Although Radio does not have pictures, the best of radio is incredibly rich with imagery. We think of images as the pictures we see on a screen, or even on a printed page. As wonderful as these images can be, no image is as powerful, vivid, intense, or life changing as those that form and develop directly in the space between one's ears.
Radio as an art form depends upon the sounds provided by the effects technicians, the studio orchestra's music to help set a mood, and the talent of the actors voices to convey emotion. The foundation that both supports these elements, and holds them together, is the script - the words of a writer which create the story and images in our minds.
In the early days of network broadcasting, the Columbia Broadcasting System earned a reputation as the “Tiffany Network”. Cheap laughs and emotionally overwrought soap operas may have been fine for NBC and Mutual, but there could be nothing but the best for the network that William Paley was building. With such high standards, the artistic freedom the network gave to Norman Corwin is nothing short of amazing. So are the results.
Norman Corwin was born in Boston in 1910. He began his career in journalism, writing for the Springfield Recorder and the Springfield Republican, eventually reading news reports over WBZA Boston. In 1936, he moved to New York, at first working for an independent radio station but soon finding a home with CBS.
One of Norman Corwin's earliest CBS programs was Norman Corwin's Words Without Music, the first time a writer's name would be used in a show title. Words gave us two of Corwin's most famous shows, "The Plot to Overthrow Christmas" and "They Fly Through The Air With The Greatest Of Ease". In 1941, CBS gave Corwin full control of Columbia Workshop for a full six months. The series was entitled 26 By Corwin. For the series Corwin had to create a story, write, cast, direct and produce an original radio play every seven days. The writer was given exceptional freedom; often the network executives had no idea what would be presented until it aired.
In 1942, half of the scripts from 26 By Corwin were collected for publication in a single volume published by Henry Holt and Company as Thirteen By Corwin. National Public Radio revived the original broadcasts of the programs showcased in Thirteen By Corwin. The original air check discs had been saved from the trash bin by Norman Corwin himself.
Among the programs in the collection is the fantasy trial of “The Undecided Molecule”. Like “The Plot to Overthrow Christmas”, “Molecule” is performed in rhyme. A special treat is the judge played by Groucho Marx. “The Odyssey of Runyan Jones” is just as fanciful; the story of a young boy searching the bureaucracy of Heaven and The Other Place trying to find his dog who was killed by an automobile.
Norman Corwin becomes deadly serious in “They Fly Through The Air With The Greatest Of Ease”. The program is a reaction to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. A mission by a bombing plane is profiled by giving the listener the omniscience of seeing both the flyer's and the victim's point of view. Corwin's rich sense of satire is showcased in his “Radio Primer”, in which he uses the form of a child's elementary school book to explore and poke fun at the serious world of network radio. Click here to read more about Thirteen By Corwin
- Radio Shows
Please enjoy these 12 old time radio episodes:
|N/A||01 the undecided molecule|
|N/A||02 odyssey of runyon jones|
|N/A||04 descent of the gods|
|N/A||05 they fly through the air|
|N/A||06 the long name none could spell|
|N/A||07 my client curley|
|N/A||08 mary and the fairy|
|N/A||09 could be|
|N/A||10 new york a tapestry|
|N/A||13 a radio primer|