Norman Corwin celebrates his 100th birthday on May 3, 2010. And if you love imaginative language, the use of sound, provocative thought or cutting satire, you should be celebrating the man whether you’ve ever heard of him or not.
Mr. Corwin is someone I “met” in recordings I discovered in college from his days at CBS Radio. He’s not necessarily the name people associate with so-called “Old Time Radio”…not the Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, or The Shadow. His shows were usually un-sponsored…what were called “sustaining series”…whose costs were assumed by the network. But he directed casts which included names such as Orson Welles and Groucho Marx. And along with some whimsical stories (“The Odyssey of Runyon Jones”, and “The Undecided Molecule” are among my favorites) and parodies of the industry (“Radio Primer”), he wrote and was the driving force behind some of the most historic radio programs ever produced, particularly the one-hour special commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany, “On A Note Of Triumph”, which was broadcast live on all three national networks.
I finally got to “see” Norman Corwin in the 1970s, when he hosted a TV series on PBS called “Academy Leaders”, which showcased Oscar-nomiated short films.
As a writer, he inspired the likes of Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, and Gene Roddenberry. With his use of words, sounds, and music, he advanced the language of Radio some of us still use today…though we use different tools.
I wish I could get out to California for the tribute he’s due to receive from the Writers Guild in May. I’ve been offered a chance to meet him at his home through the good offices of my college ‘radio partner’, Richard Fish, who has developed and maintained a close association with the man. But between time and finances, Mr. Corwin and I may have to let our association remain where it started and grew…in my imagination.
Happy Birthday, Sir.
Learn more about this amazing creative talent at normancorwin.com. You may still be able to get Writers Guild ceremony tickets for the May 1st event ( www.CARTaudio.org.). My professor, R. LeRoy Bannerman’s excellent Corwin biography is still in print. And plenty of recordings of the original shows are to be found.
— over and out —