part II--WJZ.

38-08-25 Sandusky Register
WSPD--8 p.m.--
The second half of the Pulitzer Prize Play, "Strange Interlude", ends this series.

The NBC's Pulitzer Prize Plays Radio Program Biographies

Eugene Gladstone O'Neill


Birthplace: Barrett Hotel, Times Square, New York City, New York, U.S.A.

Education: Princeton, Harvard and Yale

1937 Eugene O'Neill Cycle
1937 The Chase and Sanborn Hour
1938 Lux Radio Theatre
1938 Pulitzer Prize Plays
1939 Campbell Playhouse
1944 Arthur Hopkins Presents
1945 Theater Guild On the Air
1947 Studio One
1947 Ford Theater
1954 Stagestruck
Eugene O'Neill circa 1930
Eugene O'Neill circa 1930

Young Master Eugene Gladstone O'Neill circa 1889
Young Master Eugene Gladstone O'Neill circa 1889

O'Neill with his third wife, actress Carlotta Monterey, shortly after their wedding
O'Neill with his third wife, actress Carlotta Monterey, shortly after their wedding

From the November 11, 1953 edition of The Lima News: 

Nobel, Pulitzer Winner

Eugene O'Neill , 65, Dies Of Pneumonia
     BOSTON(AP)--Eugene O'Neill, famed playwright and Nobel prize winner died last night at his home of bronchial pneumonia.  He was 65. 
     Funeral services will be private in accordance with his wishes.
     Also a three time Pulitzer prize winner in literature, O'Neill had roamed the world for material until recent years when he was stricken with Parkinson's disease.  That disease--a form of palsy--gradually cut down his activities until writing became impossible.
     Present at his bedside were his third wife, the former Carlotta Monterey, a nurse, and his physician, Dr. Harry L. Kozol who said death was caused by bronchial pneumonia.
     HIGH POINT in his long career was in 1936 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.  The award committee did not cite any particular work but O'Neill considered his play "Mourning Becomes Electra" a strong factor in the choice.
     That prize was only one of the many honors won by the prolific playwright, who had more than two score plays produced.  His Pulitzer Prizes were for "Beyond the Horizon," 1920; "Anna Christie," 1922; and "Strange Interlude," 1928.
     On receiving news of O'Neill's death, George Jean Nathan, influential newspaper and magazine drama critic, said in New York the American theater had lost its greatest playwright and "I have lost one of my longest and dearest friends."
     Nathan was one of the first to recognize O'Neill's talents and started to open Broadway doors for him in 1917.  O'Neill's last Broadway play was "The Iceman Cometh" in 1946.
     Other O'Neill plays included "The Emperor Jones," "The Straw," "Desire Under the Elms," Marco Millions," "Ah, Wilderness," "Days Without End," "The Fountain," and "All God's Chillun Got Wings."
     AND HIS one act plays were equally famous.  They included "The Long Voyage Home,"  "The Dreamy Kid," "The Rope," and "Bound East for Cardiff."
     After "Days Without End" was produced in 1934, O'Neill was away from the stage until 1936, when "The Iceman Cometh" arrived on Broadway.  That drama, laid in a Hell's Kitchen saloon had drunks and bums as main characters, and the iceman was death.
     O'Neill's private life at times was almost as turbulent as those of a character in one of his plays.  He was married three times, the last in 1929.
     His only daughter, Oona, is the wife of movie comedian Charlie Chaplin.
     O'Neill first tasted fame at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown, from where he moved to New York's Greenwich Village and then Broadway.  His road to fame started with "Bound East for Cardiff," which he read at Provincetown.
     He was an inveterate wanderer.  In 1909, he prospected for gold in Spanish Honduras but malarial fever forced him to return home.  He next toured with a theatrical company as assistant manager and followed that with two years at sea as a crewman "tending mules," as he expressed it.
     HE WAS also a cub reporter in New London, Conn., until lung trouble forced him into a sanitarium for six months.
     It was during that illness that he decided to write and in the ensuing months he turned out 11 one-act plays and two long ones.
     Born in New York City, O'Neill attended Princeton for one year and later was a student in Prof. George Pierce Baker's playwriting classes at Harvard.  He was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of literature by Yale University in 1926.
     His first wife was Kathleen Jenkins, whom he married in 1909.  They had one son, Eugene Jr., who killed himself at Woodstock, N.Y., in 1950.  After his divorce in 1912, O'Neill married Agnes Boulton in 1918.  They had two children, Shane and Oona.  Shane has not been in contact with his father for many years and his whereabouts is unknown.
     Divorce also ended that marriage in 1929 and that same year he married Carlotta Monterey.

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