Tuesday, December 24, 2019
K.A.C. 2019 - T - 1 ...
When discussing the names and accomplishments of radio pioneers, one must include Norman Corwin. From Wikipedia:
"Norman Lewis Corwin (May 3, 1910 – October 18, 2011) was an American writer, screenwriter, producer, essayist and teacher of journalism and writing. His earliest and biggest successes were in the writing and directing of radio drama during the 1930s and 1940s.
Corwin was among the first producers to regularly use entertainment—even light entertainment—to tackle serious social issues. In this area, he was a peer of Orson Welles and William N. Robson, and an inspiration to other later radio/TV writers such as Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Norman Lear, J. Michael Straczynski and Yuri Rasovsky."
Known as radio's 'poet laureate', his career spanned from the 1930s to the end of dramatic radio, when he switched gears and wrote plays, movie screenplays and later went on to become a writing teacher. J Michael Straczynski was a student of his and credited him repeatedly for his own success, naming one of his Babylon 5 characters after his mentor.
His accomplishments are too many and varied to mention here, but if you're curious, I suggest you start at his Wikipedia entry and expand from there. For today, we'll content ourselves with one of his most famous works of the radio era - one that is all but forgotten now.
Without giving too much away, I'll just tell you a majority of the play takes place in Hell, with a narrator (Orson Welles) describing the action going on between all the Infernal Intelligentsia of History ... oh, did I mention he narrates this all sotto voce? Did I also mention his character's NAME is 'Sotto Voce'? Did I ALSO mention the entire play is done in RHYME? Think you know where this is going? Think again!
The Devil (here known as Mephistopheles) gathers the worst criminals and fiends together to figure out (to borrow a phrase from The Grinch) 'how to stop Christmas from coming'! After a host of HORRIBLE, NON-PC ideas (that wouldn't float now in these PC times), none other than Lucretia Borgia comes up with the solution ... and after voting, it's up to the Emperor Nero to 'head upstairs' and implement the plan. What happens next ... well, give it a listen!
This link is a rebroadcast from Christmas Eve of 1942. As I mentioned, it was such a popular play, it was rebroadcast year after year on radio, then when television came along, there were numerous TV performances, as well as local theatrical troupes putting it on across the country ... and you thought America was only inundated with hoary old versions of various quality of A Christmas Carol? Nope!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. My favorite lines in the whole play come when Nero finally tracks down his target and tries to impress him with how well-read he is. The 'victim's' reply?
"Much as I'm impressed with your education,
I honestly believe that a figure of your station,
Should have given more thought to the ways of Man,
And less devotion to the Cult of Pan."
And with that, we're done for another year. Thank you for joining me on our annual tour of the stranger aspects of the season. Join me again next year at this same time, December 1st, and we'll do it all over again.