PASSAGES: Norman Lewis Corwin

Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

PASSAGES: Norman Lewis Corwin


Norman Lewis Corwin, writer-in-residence at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California since 1979, died Oct. 18, 2011, in Los Angeles. He was 101.

Corwin was born May 3, 1910, in Boston, and grew up there and in Winthrop, Mass. He sent job application letters to eighty daily newspapers in Massachusetts and, lying about his age, was hired at 17 as a reporter for the Daily Recorder in Greenfield. Corwin was quickly made sports editor, and he wrote feature stories and movie reviews on the side. From there, he worked for the Springfield Republican, at which he was approached to read fifteen-minute news reports on Boston's WBZ and Springfield's WBZA radio stations.

In 1937, New York City's WQXR started broadcasting Corwin 's forty- week series of poetry readings and dramatizations, called Poetic License. CBS network executives heard his work, and assigned him to work on cultural programs with Gilbert Seldes. His program series, The Pursuit of Happiness, included Paul Robeson singing Earl Robinson's "Ballad for Americans"; the first performance of Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill's "Ballad of Magna Carta"; and an adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet's poems.

In 1941, he wrote and produced, for the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights' ratification, "We Hold These Truths," a docudrama on the Constitutional Convention starring Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart (playing a journalist who goes back in time), Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, and Walter Huston, and ending with a live broadcast by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. …

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