Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis

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Lux Radio Theater, 10 April 1937

The plot of Lewis’s novel is relatively straightforward – the eponymous hero (Walter Huston), having made his fortune in automobiles, decides to sell his business and retire. He feels that in spite of his riches, he requires a cultural education, so he and his wife Fran (Nan Sunderland) embark on a European tour. While appreciating the history, culture and tradition, the couple discover that its people are decadent, lazy, good-for-nothing types – representatives of old money or professional spongers with little to do except pursue Nan in spite of her protestations. However the couple’s impressions gradually alter, as they come to realize that Europe provides the key to eternal youth for them – a respite from the duties of family and work back home. In the end Nan decides to return, in the belief that she has to look after her little grandson; but Dodsworth stays in Europe, determined to enjoy the idyll of a late-season romance with a rich expatriate.


The adaptation served as a warning to American listeners to be mindful of their responsibilities to home and family. Only then could the existing social order be sustained. Sometimes this requires people to make sacrifices to suppress their instincts and serve the greater good: such decisions are of paramount importance for the future of the country as a whole. On the other hand this production celebrated American capitalism; the country might lack Europe’s history and traditions, but it permitted individuals from lowly backgrounds such as Dodsworth to acquire wealth and power through their own efforts, rather than through connections and/or family.


The adaptation also stressed the links between Dodsworth and Huston. Interviewed by Cecil B. de Mille in a series of carefully scripted questions, Huston revealed that he was never blessed with the kind of good looks or star quality characteristic of Hollywood’s leading men; he only became a star by dint of sheer hard work.


This historic production based on the film starring Ronald Colman and starring the actors from the original New York production – husband-and-wife team Walter Huston and Nan Sunderland – once again showed how the long-running 1930s radio series broadcast from Hollywood reflected current attitudes towards America, its relationship with the outside world and how it viewed itself.