Radio in the Movies: A History and Filmography, 1926-2010

By Chan, Chris | Film & History, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Radio in the Movies: A History and Filmography, 1926-2010


Chan, Chris, Film & History


Laurence Etling Radio in the Movies: A History and Filmography, 1926-2010 Foreword by Kenneth Jurkiewicz McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. 230 pages. Paperback $45.00.

Radio in the Movies: A History and Fiimography, 1926-2010 is a history of how radio broadcasts have been depicted on film. The combination of two forms of media is a fascinating topic, and many intriguing essays could be written about how the radio has been incorporated into movie plotlines. Radio in the Movies is a useful reference guide for anyone interested in cinematic portrayals of the radio, but despite its promise, it lacks sufficient insight into the nature of the medium or the quality of the radio-themed movies to be truly engaging.

The book is full of information, but it could use a great deal more critical analysis of its subject matter. One of the work's major disappointments is that there seems to be no correlation between the role that radio plays in a movie and the amount of space Etling grants it. A few hundred movies are mentioned in the text, and most of them only receive a sentence or two briefly describing the film. Sometimes a movie has but a single brief scene involving a sports announcer discussing an event over the air, yet it receives nearly a page of text.

In fact, while Etling might spend a couple of paragraphs on movies containing an extremely minor subplot revolving around the radio, he largely ignores movies in which the radio plays a far more prominent role. In recent years, there have been several high-profile movies centered on the radio, namely Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion and the Oscar-winner for Best Picture in 2010, The King's Speech. A Prairie Home Companion is referenced on the back cover and both movies are listed in an index at the end of the book, but neither is ever mentioned in the text. There are also a handful of factual errors in the text. Don Cheadle is described as an Oscar winner for Hotel Rwanda, but though he was nominated, he did not win. …

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