03 May 2010

Radio Icon Turns 100

A lot is being made over the fact that Norman Corwin turns 100 today –- and he is certainly due much attention. Corwin was, at one time, the most influential writer / producer of dramatic radio shows during the golden age of radio drama and comedy (roughly, the 1930s through 1950s).

Working for CBS radio, Corwin wrote some of the then-most-important radio programs heard anywhere on the dial. In 1941, he penned a piece to honor the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights that was heard by an astounding 60,000,000 people –- at a time when the country’s population was only about 100,000,000.

While I understand the importance of Corwin’s work –- then –- I have a hard time respecting his work today. As with much of the propagandist writing of the day for radio (and theater and film) there is a bombastic quality to his work that, frankly, would get it laughed off the radio or screen or stage were it produced today. There is a lack of subtlety to all of the Corwin pieces I have heard that is cringe inducing. Yes, his works are of their times, it is just hard for me to get my mind around how people could have thought his works were examples of great writing.

That said, there is no denying his influence, or his well-deserved place of honor in the annals of radio history.

If you are not familiar with Corwin -- or even if your are -- NPR today did a nice retrospective of Corwin’s work which can be found here.

No comments: