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Norman Corwin

Director, Writer
( b. May 03, 1910 Boston, Massachusetts, USA - d. Oct 18, 2011 Los Angeles, California, USA ) Male

Norman Corwin, one of the last living links to radio’s golden age, a producer and dramatist whose innovative use of sound effects and unusual narrative devices attracted new audiences to serious programming, died at his home in Los Angeles. He was 101.

Mr. Corwin was a prolific writer and producer for CBS in the 1930s and ’40s, best known for his dramatizations of American history, vivid human-interest reports from abroad during World War II, adaptations of American literary works and dozens of radio plays.

One of his most celebrated broadcasts came eight days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when four American radio networks simultaneously carried “We Hold These Truths,” a kind of docudrama produced for the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, with performances by Orson Welles, James Stewart, Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore and Walter Huston.

The program, broadcast live from Hollywood, ended with a live speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House and a performance from New York of the national anthem by Leopold Stokowski and the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

During World War II Mr. Corwin delivered compelling reports from Britain and the Soviet Union in the series “An American in England,” produced by Edward R. Murrow, and “An American in Russia.”

Life magazine called him “radio’s top dramatic genius.” In 1944 The New York Post wrote, “He has earned the daring reputation of being the first to credit radio audiences with intelligence.”

On V-E Day, May 8, 1945, Mr. Corwin presented what may have been his most famous broadcast, “On a Note of Triumph,” a celebration of the Allied struggle for victory with a score by Bernard Herrmann.

“So they’ve given up,” Martin Gabel, the narrator, intoned. “They’re finally done in, and the rat is dead in an alley back of the Wilhelmstrasse. Take a bow, G.I. Take a bow, little guy. The superman of tomorrow lies at the feet of you common men of this afternoon. This is it, kid! This is the day!”

The broadcast and Mr. Corwin’s career provided the material for the film “A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary short subject in 2006.

Norman Lewis Corwin was born on May 3, 1910, in Boston and grew up there and in Winthrop, Mass. His father was a printer and engraver who had emigrated from London.

In 1947 he married Katherine Locke, a Broadway and film actress, who died in 1995. He is survived by their children, Anthony and Diane.

A liberal internationalist, Mr. Corwin grew disillusioned with radio as the chill of McCarthyism gripped the United States. He left CBS in 1949 after an argument over rights to his work and no longer worked in radio after 1955.

His politics made him an object of suspicion in the entertainment industry, which, as he later put it, “graylisted” him.

He wrote screenplays for less than memorable films like “Scandal at Scourie” (1953) with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, “The Naked Maja” (1958) with Ava Gardner and Tony Franciosa, and “Madison Avenue” (1962) with Dana Andrews and Eleanor Parker.

His greatest Hollywood success came with his adaptation of “Lust for Life,” Irving Stone’s biography of van Gogh, played by Kirk Douglas. His screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957.

In 1959 his dramatization of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, The Rivalry, opened at the Bijou Theater on Broadway with Richard Boone as Lincoln and Martin Gabel as Douglas.

Mr. Corwin taught creative writing at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts in Idyllwild, Calif., for many years and had been a writer in residence at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California since 1979.

Source: The New York Times Obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
The World of Carl Sandburg
[Play, Original]
  • Staged by Norman Corwin
  • Written by Norman Corwin
Sep 14, 1960 - Oct 08, 1960
The Rivalry
[Play, Drama, Original]
  • Directed by Norman Corwin
  • Written by Norman Corwin
Feb 07, 1959 - Apr 18, 1959
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