ONE WORLD FLIGHT, HOLLYWOOD FIGHTS BACK, CITIZEN OF THE WORLD, SEARS RADIO THEATER
The post war years saw the decline of network radio in favor of its shift into the more profitable medium of television. It also saw attacks on liberals and FDR supporters in the new world order divined by the Cold War. For Norman Corwin the next few years tested his character and his beliefs. He suffered for them both.
In 1946 Corwin was selected as the recipient of the Wendell Willkie One World Award. The late Wendell Willkie, Republican challenger to FDR in 1940, traveled around the globe in 1942 at the behest of President Roosevelt. When he retuned, Willkie wrote about his experiences in the book One World. The theme had to do with international cooperation as opposed to retreating into separate camps. The Common Council for American Unity informed Corwin that he was selected to honor Willkie’s memory with a paid trip around the world. Corwin went to CBS chief William S. Paley to secure permission and the use of Lee Bland for technical support. Corwin wanted to use the trip as a way to interview people around the world, from heads of state to men and women on the street. Bland was equipped with a new wire recorder for these interviews. The resulting 13 episode documentary series, which he narrated, was to be Norman Corwin’s last for CBS. The adventure is detailed in the 2009 book Norman Corwin’s One World Flight: The Lost Journal of Radio’s Greatest Writer.
One World Flight
Great Britain (1/21/47)
Western Europe (1/28/47)
Sweden and Poland (2/4/47)
Soviet Union (2/11/47)
Egypt and India (3/4/47)
The Far East (3/11/47)
The Philippines (3/18/47)
New Zealand (4/1/47)
Final Impressions (4/4/47)
The political climate in America darkened. The House Un-Americans Activities Committee sank its teeth into Hollywood. Corwin joined with other Hollywood notables to form the Committee for the First Amendment. They bought airtime on ABC. On October 26, 1947, one week after the hearings opened up in Washington, Hollywood Fights Back aired 1:30 – 2:00 pm EST. Corwin directed the segments from Hollywood and William N. Robeson directed the New York end. The next week, on November 2, 1947, a second program followed. It slowed the Committee down at first, but not for long. Before long Corwin himself would feel the pressure of suspicion.
It is a supreme, and sad, irony that the man who was handled all four radio networks in 1941 to say whatever he wanted for sixty minutes in primetime would be cast as a Communist sympathizer and accused of working to undermine the ideals of America. Norman Corwin was the last person so inclined. However, he did represent a politically progressive past that was made to seem as an overzealous mistake by Roosevelt and his cronies. The time had come to right the course of America and Norman Corwin would not be part of that discourse over the airwaves of CBS.
A contract dispute in 1948 officially ended Corwin’s tenure at CBS, however he returned once more at the invitation of Werner Michel of the CBS Documentary Unit. He completed his commissioned work titled Citizen of the World. He wrote and directed his final show for CBS on July 10, 1949.
It was not, however, his final appearance over the CBS Radio Network. Flash forward thirty years. In the brief revival period of old-time radio style programs in the 1970s such as The CBS Radio Mystery Theater and the General Mills Adventure Theater, Corwin was invited by Fletcher Markle and Elliott Lewis to write and direct a new episode for the Sears Radio Theater in 1979. He delivered a comedy called The Strange Affliction starring Nanette Fabray and hosted by Andy Griffith. Corwin even appeared at the program’s end to banter with announcer Art Gilmore.