Norman Corwin

His Early Life and Radio Career, 1910–1950


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About the Book

Called “The Poet Laureate of Radio” by critics, Norman Corwin was the top writer at CBS when CBS reigned supreme in radio, and when radio itself dominated public attention. This biography tells the story of Norman’s unlikely rise from a triple-decker tenement on Bremen Street in East Boston to the top rung of radio writers during the Golden Age of Radio. A self-taught writer who never graduated from high school, he learned what audiences craved, and he gave it to them. His nuanced “theater of the mind” dramas, tender love stories, and witty comedies were hits talked about long after they were broadcast, and, when his scripts were published, became bestsellers. The week after Pearl Harbor, Norman’s show “We Hold These Truths” was broadcast to the largest radio audience ever. His V-E Day broadcast on May 8, 1945, “On a Note of Triumph,” made a similarly enduring mark and still constitutes the gold standard for wartime drama.

About the Author(s)

Wayne Soini is a retired labor lawyer living in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He has researched and written six nonfiction books.

Bibliographic Details

Wayne Soini

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 234
Bibliographic Info: 31 photos, notes, bibliography, Index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8641-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4378-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1
Author’s Note 7
Norman’s December Surprise: “We Hold These Truths” 9

Part One: Norman to Nineteen (1910–1929)
A “Tough Kid” in Eastie 15
Three Arts and a Boy 17
His Father’s Business 22
His Mother’s Boy 27
Norman’s First War Story 31
Norman Types and Discovers Radio 34
No Bar Mitzvah for Norman 38
Winthrop 41
Restart in High School 47
The “Lost Year” and Greenfield 56
Greenfield and Its Paper 61
Meeting Heywood Broun 66
See Him When in New York? 67
1928, After Broun 68
Springfield 71
Norman Proposes to His Coauthor 75
Enter “Jumbo” 78

Part Two: Norman in His Twenties (1930–1939)
Taking a Reading in 1930 85
The Tragedy and Norman’s Resolution 87
Innocents Abroad, 1931 89
The “Interruption” 92
Hits and Misses 95
He’s Back 98
Trouble in Paradise 105
Norman’s Roller Coaster 107
Poetic License 113
CBS 116
Norman Corwin’s Words Without Music 120
A Book for Mr. McKenzie 128
“Seems Radio Is Here to Stay” 130
Curley and Pursuit of Happiness 132
“Ballad for Americans” 136
Hollywood 138
“To Tim at Twenty” 140

Part Three: Norman to Age Forty (1940–1950)
Requiem for Alfred Eisner 143
26 by Corwin 148
Washington 152
This Is War! 155
England 162
“The Long Name That None Could Spell” 164
Columbia Presents Corwin 167
“On a Note of Triumph” 169
Kate 175
Postwar to 1950 184

Epilogue 191
Chapter Notes 201
Bibliography 221
Index 223