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Friday, April 3, 2009

NBC University Theater of the Air


In 1944, NBC brought WORLD'S GREAT NOVELS to radio, offering high quality adaptations of some of the great works of literature. Some colleges offered college credit in conjunction with the radio broadcasts. In 1948, the series was re-titled NBC UNIVERSITY THEATER OF THE AIR and production was moved to Hollywood. The first broadcast of the new series aired July 30, 1948. These adaptations were again of high quality and again colleges offered credit in conjunction with
the broadcasts.

In 1948, the Peabody was awarded to the NBC University Theatre for "an hour's dramatization of some of our finest novels and short stories... launched as an experiment in July, 1948." The following is a quote taken from the Peabody Award web site:

The response to the first five performances, which included "A Farewell To Arms," by Ernest Hemingway, "Noon Wine," by Katherine Anne Porter, and "Main Street," by Sinclair Lewis, was so vociferous that the network pocketed any misgivings it may have had, moved the show to a more desirable hour, and found the actors and the funds to sustain a series of absorbing and skillfully adapted programs.

Unfortunately, the "University" in the title kept listeners away for fear of the shows being to "high brow". NBC attempted to change this view by removing the "University" from the title for a short time. For the time that it was on the air, there were frequent day of the week, time of day and even program length changes. Despite the lack of broadcast consistency, the shows were consistent in its level of quality. Long after the demise of regularly scheduled dramatic radio in the United States, these shows were still being heard in school classrooms across the nation.

If you've ever desired to read the classics but can't seem to find the time, these shows are a great alternative. Almost all have survived in good audio quality.
(Frank Passage OTR Logs)


  1. Very much enjoyed hearing Hans Conried as Don Quixote!

  2. These plays are brilliant, if you do not always have time to read the classics, check out these plays. Worth the time to listen to.



Times Past has no affiliation with Old Time Radio Researchers. Any related content is provided here as a convenience to our visitors and to make OTRR's work more widely known.

References: Old Time Radio Researchers Group, Wikipedia, Frank Passage & Others OTR Logs, Archive.org, Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John Dunning, Australian Old Time Radio Group

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