Back of the Mike

Back of the Mike (1938) shows a young boy listening to the latest episode in an adventure radio program. Old Pete Belden and his niece Betty are driving the Flying B payroll across the desert when they are attacked by bandits, complete with cowboy hats and bandanas!

At first we see the story as if it were a movie, and we see the scenes that the boy is seeing in his mind. Then the view switches, and we’re in the radio studio, where we see the actors reading from their scripts and the sound effects men producing the sounds of horse hooves, cars, doors, fire, gunshots and more. The film keeps switching, showing us the boy in his bedroom, the Western scenes in his head, and the smooth operation of the radio study producing this fantasy.

This film is a great look at how radio dramas were made. I’ve seen other behind-the-scenes looks at old time radio studios in action, but I thought this one was particularly effective, contrasting the drama produced by the imagination of the listener with what’s really happening in the studio.

Back of the Mike was produced by the Jam Handy Organization, a Detroit-based company run by Henry Jamison “Jam” Handy. Jam Handy produced hundreds of short educational and industrial films. This is one of many in the Prelinger Archives available through the Internet Archive site.

Back of the Mike (1938)

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