The recent passing of radio great Norman Corwin led dramatist and television writer Jerome Coopersmith, a Jablow Award–winner and former Writers Guild of America, East, council member, to contribute this appreciation of Corwin’s career.
We studied him when I was in college, and we performed his radio plays as best we could in classrooms and on the college radio station. We lifted them from a collection called “13 By Corwin.” It was the best possible source to pirate from. Corwin was a giant in radio writing.
When I learned of his death in October last year at the age of 101, all I could think of saying was, “I hope you find Pootzy.” It was a reference to “The Odyssey of Runyon Jones,” his radio play about a little boy whose dog has died, and who sets out on an interstellar journey to find the pet. Is Pootzy in Dog Heaven or — God forbid — in Curgatory? The boy visits those places and meets such characters as Father Time and Mother Nature, getting from each of them some clues as to where Pootzy might be, until — hold onto your hat — until — did you think I would tell you the ending and rob you of that beautiful surprise? You’ll have to find out for yourself.
If you do, you’ll have caught the magic of Corwin. You’re not alone. His visions could easily be conveyed to anyone who reads or listens to his work — any child, any grownup, any President of the United States. When we entered World War II, when much of the world was engulfed in darkness, President Roosevelt proclaimed as our credo, “We Hold These Truths,” the masterful radio play by Corwin that celebrates our Bill of Rights. With Roosevelt’s approval, it was broadcast over four networks to an audience that was half of America’s population. And when the war ended, Corwin’s epic “On A Note of Triumph” was broadcast. It showed us again the kind of person he was. No “hip-hip-hooray, we won!” was heard, but rather a stirring prayer for a future of peace among all of mankind.
A grateful nation responded with a One World Award, two Peabody Medals, an Oscar® Nomination, an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and an unofficial title: Poet Laureate of the American Airwaves. But I like to think that Norman Corwin would have been warmed by a greater satisfaction — that of seeing the readers of this blog rushing out to their libraries… to find out what happened to Pootzy.