Katharine Hepburn, Victory Theater & Lidice

Like the Writers’ War Board, the United States Office of War Information (OWI) sponsored and provided the concept for the highly popular Victory Theater with the help of CBS and legendary film-maker Cecil B. DeMille.

From June the 7th, 1942, supported by celebrities from the world of stage and screen, Victory Theater fostered a national spirit of wartime determination and camaraderie through a series called Victory Parade.

A little over a month after the horror which befell the village, on July the 20th, Hollywood actors appeared on the first episode of Victory Radio Theater. Wireless broadcast across all states, the bulk of the presentation was a stage adaptation of the hit 1940 movie, “The Philadelphia Story”, but at the end of the show the main cast of James Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made patriotic comments to promote the war effort.

Hepburn referred to Lidice in her address and warned an audience of millions that towns across the USA could face a similar fate if the American people did not take the Nazi threat seriously. In deliberate, unemotional fashion, she spoke:

The Philadelphia Story

“I think I would like to ask every mother if she’s heard of the crime of Lidice.”

“That’s the village in Czecho-Slovakia where every man was killed by the Nazis. I would ask her to imagine a knock at her door tonight — a knock and a door crashing in. A father and his son dragged out to be shot. The girl and the mother scattered in cruel concentration camps, never to see each other again.

I would say to that mother, if our side doesn’t win this war, you can cross out the name of Lidice and write in the name of Middletown, USA.

When the Gestapo issued the first order to seize Lidice, when the firing squad gunned down the first of the Lidice men, when the arsonists set ablaze the first house of Lidice, when the first child of Lidice was snatched from the arms of its mother – the fascists then failed to realise that the most brutal force would be countered by a force far more powerful:

the force of humanism, human solidarity, love of life…”

Katharine Hepburn

DEMILLE:

And so, all America applauds “The Philadelphia Story” — and Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Ruth Hussey. Each contributed time and talent to this radio effort to help win the war. And as we look out on the world tonight, we find that the war has indeed reached a crisis. Jimmy Stewart– I mean Lieutenant Stewart, what’s your personal slant on our part in the war?

STEWART:

Well, sir, in the army, we’d like to see everyone stop criticizing our allies in England. The next time, stop before you talk and ask yourself, what have I done that gives me the right to criticize people who fought for three years as bravely as the English?

DEMILLE:

(THOUGHTFUL) Hm.

SOUND:

APPLAUSE

DEMILLE:

You wouldn’t have to bring that up, Jimmy, if everyone realized that, above all, the enemy wants to see our side divided. And now, Cary Grant.

GRANT:

Well, C. B., if I could visit everyone listening tonight, I’d want to convince them of just one thing, that we’ve all got to win this war together! And, by we, I mean the Russians, the Chinese, the English, and the Americans! You know, a very wise American, Benjamin Franklin, once said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

DEMILLE:

As true today as it was a hundred and sixty years ago, Cary.

SOUND:

APPLAUSE

DEMILLE:

Now, here’s Katharine Hepburn.

HEPBURN:

I think I would like to ask every mother if she’s heard of the crime of Lidice (PRONOUNCED LEED-i-say). That’s the village in Czechoslovakia where every man was killed by the Nazis (PRONOUNCED NAT-zees). I would ask her to imagine a knock at her door tonight — a knock and a door crashing in. A father and his son dragged out to be shot. The girl and the mother scattered in cruel concentration camps, never to see each other again. I would say to that mother, if our side doesn’t win this war, you can cross out the name of Lidice and write in the name of Middletown, U.S.A.

SOUND:

APPLAUSE

DEMILLE:

That crime will be remembered, Katharine. Miss Ruth Hussey.

HUSSEY:

It must be clear by now, to all Americans, that you can’t compromise with the men responsible for Lidice. But I’ve heard people say that we’d be better off if we could make peace with Hitler now. Isn’t it plain by now that we must win or surrender? And if we surrender, isn’t it plain what we can expect?

DEMILLE:

(THOUGHTFUL) Hm.

SOUND:

APPLAUSE

DEMILLE:

It’s too plain. There can be no compromise. There is just one long fight — one united fight, shoulder to shoulder with each other and with our valiant allies. But at the end of the road, there’s something worth fighting for — a world where you and your family can live in peace and freedom.

GRANT:

Yes, C. B., in the world we knew before and will know again. By the way, what is THE VICTORY THEATER planning for next week?

DEMILLE:

Well, next week’s VICTORY THEATER will come from New York, Cary, and one of the Columbia network’s most popular programs will take over for the evening. It’s “Hit Parade,” with Barry Wood, Joan Edwards, Mark Warnow’s Orchestra and the Hit Paraders, in the leading popular song hits of the week — the same show millions enjoy every Saturday night.

STEWART:

It’s been a very great privilege for me to have a part on the first VICTORY THEATER program, Mr. DeMille. Good night, sir.

GRANT:

Good night, sir.

HEPBURN:

Good night.

HUSSEY:

Good night.

Thank you to genericradio.com

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