|William N. Robson
(Producer, Director, and Writer)
Writer, Producer, Director of Radio and Television, College Lecturer
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, PA
B.A., Philosphy, Yale University
Lecturer, New York University
Consultant, U.S. Information Agency
Director, The Voice of America
1934 Calling All Cars
1936 Columbia Workshop
1936 Then and Now
1938 American School Of the Air
1939 Americans All-Immigrants
1939 What Price America
1940 Big Town
1942 The Twenty Second Letter
1943 The Man Behind the Gun
1943 One World
1944 Four For the Fifth
1945 Request Perforance
1946 Stars In the Afternoon
1946 Hawk Larabee
1947 Doorway To Life
1947 Hollywood Fights Back
1947 Shorty Bell, Cub Reporter
1948 The Whistler
1950 The Adventures Of Christopher London
1950 Beyond Tomorrow
1955 Girl From Paradise
1956 Fort Laramie
1956 CBS Radio Workshop
1958 Luke Slaughter Of Tombstone
1959 The Heart Of America
1960 Have Gun, Will Travel
1964 Theatre Five
Jackson Beck and Paul Luther confer with William N. Robson during Man Behind the Gun (1943)
Robson, seen here behind Frank Lovejoy, directing the Peabody Award winning series, Man Behind The Gun, for CBS, ca 1943
William Robson, Director, ca. 1954
William N. Robson, with sons, ca. 1959
|William N. Robson was yet another of the hundreds of prominent victims of the infamous "Red Channels" promoted blacklisting of professionals in the Performing Arts. His 'sins' in the cowardly, notorious and despicable "Red Channels" pamphlet that named him?:
- Acting as one of the Sponsors of an Artists Front to Win the War meeting he helped organize at Carnegie Hall in 1942.
- A December 1946 speech he gave on the encroachments being made against free speech.
- Being a signator to a 1948 full page 'We Are for Wallace' ad in the New York Times.
- A masthead listing him as an Associate for the Hollywood Quarterly, a scholarly journal of Film, Radio and Television history.
That's apparently all the extreme Right Wing needed during those shameful post-War years to destroy any great professional's career--through whispers and innuendo. Robson had been one of CBS's premiere Radio and Television talents, but their withering support of Robson, fueled by the spurious comments in Red Channels eventually pressured CBS into discharging Robson. The long-festering Right Wing backlash from F.D.R.'s famous Four Freedoms Speech had traversed full-circle. And so it evolved that anyone speaking out for the protection of those very freedoms was targeted for ostracization.
But despite the attempts to destroy his reputation, Robson's career in Radio and Television and in service to his country still stand as one of the finest records of acheivement of the Golden Age of Radio. Indeed, it was Edward R. Murrow himself, under the administration of John F. Kennedy that gained an appointment for Robson as a Director for The Voice of America. His security clearance for that highly sensitive position was expedited without a hitch.
William Robson had every expectation of having a storied career. He showed early promise at Yale, began his writing career with Paramount Pictures, then in 1936, entered Radio while still in his twenties. He was a staff writer and director for CBS for almost 20 years. So instrumental was his role in early CBS Radio dramas that his name was rountinely attached to the promotional efforts for the programs he wrote, directed or produced for CBS--and rightly so. By the mid-1940s Robson had already received two prestigious George Foster Peabody awards for CBS--for 1943's Man Behind the Gun and the documentary, Open Letter on Race Hatred.
Robson's Philosophy degree served him well throughout his career, and its influence on his Radio and Television productions is readily apparent throughout his body of work. Always sensitive to the eternal conflicts between morality and amorality, many of Robson's pet projects strove to shine a light onto the murkier aspects of American society. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons that the first half of his career attracted the prurient interests of the extreme Right Wing during the infamous HUAC era.
And indeed, despite all extreme Conservative attempts to squelch his 'voice' in the Media, he could not be restrained for long. Robson may well have argued himself, that the second half of his career was even more productive and influential on the World Stage than his years in American Radio and Television.
William N. Robson capped an outstanding career in Communications with a highly influential position producing Pro-Democracy documentaries as Chief Documentary Writer, Producer and Director for the Voice of America. Indeed, he won four more Peabody Awards for his work at The Voice of America. How fittingly ironic.
And though his work with The Voice of America may well have eclipsed his work during The Golden Age of Radio, his personal influence in shaping and giving a conscience to those Golden Years stands head and shoulders above his peers.
William Robson died of Alzheimer's disease at his home in Alexandria, Va in April of 1995, survived by his wife, Shirley, and three sons, Christopher, Anthony and Michael.