The An American In England Radio Program
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Promotion of An American In England from CBS' 1942 Annual Report
Norman Corwin directs An American in England from London circa 1942
William B. Lewis circa 1942
Former CBS News Director Elmer Davis sits at his typewriter as Director of the Office of War Information circa 1942
A draftsman burns the midnight oil in the poster room of the Office of War Information circa 1942
A small sample of the output of the Poster Room at The O.W.I. circa 1942
The OWI's Comprehensive Homemaker's War Guide from 1942 (OWI Poster No. 20)
This is what was at stake once we entered the War. The OWI's famous Four Freedoms Poster by Norman Rockwell
(OWI Poster No. 47).
This is the poster and the idea that every right-wing organization or party in America has denounced as a legacy of The FDR Years. The irony is that it wasn't FDR's brainchild. It was the OWI's--a war-making and fighting organization.
No less than John Snagge himself announced the An American In England productions from London. Snagge was the BBC newsreader that would be the first to announce D.Day to the world in 1944. John Snagge was every bit the BBC counterpart to our own Edward R. Murrow.
Billboard review of the first fully successful airing of An American In England from August 15 1942
Britain's great composer Benjamin Britten scored the stunning music that accompanied all of the An American In England programs that were broadcast from London.
To London by Yankee Clipper circa 1942
The White Cliffs of Dover, for many Britons during World War II, the equivalent of the sight of our Statue of Liberty.
Women of Britain poster circa 1942
Great Britain's Women in Defence.
4th of July Celebration in Cromer, U.K.
The Clipper Home circa 1942
Billboard follow-up review of the four-program extension of An American In England from December 12 1942.
". . . tough talking, spade-calling, spine-walloping propaganda of pugnacity." --Variety, February 18, 1942
That was Variety's observation regarding the joint-network broadcasts of the hard-hitting This Is War propaganda anthology. During the chaos in the wake of December 11, 1941, virtually every government agency tasked with some aspect of defense or the War effort was pressing Radio to either air the agencies' programming or produce and broadcast the agency's message over Radio.
It was William B. Lewis and the radio group he'd assembled within the government to air the joint, four-network broadcast of the This Is War programs who caught the attention of the Office of War Information. After the success of the This Is War broadcasts, the OWI established a Radio Bureau in July 1942, and appointed Lewis as its first director. The OWI Radio Bureau became the OWI's domestic branch and main government organ at home.
Lewis' OWI Radio Bureau suggested and set in motion a CBS drama project to be produced by Edward R. Murrow and written and directed by Norman Corwin. It was initially produced in England in cooperation with the BBC and titled An American In England. It may come as no surprise that both William B. Lewis and Elmer C. Davis, the Director of the O.W.I., had prominent positions with CBS before and after World War II.
The original broadcast was attempted live at 4 a.m. London time for simultaneous rebroadcast in the United States. The entire production company was transported by bus and taxi from downtown London through the blackout to Maida Vale. Great Britain's gifted young composer, Benjamin Britten scored the specially commissioned underscore for the series. The score was performed by the 62-piece Royal Air Force Orchestra--basically the London Philharmonic Orchestra in uniform.
Much of the preparation for the broadcast series was trial and error. Short-wave pickups were relatively new in drama. Edward R. Murrow had already demonstrated their effectiveness with his early broadcast remotes from England, most famously during the early blackouts and V-rocket attacks from Nazi Germany.
Norman Corwin attempted to play advanced tests of a wide array of proposed sound effects to be used in the dramatic presentations. Tested via short-wave telephone to New York's CBS headquarters, well over two-thirds of the tested effects were deemed unusable. Corwin hurriedly adjusted the scripts accordingly.
When the time came for the first live broadcast, it had to be scrapped when atmospheric conditions made an acceptable broadcast all but impossible. Rebroadcast the following Monday, London By Clipper was the first of eight programs to be broadcast in the first-person with Joseph Julian in the lead role. Despite the understandable scale and gravity of the production it was quite intentionally scripted in plain-spoken English. In that same vein of verisimilitude the programs used actual people and place names. The blending of Corwin's drama and Murrow's journalistic production style promised a seamless, cohesive production throughout--on paper. Recordings were employed for the subsequent broadcasts over the BBC and stations in Australia, Canada and Egypt.
Britain to America
At about the same time, beginning on July 26, 1942 at 5:30 p.m., a similar series of broadcasts from Great Britain to the United States and Canada was produced by The BBC. Titled "Britain to America", the short-wave production was billed as a 'typical British Variety program of comedy sketches and song' and 'bits by celebrated performers and simple talks by men and women immersed in the war effort', in a combined effort to further cement Anglo-American relations between the two principal western powers now jointly involved in the War effort.
Britain to America aired over CBS, then NBC, then NBC-Blue, was narrated by Leslie Howard, and promised writers of the caliber of J.B. Priestly, Noel Coward, Basil Woon, and Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. Miss Dickens was a war-factory worker working in Britain at the time. A genuinely star-studded effort, the subsequent programs would showcase Beatrice Lillie, Diana Winyard, Noel Coward, and Leslie Howard as a performer. The series ran under various formats and themes for most of 1942.
An Embarassment of Propaganda Riches
A review of a typical evening's Radio during this period would show any of the following sample of similarly themed programming throughout the week:
- The Army Hour
- Letters from England
- We Believe
- Tillie The Toiler
- Reviewing Stand
- Dear Adolf
- We, The People
- War In The Air
- Star Spangled Theatre
- Stars and Stripes in Britain
- Halls of Montezuma
- This Is Our Enemy
- London's Answering You
- Yanks In Australia
- Victory Parade
- Soldiers with Wings
- Spirit of '42
The OWI itself was becoming entangled in a deepening snake pit of problems with both the Networks and their commercial sponsors. The understandable demands for more and more of these patriotic propaganda programs, while clearly raising public interest in the War effort, its progress, and the extraordinary demands it was making on the American economy, were placing commercial Radio programming at a distinct disadvantage.
Commercial Radio had been a seemingly limitless cash cow for sponsors and the networks alike--prior to America's official entry in The War. While America's performers were unstinting in their willingness to volunteer for all manner of patriotic anthologies of one sort or another, America's commercial sponsors weren't quite as philanthropic or altruistic as a group--to put it mildly.
While it was certainly true that for some industries, the War was clearly a boon, many other industries were suddenly experiencing shortages of what had once been a free-flowing logistics and raw materials supply. The dramatic rationing that was at first suggested for these industries, then imposed upon them--since very few of them actually complied with suggested guidelines--caused as many industries to founder as to thrive.
Those industries that were foundering began demanding all manner of price supports, tax incentives and offsets, union-organizing sanctions, and government subsidies. Kinda rings a familiar bell, doesn't it? Network Radio, as an industry, was no exception. In the final analysis, despite the endless stream of patriotic anecdotes regarding Network Radio's contributions to The War Effort, the ugly reality was quite a different story. The pressures being exerted on the networks from government agencies such as the Office of War Information's Radio Bureau, the Office of Price Administration and the War Department were playing the devil with both their commercial sponsors and the 'business' of Network Radio. These were undercurrents that Network Radio--and Television--wouldn't soon forget.
An American In England: Its Artistic and Technological Legacy
CBS clearly took great pride in broadcasting this remarkable series. But it wasn't without its difficulties or missteps. Norman Corwin's contribution to the effort speaks for itself. This program alone might well have established Corwin's enduring legend. But by the time he'd been hand-picked by Edward R. Murrow to pen the series' stirring scripts as well as direct them, Norman Corwin had already written, produced and directed hundreds of other equally thought provoking and inspirational Radio productions for CBS. In addition, Corwin's contributions to fully twelve of the thirteen This Is War joint-network broadcasts made him the logical choice to pen and direct the more personal and real-life treatments of An American In England.
As to the difficulties, short-wave broadcasts of news remotes from England and Europe, while clearly improving with technological innovations, remained catch as catch can endeavors. Atomosperic disruption was the still-common culprit of short-wave broadcasts. So it was that amid all the fanfare and build-up to the first scheduled transmission of July 27th 1942, the broadcast had to be interrupted due to atomospheric disruption. The tolerance level for news snippets and remotes was still very high, but for a dramatic production such as An American In England, interruptions in the transmission and whole segments of missing dialogue made a full appreciation of the dramatic arcs of these carefully crafted scripts even more critical.
London By Clipper was rescheduled for broadcast the following Monday, August 3, 1942. The second attempt was more successful, but not without its own shortcomings. Joseph Julian narrated the program as simply 'Joe', very effectively laying the groundwork for the plain-speaking approach that the remaining installments would employ. The legendary John Snagge, The BBC's chief newsreader, was equally effective, and would go on to be the first newsreader to announce D-Day in 1944. He would later become involved with The Third Programme's highly successful sketch comedy series The Goon Show.
The broadcasts of August 10th through September 7th came off as scheduled, but given the continuing reception interference issues, The BBC, CBS and OWI's Radio Bureau ultimately decided that the final four installments of An American In England would have to be moved back to the U.S. and CBS's studios to ensure a satisfactory completion of the production. The installments short-waved from London were as follows:
- July 27th, 'London By Clipper' (unsuccessful)
- August 3rd. 'London By Clipper' (partially successful)
- August 10th. 'London To Dover'
- August 17th. 'Ration Island'
- August 24th. 'Women of Britain'
- August 31st. 'The Yanks Are Here'
- September 7th. 'An Anglo-American Angle'
The difficulties presented in achieving an acceptable transmission of An Anglo-American Angle prompted CBS to rebroadcast the September 7 installment once the production returned to the U.S. And so it was that CBS, Corwin, and company packed up the production and returned to the U.S. to regroup for three months, and resume broadcasts December 1st 1942. It's worth noting at this point that the production was originally scripted for eight installments: the six cited above, plus Cromer and Clipper Home.
In an effort to redeem the production, if not simply out of professional pride, CBS added two more installments to the production, Notes At Random and a undated and rescripted rebroadcast of An Anglo-American Angle. The resumed production aired as follows with Lyn Murray taking over as composer, arranger and conductor with the CBS Orchestra:
- December 1st. 'Cromer' [Announces Notes At Random Next]
- December 8th. 'Notes At Random'
- December 15th. 'An Anglo-American Angle' [rescripted]
- December 22nd. 'Clipper Home'
As noted above, there were still a few apparent hiccups even after the production had regrouped for three months. Originally annnouned as a five-program extension of An American In England, in practice the extension resulted in four programs. The Episode, 'An Anglo-American Angle' was rescripted and rebroadcast with additional material and updates.
There's no question that this series helped the War Effort. Judging only by the production's reception in Great Britain, it was a morale boosting success. It was also clearly deemed a potential threat to the Nazi propaganda machine. Heard within every introduction to An American In England's Great Britain productions was the announcement that it was being broadcast from an 'undisclosed location in Great Britain'. We now know that that undisclosed location was Maida Vale, an area covering north-eastern Paddington, a wealthy suburb of London. Given the public buildup to these broadcasts, there was a distinct potential advantage to be gained by the Axis powers to sabotage the broadcasts. This was serious business. And there were serious potential dangers to contend with in pursuing this production.
As an historical footnote alone, the An American In England broadcasts were a remarkable undertaking. The lessons learned in undertaking such a far-reaching short-wave dramatic production were also invaluable. The reciprocal Britain To America broadcasts were also historically noteworthy. This wasn't a contest between the BBC and its technology versus CBS and its technology. Quite the contrary. To the extent that the Britain To America broadcasts were more technologically successful belies the lessons learned on both sides of The Atlantic. The An American In England broadcasts that aired successfully made it to North America reasonably intact. There's no question that there were some 'after action' discussions once the production returned to the U.S.. Those discussions and conclusions are lost to history for the moment, but there's no question that they contributed to all of the Trans-Atlantic broadcasts that followed. Nor is there any question as to the importance of the Trans-Atlantic broadcasts that ultimately improved throughout the World War II years.
The surviving An American In England recordings remain an American treasure. We're also reminded that Norman Corwin himself is the only surviving party to these broadcasts. He remains an American treasure as well. We'd also be remiss to overlook Benjamin Britten's remarkable contribution to this production. Benjamin Britten is considered one of Great Britain's most important composers. Britten was great friends with the equally famous Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden, who'd emigrated to the U.S. with Christopher Isherwood as England was entering World War II. Benjamin Britten and his companion Peter Pears followed Auden and Isherwood to the U.S. shortly after. W.H. Auden was a prominent avowed pacificist, as was Britten.
Though our research has yet to disclose the connection to Norman Corwin, one can surmise that Corwin had at least consulted with Britten in the U.S. prior to being sent to London to undertake An American In England. The CBS connection had been there since 1940 with Britten's work on three Columbia Workshop productions. So it's clear that CBS knew of his extraordinary talent. We may assume too much, but it's reasonable to conclude that Corwin wanted the very best that England had to offer in the way of a composer for his history making Anglo-American production. Britten was the clear best choice by any measure. One can also conclude that it took some persuasion to get Britten to return to England in the first place. He was clearly still an avowed pacificist, and indeed upon returning to England, immediately applied for conscientious objector status based on his strong pacificist convictions. The result was his stirring and evocative musical score that accompanied all of the An American In England productions emanating from London.
Thus, An American In England also united two of the brightest stars of both England and America and their collaboration survives as an enduring tribute to the magniitude of their combined talents. The series also united America and Great Britain's two most esteemed and revered Radio journalists--the BBC's John Snagge and CBS's Edward R. Murrow--in the first of innumerable collaborations over the course of World War II.
An American In Russia
A year later the Office of War Information commissioned yet another three, 30-minute productions from Norman Corwin called, collectively, An American In Russia, which aired from January 16 to January 30 of 1943. The three episodes addressed themes similar to those contained in An American In England, but with a Russian perspective and concentrating on the 1941-1942 Russian Front. Norman Corwin produced the series with direction by Guy della Cioppa. Sylvia Berger wrote all three installments, with music by Bernard Herrmann. CBS War Correspondent Larry Lesueur narrated all three installments. As with An American In England, all three installments were short-waved to England for broadcast over the BBC.
Norman Corwin produced and directed another single commission for the OWI which aired February 22,1944, entitled Concerning the Red Army, which focused entirely on the Russian Front. Written by Norman Rosten, Martin Gabel narrated the one-off, with music, again, by Bernard Herrmann.
So we arrive again at yet another sadly overlooked and under-researched historic gem from the amazing Golden Age of Radio era. There's unquestionably more information yet to surface about this historic program. And as it surfaces, we'll be sure to update it for you here.
|Australian, BBC, CBS and Egyptian Syndication; An American In Russia; Concerning the Red Army
||Anthology of Golden Age Radio Propaganda Dramas
||CBS; The Third Programme (BBC); ABC [Australia]; The CBC
||Audition Date(s) and Title(s):
||Premiere Date(s) and Title(s):
||42-07-27 01 London by Clipper
||Run Dates(s)/ Time(s):
||42-07-27 to 42-12-22; CBS; Ten, 30-minute programs; Mondays, 9:00 p.m.
||Norman Corwin; Edward R. Murrow [Producer]
||The Orchestra Of the Royal Air Force, Olga Edwards, Dorothy Green, Curigwen Lewis, Joan Miller, John Snagge, Julian Somers, Arthur Young, Clifford Buckton, Everett Sloane, Edna Best, Nicolas Joy, Alfred Shirley.
||Norman Corwin, Joseph Julian as 'Joe'
||Benjamin Britten [Composer/Conductor]
Lyn Murray [Composer/Conductor/Arranger]
Rudolf Peter 'R.P.' O'Donnell [Conductor]
Myra Hess [Piano]
||An orginal compostion by Benjamin Britten
||John Snagge [Announcer [BBC]; Joseph Julian [Narrator]
||Estimated Scripts or
||Episodes in Circulation:
||Total Episodes in Collection:
||RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide, Norman Corwin.
Notes on Provenances:
The most helpful provenances were the log of the RadioGOLDINdex and Norman Corwin.
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An American In England Radio Program Biographies
|Norman Lewis Corwin
Newspaperman, Journalist, Poet, Writer, Screenwriter, Playwright, Producer, Director, Political Activist, Professor
(1910 - 2011 )
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
1929 Rhymes and Cadences
1938 Columbia Workshop
1938 County Seat
1939 Words Without Music
1939 The Pursuit Of Happiness
1939 So This Is Radio
1940 We Take Your Word
1940 Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
1940 Cavalcade Of America
1941 The Free Company
1941 We Hold These Truths
1942 This Is War
1942 An American In England
1942 The Victory Front
1943 The Cresta Blanca Carnival
1943 Norman Corwin (Audition)
1943 Long Name None Could Spell
1943 Passport For Adams
1944 Silver Theatre
1944 Columbia Presents Corwin
1944 Texaco Star Theatre
1944 This Is My Best
1944 The American School Of the Air
1945 On A Note Of Triumph
1946 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre
1946 Mercury Summer Theatre
1946 Stars In the Afternoon
1947 One World Flight
1947 Hollywood Fights Back
1949 Author Meets the Critics
1949 What's the Word
1949 The New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
1950 Document A/777
1950 Faith In Our Time
1952 Lux Radio Theatre
1979 Sears Radio Theatre
1983 Six By Corwin (NPR)
Norman Corwin at his creative best, ca. 1944
Norman Corwin in NBC Studio with Peggy Burt, ca. 1937
Norman Corwin camps it up during a rare in-costume moment during RCA's Magic Key, ca. 1937
The Maestro, in his element, ca. 1942
Norman Corwin in control booth for 1945's Untitled for Columbia Presents Corwin
Corwin's Lair, looking down from the control booth, directing Season One of Columbia Presents Corwin, ca. 1944
Corwin, flanked by Regina Reynic to his right and Deems Taylor to his left, with Bernard Rogers at the piano, ca. 1947
Norman Corwin, directing live radio program, ca. 1944
Corwin discusses We Hold These Truths script with Jimmy Stewart, ca. 1941
On A Note of Triumph 78 RPM Record Label, ca. 1944
Two great Radio Normans--Lear, left and Corwin, right, ca. 2005
Orson Welles, left and Norman Corwin, right, going over Fourteen August script, August 14, 1945
Norman Corwin, ca. 2005
Corwin examines his first, well-deserved Oscar, ca. 2005
|Norman Corwin is approaching one hundred years of age as we prepare this biography. Corwin's father Samuel lived to the age of 112. We can only hope that Samuel's sons will be as long-lived as the father. Norman Corwin's continuing legacy of thought-provoking, insightful, brilliantly crafted and prosaic commentary on the human condition have fashioned Norman Corwin into one of American History's greatest writers, visionaries, dramatists and philosophers.
Born and raised in East Boston, Corwin was transfixed by Radio as a medium from its initial broad casts. A child prodigy, Corwin was reciting poetry at the age of five, writing full-length stories at the age of seven, was a voracious reader, and an avid classical music proponent since the time he was a child. Reportedly first listening to a makeshift crystal set assembled by his older brother Al, from a cylindrical Quaker Oats box, both brothers soon became avid Radio enthusiasts.
Mentored by a devoted high school English teacher, Corwin acquired a life-long interest in poetry, especially that of Keats, Shelley and The Brownings. Upon early graduation from high school, Corwin began working as a journalist at the age of 17, with Massachusetts' Greenfield Recorder, then the Springfield Republican. Covering a variety of local community interest stories, Corwin's efforts covered sporting events--written in iambic pentameter no less, local color activities, movie reviews, and human interest stories.
His first exposure to professional Radio broadcasting came with an opportunity to air an interview regarding one of the human interest stories he'd written about. Station WBZA soon needed a newsreader and sought to have the position filled with someone from the local newspaper. Corwin fit the bill perfectly. By 1929 Corwin had fashioned his own broadcast over WBZA, a combination of piano interludes interwoven with Corwin's orginal poetry readings. He called the program Rhymes and Cadences. If this sounds a reminiscent chord, it's instructive to remember that this is how the legendary Orson Welles embarked on his own Radio career, airing a similar format entitled Musical Reveries in 1936.
Indeed, the similarities between these two great Radio visionaries is entirely appropriate. We've chronicled Orson Welles' extraordinary career elsewhere, but it's instructive to point out the fascinating series of parallels in the Radio careers of both Radio legends. You may recall that Orson Welles undertook his own wanderlust through the United Kingdom and Europe as a young man. Norman Corwin's exposure to The Continent came in 1931, as he traveled to Europe with his older brother, Emil. The fomenting fascism, social and religious unrest, and political turmoil he witnessed first-hand throughout Europe very much shaped the path Corwin's broadcasting career would take from that point forward.
Corwin returned to the U.S. and in 1935 began working as a full-fledged newsman for Radio WLW in Cinncinati, Ohio. Almost immediately encountering one of the Post-Great Depression sore spots first-hand, Corwin learned that any on air reportage of collective bargaining efforts--even organizing for collective bargaining--were grounds for immediate dismissal. He objected to the policy and soon found himself fired after only two weeks on the job. He ultimately took up the issue with the ACLU's backing and eventually got the policy changed--long after he'd departed Cincinnati.
The next stop for Corwin was The Big Apple, where he found work as an entry level publicist for 2oth Century-Fox. He soon leveraged his contacts there to yet another proposal for a local poetry/musicale format program to Radio station WQXR. He was soon airing another program similar in format to Rhymes and Cadences, this one cleverly named Poetic License. First airing in 1936, Poetic License showcased some of New York's early poetry luminaries, among them Louis Ginsberg, father of legendary Beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
The first major network to take an interest in Corwin was NBC, who invited Corwin to appear on RCA's Magic Key, beginning in 1937. NBC was less than impressed and in a moment of fortuitous serendipity for Corwin, released him from his obligation to NBC. Fortuitous, because within a year, a CBS executive would hear one of Corwin's Poetic License broadcasts and offer Corwin a position as Radio Director for $125 a week. Needless to say, that was astounding pay for a young man of that era.
So it was that a few days shy of his 28th birthday, Corwin began directing CBS' on-air engineering, writing, and production efforts for the first time. Within a few months he was tapped to direct his first Columbia Workshop experimental drama, The Red Badge of Courage, airing July 9, 1938.
In yet another ironic crossed path with Orson Welles, the night of October 31, 1938 found Corwin rehearsing the pilot for a newly proposed poetry program he was developing, tentatively titled Norman Corwin's Words Without Music. In the studio just below Corwin, none other than Orson Welles and Mercury Theatre of The Air were broadcasting their infamous War of The Worlds broadcast. Oblivious to what was taking place, Corwin reportedly only learned of it once CBS' switchboards began lighting up on every floor.
Produced by no less than legendary William N. Robson, Norman Corwin's Words Without Music ultimately aired in production a month later, with Corwin agonizing over the slightest nuance of each broadcast. It was during Corwin's Words Without Musc broadcast of December 25, 1938 that he introduced his famous "The Plot to Overthrow Christmas" to a listening audience, a program that would be repeated over and over again throughout CBS' history.
Within a year, Corwin had written, directed, produced and broadcast two of his most enduring masterpieces: The Plot to Overthrow Christmas [Words Without Music] and They Fly Through the Air with The Greatest of Ease [Columbia Workshop]. By then helping others develop their own experimental Radio dramas, Corwin found himself directing Earl Robinson's stirring Ballad for Americans, and Lucille Fletcher's biting satire, My Client, Curley. Earl Robinson would go on to collaborate with Corwin on several of his Columbia Presents Corwin productions.
Mr. Corwin took most of 1940 to work as a screenwriter for RKO Studios. Unimpressed, Corwin soon realized that he'd had far more artistic freedom back at CBS. So it was that upon returning to CBS, he was offered control of fully six months worth of Columbia Workshop programming. The resulting 26 By Corwin was Norman Corwin's first unbridled artistic opportunity in Broadcast Radio.
What followed were 26 weeks worth of Norman Corwin's dramatic passion. Corwin's creativity could be fully unleashed and fully explored for the following 26-week marathon of writing, directing, producing and agonizing over the result. But the agony couldn't last long, since from moments after each broadcast's sign-off, the process would begin anew, with carte blanche and all that a blank piece of paper means to a creative person--both the pros and the cons.
In the end, he pulled it off--in spades. 1941 became one of the most triumphant years of Corwin's creative work experience to date. Indeed to this day, several of those twenty-six Corwin efforts have become standalone classics of the Golden Age of Radio. Corwin wrapped up the year in extraordinary fashion with one of Radio History's most stirring paeans to American Democracy ever aired--We Hold These Truths. We Hold These Truths was a multimedia celebration of America's Bill of Rights. The broadcast was heard by the largest single audience in Radio History up to that point. Its timing was absolutely exquisite--indeed, almost prescient, given the life-altering developments of the morning of December 7, 1941. The project wasn't developed as a response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Indeed it was still under development and being written by Corwin the afternoon that he first heard the news about the attack.
Starring no less than Jimmy Stewart, Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, Edward Arnold, Lionel Barrymore, Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, Marjorie Main, Rudy Vallee and Bob Burns, the score was written by legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. And almost as a footnote to this remarkable production, FDR himself addressed the country during the production. The Star Spangled Banner was performed by the full New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by no less than Leopold Stokowski himself. The mind reels to imagine a Radio broadcast with that much prestigious talent during one airing today. Call it 1941's version of 'We Are The Children'. That's about what it amounted to. The costs alone today would be astronomical.
We Hold These Truths holds up just as well today. I have yet to share an airing of my recording of We Hold These Truths with anyone without evoking a remarkable reaction from them--young, old, and every age in between. It's quite simply one of the most stirring, patriotic, genuinely moving reminders of what this country has fought to defend for almost 240 years as of this writing.
Needless to say, by 1942 Norman Corwin's work was rapidly approaching legendary status. Nor did he shirk from the challenge to pursue even greater triumphs. His broadcasting excellence surmounted even commercial network rivalries. He was commissioned by the Office of War Information to develop the stirring This Is War series which was mandated to air simultaneously over all four major networks.
During 1943, Norman Corwin was dispatched to England to cover the War effort from their perspective. A unique joint effort of The BBC and U.S. broadcasters, the amazing recordings Corwin returned with resulted in the wonderfully inspirational An American in England series, showcasing the indomitable spirit of Wartime Great Britain. The resulting series was quite understandably one of the War effort's most inspirational series to that date.
As hard as it is to imagine, Corwin's penultimate masterpiece had yet to be produced. I say penultimate, for good reason, as you'll soon discover. . .
With the end of the War in Europe in sight, Corwin undertook to develop an hour-long, live studio observance of the end of War in Europe. The resulting On A Note of Triumph became Corwin's crowning masterpiece. Again scored by Bernard Herrmann, not only did it set another record for largest simultaneous listening audience, it was pressed as a 78 RPM record for further distribution. The first pressing sold out almost overnight, as did a hardcover print of the script, which became an overnight best-seller in its own right. Both the records and scripts were pressed and published again and again to keep up with the unprecedented demand.
Corwin, aided by Orson Welles, rose to the occasion yet again, with even less preparation, as V.J. Day finally--and quite unexpectedly--arrived on 14 August 1945. L'Affaire Gumpert was the Columbia Presents Corwin program that had been scheduled for airing on August 14th. Never one to shirk a challenge, Norman Corwin, with less than eleven hours' notice, threw together the final epitaph on World War II, with a minimal sound track, a single sound effect and only Orson Welles' magnificent voice as his primary artistic tool. And yet, irrespective of the absurd limitations placed on this single, 15-minute program of the run, you see the effort of Radio's two giants, converging to produce a miraculous post-script to the most bloody, expensive, gut-wrenching five years our young Nation had ever experienced. And quite frankly who else could possibly have ever pulled it off but these two geniuses?
To this day, one needs to pinch oneself to be reminded of the extraordinary constraints imposed on both Welles and Corwin to pull off Fourteen August at all. And yet they did it. And they could only have done it over Radio. In the final analysis, they did what both their extraordinary backgrounds had prepared them to do--and at the time that their country needed their special individual talents the most. It's beyond prosaic. It was fated. It was beyond Kismet. It was their destiny from the moment each of them separately undertook their first independent Radio broadcasts, each in their own rendition of a mixed poetry/musicale format. The ironies and coincidences are beyond serendipity. They're cosmic.
As announced, L'Affaire Gumpert was indeed Corwin's last Columbia Presents Corwin. Anything else would have been post-climactic. What could possibly have topped Fourteen August? The entire nation was sharing a combination of mass delerium and a combined, cathartic sigh of immense relief. It was time to move on. The machinery of War was destined to be scrapped and fashioned back into the plowshares that many of those same machines of War had been manufactured from.
And so it was with the two giants of Radio. Each ultimately going their own way again. Each having shared a cosmic moment of catharsis with an entire Nation. What could possibly have topped the emotion of that singular moment of 14 August?
There's no question that Norman Corwin, despite his amazing professional triumphs of the World War II years, went on to even greater triumphs for the remander of his storied career. As recently as 2005, he worked tirelessly to help produce and promote 2005's Ocscar winning Documentary Short Subject, On A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin. How fitting a tribute, but some might well ask, what took them so long?
We love our heroes. And we need our heroes even more today, as we engage in an economic battle for our financial survival. Much the same survival effort Norman Corwin's own parents had to endure while Norman was still in high school. And so we come full circle. Asking even more from our heroes. Hoping they'll remind us why we fight, why we endure, why we never give in to adversity. And why we vainly expect our heroes to always be there for us at the very instant in history when we need them the most.
Thank God Norman Corwin isn't going anywhere, anytime soon, bless his heart.
[Update: Norman Corwin passed away in his sleep on October 18, 2011 at the age of 101. ]
|Joseph Julian [Joseph Shapiro]
Stage, Screen, Radio, and Television Actor; Author
Birthplace: St. Marys, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Education: Johns Hopkins University
1937 NBC Presents Eugene O'Neill
1938 Ideas That Came True
1940 Renfrew Of the Mounted
1942 Columbia Workshop
1942 This Is War
1942 An American In England
1943 Words At War
1944 The Sportsmen's Club
1944 New World A' Coming
1944 Columbia Presents Corwin
1944 Treasury Salute
1944 The American School Of the Air
1945 War Town
1945 Inner Sanctum
1945 Cavalcade Of America
1946 Murder At Midnight
1947 One World Or None
1947 Molle Mystery Theatre
1947 The Mysterious Traveler
1947 Call the Police
1947 Crime Club
1947 Casey, Crime Photographer
1947 Gang Busters
1948 Adventures In Industry
1948 And Ye Shall Find
1948 Secret Missions
1948 Communism, U.S. Brand
1948 The Shadow
1948 Under Arrest
1950 Dimension X
1950 Cloak and Daggar
1950 The Eternal Light
1950 Two-Thousand Plus
1951 Now Hear This
1952 The Turning Wheel
1952 Best Plays
1953 The Search That Never Ends
1953 Rocky Fortune
1954 21st Precinct
1955 X Minus One
1956 CBS Radio Workshop
1958 The Couple Next Door
1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theatre
The Eyes and Ears Of the Air Force
Joseph Julian ca. 1961 from Perry Mason
Joseph Julian ca. 1966 from Dark Shadows
Joseph Julian ca. 1960, from Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
|Joe Julian was born in St. Marys, Pennsylvania. He attended Johns Hopkins University and soon after started his acting career with the Provincetown University Players. Julian began his Radio career with NBC, but by 1940 he was signed with CBS and working steadily in a wide array of many of CBS' most prestigious and popular Radio programs, including Forecast (1940), Columbia Workshop (1942), This Is War (1942), An American In England (1942), Suspense (1942), Words At War (1943), New World A'Comin (1944), Columbia Presents Corwin (1944) and CBS Radio Workshop (1956). And yes, as is obvious, Joe Julian appeared in every Norman Corwin CBS production that the famous director ever mounted.
The remainder of Julian's Radio career reads like a Who's Who of Radio's most popular and critically acclaimed crime, detective, mystery and science fiction dramas. In a Radio career spanning almost forty years, Joseph Julian appeared in well over 5000 Radio productions.
Julian's Stage performances included Judgment Day, Walk Into My Parlor, My Heart's in the Highlands, The Rope Dancers, and A Case of Libel, in a Stage career that spanned thirty years.
Joe Julian, of necessity, also appeared in several exploitation movies during the 1950s and early 1960s while recovering from the damage caused to his career by the appearance of his name in the cowardly, right wing 'Red Channels' pamphlet. Joe was reduced to fighting the charges over some seven years. Joe authored his book, 'This Was Radio' in response to the injustices of the right-wing red-baiting and union busting attempts throughout the theatrical community of the late 1940s and 1950s.
By the 1960s, Julian's transition to Television was equally successful--and impressive. Over a fifteen year career in Television, Julian compiled over 100 appearances in many of The Golden Age of Television's most prestigious drama programs, including Big Story (1956), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1960), Perry Mason (1961), The Defenders (1962), The Trials of O'Brien (1966), Dark Shadows (1966) and ABC Stage 67 (1967). Julian also appeared in numerous daytime melodramas in addition to Dark Shadows.
Joe Julian passed away in 1982 at the age of 71, after a remarkable, 45-year career on the Stage, Screen, Radio and Television. As a reflection of his extraordinary career in the theater, Joseph Julian's memorial service was held at the American Renaissance Theater in New York.
One glance at Julian's Radiography at the left shows a career marked as much for its prolific output, as for his repeated appearances in virtually all of Radio's most patriotic and inspirational wartime tributes. This fine actor was also a fine, selfless, patriotic American. His body of work in Radio alone stands on its own as a reflection of his patriotism. Norman Corwin was right. Joe Julian was one of America's finest, most effective and most versatile performers.
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH
Stage, Screen, Radio, and Television Composer; Conductor; Concert violist and pianist
Birthplace: Lowestoft, Suffolk, U.K.
Gresham's School, Holt
Royal College of Music, London
1940 Columbia Workshop
1942 An American In England
Benjamin Britten at Gresham's School circa 1929
Benjamin Britten circa 1937
Benjamin Britten on the cover of Time Magazine
Benjamin Britten for Life Magazine circa 1942
Britten puzzles over a composition at his piano, circa 1947
A handful of Britten's most successful compositions.
The Britten-Pears Foundation was founded as a legacy to support philanthropy in the Arts with the proceeds of Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten's joint estates.
Benjamin Britten was born on St. Cecilia's Day, at the family home in Lowestoft, Suffolk, England to a dentist and his wife, a talented musician in her own right. The youngest of four children, he joined brother Robert and sisters Barbara and Beth. Educated locally, he studied piano, and later, viola, from private tutors.
Britten, a child prodigy, began composing at the age of six, composing seriously from 1922 till his death in 1976. Following two years of musical instruction at Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk, in 1930 he entered the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied composition with John Ireland and piano with Arthur Benjamin.
He completed his first choral work, A Boy was Born, in 1933. A rehearsal for a broadcast performance of the BBC Singers introduced him to tenor Peter Pears, beginning a lifelong personal and professional relationship.
From about 1935 until the beginning of World War II, Britten composed many pieces for the General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit, for BBC Radio, and for small, progressive, theater groups in London. These projects brought him in frequent collaboration with the poet--and pacificist--W. H. Auden who provided texts for several of Britten's musical compositions as well as complete scripts from which Britten composed incidental music. Auden left England for the U.S. as Great Britain prepared for inevitable War with Germany.
In the spring of 1939, Britten and Peter Pears also departed for the U.S., eventually settling in Amityville, Long Island, NY. In 1940 he worked with W.H. Auden on what would become Britten's first opera, an operetta for high schools called Paul Bunyan, based on traditional American folk lore.
While traveling to California in 1941, he read an article on the English poet George Crabbe. That E.M. Forster article became the inspirational spark for Britten's first opera, Peter Grimes. While in the U.S. Britten had worked with CBS, composing for its experimental Columbia Workshop series. That connection led to a commission to work with Norman Corwin on the equally ground-breaking An American In England (1942), which would require Britten, a now avowed pacificist, to return to Great Britain.
At about the same time, famous Russian conductor Serge Koussevitzky took an interest in Britten's music and performed his Sinfonia da Requiem with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Koussevitzky and his Koussevitzky Foundation commissioned a new opera by Britten, based on George Crabbe's work. Britten and Pears reportedly worked on the scenario for the opera during their return voyage to England during March 1942.
Upon their return to England, Britten and Pears petitioned for and eventually obtained conscientious objector status during the War, and Britten's stirring scores for seven of Norman Corwin's An American In England were performed over short-wave broadcasts to North America by R.P. O'Donnell and The Orchestra Of the Royal Air Force.
Throughout the 1940s, Britten produced a number of works, including the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Ceremony of Carols, Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Serenade (for tenor, horn, and strings), Rejoice in the Lamb, and the Festival Te Deum. He completed Peter Grimes--with a libretto by Montagu Slater--in 1945. Peter Grimes premiered on June 7, 1945 with the Sadler's Wells Opera Company. It premiered in America at Tanglewood, under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.
Over the following thirty years, Britten continued to produce operas and other original compositions and scores, including, The Rape of Lucretia (1946), Albert Herring (1947), The Little Sweep (1949), Billy Budd (1951) Gloriana (1953), The Turn of the Screw (1954), Noye's Fludde ((1957), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960) Curlew River (1964), The Burning Fiery Furnace (1966), The Prodigal Son (1968) Owen Wingrave (1970) [for television], and ultimately Death in Venice (1973).
From the late 1960s forward, Britten suffered from increasingly poor health. Britten had previously declined a knighthood, but ultimately accepted a life peerage on 2 July 1976 as Baron Britten of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk. Britten died of heart failure later that year at his house in Aldeburgh. He is interred in the churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Aldeburgh, near the graves of his life-partner, Sir Peter Pears and close friend Imogen Holst.
Though an avowed pacificist for most of his life, Benjamin Britten provided unstinting support to his country and its War effort. A musical giant both in Great Britain and internationally, Britten remains one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th Century.
|Lyn Murray [ a.k.a. Lionel Breeze and Lynn Murray]
(Music Director, Composer, Arranger)
Birthplace: London, U.K.
Awards: 1986 Emmy for Best Original Score, Documentary
Town Hall Tonight
The Fred Allen Show
The Columbia Workshop
Michael Piper, Detective
This Is War
An American In England
Your All-Time Hit Parade
To Your Good Health from The House of Squibb
Music from The House of Squibb
Columbia Presents Corwin
Something for The Girls
The Adventures of Philip Marlowe
The Ford Theatre
The Hallmark Playhouse
Life with Luigi
For The Living
The CBS Radio Workshiop
||Lyn Murray was a natural to complete the last three installments of An American In England. He'd been a staple of many of Norman Corwin's cutting-edge CBS productions and he'd long since established himself as one of CBS's most talented staff vocalists, directors, composers and arrangers.
Beginning as a vocalist with CBS in 1934, his rising star led CBS to have him assemble various groups of singers and staff chorales over the next three years, each time rewarded by more and more acceptance for his beautiful arrangements.
By 1937, with CBS's encouragement, Vocal Director Lyn Murray was touring the country with his 24-voice chorale, The New Yorkers and a sixteen member ballet company--to rave reviews. If you do the math you'll note he was only 28 at the time.
Murray was often quoted as saying he approached directing his choruses as a mechanical engineering exercise, treating each unique voice as a finely tuned instrument which must fit in perfect concert with all of the other complementary vocal instruments, so as for form a perfectly functioning vocal machine. In this regard he was always obsessed with perfect timing throughout the 'machine' during rehearsals, before he'd ever enter the control room for a recording session.
This approach served him well as his star continued to rise throughout the Radio industry. He was repeatedly selected for many of CBS's most ambitious musical projects. In the 1940s, NBC also took notice of his talent, eventually appointing him as Musical Director.
His radio credits included the 'Radio Reader's Digest,' 'The March of Time,' 'Twenty-Six by Corwin' and, a program that used his mixed choir, the Lyn Murray Singers, 'Your All-Time Hit Parade.'
His first work in Film was in 1947's High Conquest, as one of three music directors. His following assignment as the uncredited vocals director for Walt Disney's Cinderella, in 1950 propelled him into the big leagues. In quick succession he composed the original scores for 1952's Son of Paleface, for Bob Hope, the breathtaking sound-track for 1954's The Bridges at Toko-Ri, and Alfred Hitchcock's masterful To Catch A Thief, in 1955, which immediately propelled him to the level of one of Hitchcock's favorite composers, Bernard Herrmann. It's worth re-screening To Catch A Thief to be reminded of its incredible sound-track alone.
Murray was also in demand for Stage work, composing the choral music for the Broadway musicals ''Panama Hattie'' and ''Finian's Rainbow.''
From 1960, through the remainder of his career he worked mostly in Television, as composer or musical director for over 40 Television projects, among them, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, It Takes A Thief, Dragnet, 1974's award winning Lincoln mini-series, and he won an Emmy for his 1986 National Geographic Special score for 'Miraculous Machines.'
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