Norman Corwin

From Academic Kids

Norman Corwin is an American writer, producer, essayist and teacher of journalism and writing. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1910, son of Samuel and Rose Corwin. He was married, and has two children.



Corwin was a major figure in during the Golden Age of Radio. During the 1940s and 1950s he was a writer, producer of many radio programs in many genres: history, biography, fantasy, fiction, poetry and drama. He was the writer and creator of series such as The Columbia Workshop, 13 By Corwin, 26 By Corwin, and others. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Southern California.

Corwin has won the One World Award, two Peabody Medals, an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a duPont-Columbia Award; he was nominated for an Oscar for best writing for Lust for Life (1956) . Corwin was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1993.

Corwin began his career as a newspaper journalist, working for the Greenfield Recorder and the Springfield Republican, and soon began to read news over WBZA, a radio station in Massachusetts. In 1936 Corwin moved to New York City, and created a program for independent station WQXR. In 1938, he began working for the CBS radio network. Before long, CBS scheduled Norman Corwin’s Words Without Music, using a writer's name in a program title for the first time. On this series aired two of his more famous works, The Plot to Overthrow Christmas, a delightful fantasy in rhyme, and They Fly Through The Air, his impassioned reaction to the Spanish Civil War.

In 1941 he was given the timeslot and resources of the Columbia Workshop program for a full six months, under the title '26 By Corwin,' which required him to conceive, write, cast, direct and produce a completely new play every seven days.

His We Hold These Truths was first broadcast in December 15, 1941, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the United States Bill of Rights. Many radio and movie stars of the day were featured in this production, including an epilogue by American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. National Public Radio sponsored a new version of this program in 1991, for the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights.

His most famous work is On a Note of Triumph, first broadcast on VE Day, May 8, 1945. This work was a celebration of the Allied victory in Europe. Corwin wrote and directed two plays produced on Broadway, The Rivalry (1959) and The World of Carl Sandburg (1960). According to Ray Bradbury, Corwin was responsible for the eventual publication of Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.

In the 1980s Corwin was one of the writing teachers of J. Michael Straczynski, creator of the television series Babylon 5. Stracyzynski named a recurring character in the series, David Corwin, after Norman, and on the rec.arts.babylon5.moderated newsgroup, wrote a series of posts on Norman Corwin's work.

Later works

In recent years National Public Radio commissioned a number of new plays by Corwin; the series was called More By Corwin.

  • Our Lady Of The Freedoms, And Some Of Her Friends - A play about the Statue of Liberty.
  • No Love Lost - A lively debate about the nature of democracy in America, in the form of an imaginary dialogue between Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr; the work is based on their writings. This play featured Lloyd Bridges, Jack Lemmon, Martin Landau and Corwin's friend William Shatner, of Star Trek fame. Shatner appeared in a number of Corwin productions.
  • The Writer With The Lame Left Hand - Based on the life story of Miquel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. This production featured Ed Asner, Charles Durning, Samantha Eggar and William Shatner.
  • The Curse Of 589 is a comedy about a physicist (William Shatner) who comes across an honest-to-goodness real life fairy, with a working magic wand.
  • The Secretariat - A play on the meaning of prayer. This production fearured Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, Phil Proctor, and William Shatner.
  • 50 Years after 14 August - A reflection on the end of World War II.

Corwin is currently a lecturer at the University of Southern California.

Religious writings

Corwin is Jewish, and his parents observed Judaism. (His father, Sam Corwin, attended holiday services until his death at 112). While not an observant Jew, much of his work is infused with the ideas of the Hebrew Prophets. One of the prayerbooks of American Reform Judaism, Shaarei Tefila: Gates of Prayer, contains a portion of the Prayer from the finale of Corwin's On a Note of Triumph (see link to full text below).

Lord God of test-tube and blueprint
Who jointed molecules of dust and shook them till their name was Adam,
Who taught worms and stars how they could live together,
Appear now among the parliaments of conquerors and give instruction to their schemes:
Measure out new liberties so none shall suffer for his father's color or the credo of his choice:
Post proofs that brotherhood is not so wild a dream as those who profit by postponing it pretend:
Sit at the treaty table and convoy the hopes of the little peoples through expected straits,
And press into the final seal a sign that peace will come for longer than posterities can see ahead,
That man unto his fellow man shall be a friend forever.

See also: Golden Age of Radio

External links


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