From: STRACZYNSKI [Joe]
Subject: Here's just how stupid and tragic...
Date: 6/15/1994 8:04:00 PM
Here's just how stupid and tragic and destructive that period in our
history was, and how it affected somebody.
I have a friend named Norman Corwin. Some of you, probably the older
ones, will recognize the name; most won't. Which is the greatest tragedy of
During the height of the radio drama period, Norman Corwin was *the* pre-
eminent radio drama writer, more widely listened to and respected than Orson
Welles, Arch Oboler or anyone else in the field. There was simply no one
bigger. He wrote comedies and dramas and jerimiads; when the UN needed a
cantata to symbolize their goals, they came to Norman; when the Germans
surrendered on VE day, our nation turned to Norman to write a piece that was
the ONLY radio broadcast/drama aired on all three radio networks, "On a Note
of Triumph." He worked with the greatest stars of our country...Humphrey
Bogart, Clark Gable, and a list of our greatest film and radio stars.
He was, not to put too fine a point on it...*it*. You couldn't get much
Then came McCarthy, and his vile, paranoid, list-making progeny, who
deepened the wound in our nation's heart by multiplying it. One such bastard
stepchild was a sleazy little rag called "Red Channels" (you get one guess
what the Red stood for). It was published by the owner of a chain of
supermarkets. Not a senator, not a congressman, not an FBI guy or anyone
elected to high office...the owner of a supermarket chain, who felt it his god-
given obligation to ferret out commies...meaning whoever he didn't much like.
One issue of "Red Channels" included Norman Corwin's name in among the
lists and lists of names...since after all, he had spoken well of Russia
during World War II...in documentaries *commissioned by our own government* to
further our alliance against the Nazis. But no matter that he was asked to do
it by his nation, no matter that we were allies once, if you spoke in *any*
way well of the Russian people...you were either a commie or a commie-
Norman was not blacklisted; that's what happened to those poor hapless
saps who went before McCarthy hoping for a square deal. Norman was *grey-
listed*, not even accused, not summoned, but the fear of the time was so
palpable that even that one allegation was enough.
And Norman's career...stopped.
I cannot think of this without getting so angry that I can barely see the
If you don't know the work of Norman Corwin, go to your nearest local
library and look for his books, if they still have them. Look for any
recordings of his radio dramas, particularly "On a Note of Triumph," which is
probably in the hands of university libraries. If you want some small measure
of his influence on other writers, pick up a copy of "13 For Corwin," from
Barricade Books, where this man is celebrated in essays by Ray Bradbury, Studs
Terkel, Charles Kuralt, Norman Lear, Norman Cousins, Erik Barnouw, Philip
Dunne, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, among others. Ask Walter Cronkite
what Norman meant to him. Ask Ray about how he began his career as a writer
trying to write like Norman Corwin.
Norman is currently in his early 80s. He continues to write, and has two
books coming out soon, one a collection of his letters, the other an oral
history done by the Director's Guild. I do not see him as often as I would
like, because we're both very busy. But he is my friend, and he taught me
much of what it means to be a writer, and I commend his works to you with the
greatest enthusiasm conceivable. I promise that you will not be disappointed.
There is a sheer and unmitigated power in his use of language that I haven't
seen anywhere else.
Corwin. Norman. Look it up.