Movie stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood were often heard on the radio airwaves, performing shortened versions of film scripts in front of live audiences as a way to promote the studios and the stars themselves.
Jean Harlow's one radio performance was that of the title role in "Madame Sans-Gêne" for Lux Radio Theatre on December 14, 1936. Hosted by director Cecil B. DeMille, the cast also included Jean's "Personal Property" co-star, Robert Taylor, plus Claude Raines and C. Henry Gordon.
Anecdotage.com, sourcing the Economist, December 22, 2001, reports this funny behind-the-scenes story from the broadcast:
In 1936, Jean Harlow starred in a multi-part Lux radio play called "Madame Sans-Gêne" opposite Robert Taylor. Hours before each episode began to air, a vast queue would form outside the studio at the Music Box Theatre in Hollywood. Seating inside was limited and as many as 1,000 people were turned away. They did not always go quietly...
During a broadcast one evening, the overflow crowd refused to disperse and finally crashed through the cordon of police and into the theatre while the show was in progress.
Incredibly, despite the thunderous noise, listeners were unaware that anything unusual had happened: at the precise moment the riot started, the script had called for a mob scene!
"Madame Sans-Gêne" is a comedy set during the French Revolution and is based on the life of Catherine Hubscher, a laundress who washed and ironed Napoleon's clothes and became the wife of the Marshal of France. She earned the nickname, Madame Sans-Gêne (Mrs. No Embarrassment, or Mrs. Devil May Care) due to her penchant for free speech and improper manners at court.
The story originated in play form in 1893, which also spawned a novel, opera and several films, including a 1924 version starring Gloria Swanson and a 1961 version starring Sophia Loren.
Thanks to the continuing Old Time Radio (OTR) enthusiast preservation movement, Jean's performance, which is currently in the public domain, has been preserved in many formats over the years.
Here for your listening enjoyment, is Jean Harlow and company
in "Madame Sans-Gêne." (Click link to launch MP3 in browser.)
For those of you who'd like your own copy - I got mine from Ebay seller Adam's Old Time Radio Shows. It came on Lux Radio Theare Disc #6, which includes 49 other episodes - all for the low price of $4.99, with free (and speedy delivery) shipping.