Back in 1947, stand-ins existed in movie production. And back in 1947, a radio drama titled Suspense released an episode titled “Stand-In.”
In the 1940s, it was not uncommon for stand-ins to do more than their modern-day counterparts do. Then, stand-ins might serve as assistants to their respective actors, more than just a body to light and around whom set up camera angles.
In “Stand-In,” Dianne Burke is a stand-in/assistant to diva movie star Madame (aka Maggie). When Madame marries a new husband Dennis, the two don’t get along well, and Dianne foresees the trajectory of the couple’s relationship. It doesn’t help that Dianne is the younger, more attractive version of Madame. From there, the radio drama unfolds thrillingly.
The drama gives a snapshot of what a stand-in does in the following exchange nearly twelve minutes in, when a little boy runs up to Dianne thinking she is the movie star herself:
Boy: Hey, Madame. Can I please have your autograph?
Dianne: Afraid you got the wrong gal, sonny. I’m not Madame.
Boy: You can’t fool me, Madame. You’re shooting that picture Carmelita. […] I even seen you in the same dress lots of times.
Dianne: Aw, sure, they fix me up to look like Madame, but I’m not. I’m only her stand-in.
Dianne: […] Look, sonny. They gotta have somebody standing in there so they can focus everything just right, and that’s me. And then when they’re ready to shoot the scene, Madame comes out all fresh and pretty and [plain]. You see now?
Boy: Oh. You sure look like her though.
Dianne: That’s what they pay me for.
There is even a play-by-play of Dianne standing in for a shot, giving insight into how movie sets worked and used stand-ins at the time.
Have a listen to the suspenseful half-hour radio drama, roping a stand-in into the story:
- Click here to locate an mp3 version of Suspense‘s “Stand-In” episode.
- Click here to watch a YouTube version of Suspense‘s “Stand-In” episode.
Do you have insights into how stand-ins worked in the olden days of cinema? Share your experiences below!