Alternatively known as the NBC Theatre and Screen Director's Guild Assignment, the Screen Director's Playhouse followed the beloved formula set by the Lux Radio Theatre, whereupon famed movies were adapted for the radio, mainly into half hour broadcasts, and featuring the movie's original stars.
Beginning on January 9th, 1949, and running until September 28th, 1951, its relatively late life in radio also meant that production values were high, due to broadcast issues having long been worked out by its predecessors. It's for this reason that listening to The Screen Director's Playhouse now is a joyful experience. It's rare to hear a bad quality recording of any of the shows.
By 1949, Hollywood's elite players were used to appearing on the radio, and The Screen Director's Playhouse was able to score some of the biggest stars in the world, such as Fred Astaire, James Stewart, Cary Grant and John Wayne.
The format was similar to Lux. It would begin by the announcement of the production, its director and stars. This was followed by a brief introduction from said director, in which he'd let the audience in on his reasons for making the film in the first place, along with any tidbits of trivia he thought the audience might like. When Billy WIlder introduced the radio version of his 'A Foreign Affair' in March of 1949, he even took a role himself. That of a waiter in the Lorelei Club, who deals on the black market.
The plays were all half an hour, with a few notable exceptions running for an hour. When it was over, the cast and its director would reassemble on the stage for a little scripted banter, before announcing the next week's production.
Whilst it didn't have the prestige, or indeed the audience, enjoyed by the Lux Radio Theatre, it was a simple fresh alternative for Friday evenings, and when its radio run was over in 1951, it made a successful transition to television. Filmed at the Hal Roach studios and running for 35 episodes, The Screen Director's Playhouse on television was a markedly different affair.
Concentrating on original productions and teleplays, instead of adaptations of popular movies and dramas, it nevertheless attracted some top tier talent in the shape of Errol Flynn, George Sanders, Peter Lorre and Fay Wray. Directors who made the shows for television included H.C. Potter, Ida Lupino, Leo McCarey and the great John Ford, who in 1955 brought audiences a new play entitled 'Rookie Of The Year', a story by 'Little Caesar' scribe W.R. Burnett. The television show ran from October 1955 to June 1956.
Ultimately, the radio version produced 122 episodes, which can be found here if you'd like to listen. They're a wonderful window on radio in the late forties, with excellent production values and wonderful writing. It's just a shame that The Screen Director's Playhouse wasn't born a little earlier in radio's life.