Saturday, December 17, 2016

25 More Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 17: Norman Corwin's The Plot to Overthrow Christmas

There are so many famous names associated with the Golden Age of Radio....but few have reached the lofty heights that Norman Corwin has.  In fact, in the introduction to this piece, they referred to Corwin as "America's Master Radio Poet." And this moniker was given to Corwin for a very good reason - he was!  He is connected with one of the more well known Christmas stories on radio - and for whatever reason, I have not brought this famous piece out....UNTIL TODAY! I hope it was worth the wait! Here is a link to all the previous OTR Christmas entries.  If you have Sirius/XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148).  He does a great job of showcasing great holiday themed episodes, especially as we get close to Christmas.

200/365/1661 (December 28, 2012) - Santa had too much to drink

Santa had too much to drink - in Saline, Michigan (December 2012)

This is My Best joins a long line of great CBS radio anthology series including the Columbia Workshop and the CBS Radio Workshop.  It ran from 1944 through 1946 and was sponsored by Cresta Blanca wines.  From the Wikipedia entry, the program "...adapted a combination of literary classics, contemporary literature and films. It was performed before a live audience."  The great Orson Welles served for much of the run as the host, producer, director and star.  for the episode that ran on December 19, 1944, the one we feature today, he was simply the host & star.  In introducing the piece and its author, Welles called Corwin the "best writer the medium has produced."  Part of his reputation came from this script, which was first used on Words Without Music (December 25, 1938), and the Columbia Workshop (December 22, 1940).  When it first was broadcast, Billboard had a glorious review:

Billboard - January 7, 1939 (page 9)
Norman Corwin's Words Without Music is so different it bulges when stuffed into existing program categories.  Yet it is not freakish.  Rather it's an ingenious novelty which tempers the experimental urge with showmanship.  Weekly construction shift prevents characterizing the show as poetic reading, narration, drama or comedy.  It is one of these one week at a time, leaning towards the dramatic-comedy medium for the Christmas broadcast.
The holiday was a good test, with Corwin's production withstanding the onslaught beautifully.  In competition with a heavy run of Christmas programs, he bucked the plethora of trip with a fantasy matched only by the Santa Claus legend itself and a bit of homely observation about this world of ours.
Thus there unraveled The Plot to Overthrow Christmas.  Nero, Haman and bedfellows conspired to abolish mortal's annual happiness by destroying Santa Claus.  Nero, emissary, not only failed in his assignment but became a convert to the peace on earth, good will to men dictum.  Recounting the story is not adequate appraisal.  The dialog has a bit of finesse.  It's smart, but not too much so.
Words Without Music is grand entertainment.  Further, it is a family attraction, and a worth compatriot of Information Please as a pioneer for intelligent product.  Weiss.
The program stars Orson Welles as Nero, Ray Collins as Santa Claus and John Brown as the devil. Corwin's script is pretty fantastic, even after all these years. For people who wonder why Nero is the lead in this play, maybe it is his love of the violin that had this Roman Emperor jump into his head!  Nero as the lead in this play.  This is definitely a fun one and I hope you enjoy it.

The Plot to Overthrow Chrismas - This is My Best - December 19, 1944

Here are some links to programs relating to This is My Best:
Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and Columbia Workshop:

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

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