United World Federalists lapel pin design
Spot ad for World Security Workshop from December 19 1946
Spot ad for World Security Workshop from December 26 1946
From the November 29, 1946 edition of the Oakland Tribune:
Pity Poor Sound Man!
By JOHN CROSBY
"The Psycho-Neurosis of a Sound Effect" is an odd and arresting title for a radio drama and the drama itself might be described in the same terms.
"A few months ago," said the narrator at the opening of this play, "a network station was startled out of its acoustical nonchalance by a strange incident in its studios. It began one morning in Studio 8B. A producer was rehearsing a show..."
ACTRESS: But, Jim, you can't leave me. After all we've been to each other.
ACTOR: It'll have to be this way, Margaret. It's best for both of us. Goodbye.
PRODUCER: Okay, now the door slams...Hey, what's the matter there? Can't you slam a door?
SOUNDMAN: There's something wrong, Mr. Gleen. I slammed it but no sound came out.
SOUNDS ARE SOUNDLESS
At the same time, in Studio C, an announcer is saying: "Each week at this time, Delaney's Lipstick offers you their contribution to the nation's peacetime reconversion effort, their new Jet-Propelled Lipstick, as brilliant as our victory and long-lasting as the hope of peace. Keep up the morale of our occupation troops with Delaney's Jet-Propelled Lipsticks. And now the..."
"Well," says the producer in Studio C. "let's have the sound. Begin with the plane power-diving. Say, Jim, didn't you get me? Start those turntables and shoot off the guns."
"I heard you," says the soundman nervously. "I got the turntable going and I shot off the guns--BUT THERE'S NOTHING COMING OUT! The sound doesn't work!" Pretty soon there isn't a sound to be heard in the studio. The station calls in chemists, engineers, physicists and acoustical engineers to test the density of the air, sound-wave disturbances and possibility of sun spots. Still, no sound, it is a young page boy named Tom who finds the seat of trouble.
Tom runs across the rebellious sound effect, a quavery-voiced creature named Gus. Gus reports that he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and has gone on strike. The sound effects of the last 10 years have driven him to the point of collapse and the way things are going, he says, it looks like the same old sound effects are in for a repeat broadcast.
BUSY SOUND EFFECT
Gus is quite an experienced sound effect though he was never tops in his line. He couldn't, for instance, make the Theater Guild on the air because they required the effect of sunlight streaming through a window. Still, he's an expert at the more routine sounds like slamming doors and shooting gangsters. In one year he shot 6000 gangsters.
During previous and war years, he had made quite a lot of historic sounds. He was the sound of German military boots marching into the Rhineland, the scratching of the pan at Munich, the hissing of the gas chambers at Lublin.
When he couldn't stand it any more, he came home and shot more gangsters. But now his conscience is troubled by the newspaper stories. "Phony elections in Greece," he says.
"Nazis still strong in the American-British zone. Talk about war with Russia. Riots in Palestine and India." Gus is afraid he'll have to make all those war noises again. The thought drives him off his nut and, in the end, the unfortunate sound effect has to be taken away to a padded cell.
That's all there is to the story of Gus, the psycho-neurotic sound effect, as neat and effective a bit of moralizing as you'll find on the air in a month of Fridays. It was the second in a series of 13 prize-winning radio scripts designed to promote international understanding and presented under the name of "World Security Workshop" (ABC 9 p.m. Thursdays).
I don't know whether the play, which was written by Betty Jaffey of Chicago, will promote much international understanding but it demonstrated that there's lots of room for showmanship in a public-service program. Its sharp little pokes at commercial radio, which is certainly full of extraneous sounds in these first years of peace, were rather startling to find on a national network.
"The Psycho-Neurosis of a Sound Effect" was not perfect. The message began to show through a little too clearly, and one rather brutal sequence of the killing of Serbs by the Germans destroyed the mood in the last half of the piece. Miss Jaffey's intentions were honorable enough here but she made the same point more skillfully in the first half of her play.
Still, it was a refreshing change in radio drama and let's hope the Workshop presents a lot more. Radio is wide open for this sort of thing. In the theater or in the movies, it costs a lot of money to experiment. In radio, all that's needed are brains and imagination.
Copyright, 1946, for The Tribune
From the March 26, 1947 edition of the Oakland Tribune:
LESSONS LEARNED, RADIO
MAY HAVE TO START AGAIN
May Be Forced
By JOHN CROSBY
There was a story in the early days of broadcasting, probably apocryphal, about a sound effects man who was seriously frustrated in his attempts to reproduce the sound of clashing swords. He had tried rolling a barrel full of tin cans, he experimented vainly with the sound of splashing water but neither these nor a dozen other devices sounded at all right. Finally, in desperation, he tried clashing two swords together. It worked fine.
Writers in trying to convey information in plain news or in documentary broadcasts have pursued somewhat the same course; that is, they will go to preposterous lengths to avoid simply telling the information. With great and frequently misspent ingenuity, they have employed drama, massed choirs, street noises, crowd noises, symphony orchestras, and sometimes, when absolutely necessary, the sound of the human voice.
Of course, it would be foolish to carry the analogy too far. Much of this experiment in the art of sound, if such a phrase is permissible, has been strikingly effective in putting across an idea or, in some cases, just a plain news story.
Still, in looking back upon a great many documentary broadcasts of one sort or another, the most effective on I ever heard was the broadcast of John Hersey's "Hiroshima" over the American Broadcasting Company. At the insistence of Hersey, who resisted all attempts to have the story dramatized, "Hiroshima" was simply read. The only concession to broadcasting technique was the employment of different voices for the various parts of the story devoted to the six different characters.
This method transmitted to the listener not only the highly dramatic story but also the keen intelligence that went into its writing. The listener was left with the impression of a gifted mind assembling the fragments of one of the most significant stories of our time. If the screams of the dying, or the crackle of flames had been allowed to intrude, the broadcast would have descended to the level of all the broadcasts which have ever used these sounds, including a great many whodunits.
Recently, the American Broadcasting Company presented another highly effective, but somewhat different documentary called "Welcome, Honorable Enemy" on its series of public service broadcasts called "World Security Workshop" (9 p.m. PST Thursdays). "Welcome, Honorable Enemy" were the impressions of occupied Japan of Joseph Julian, a radio actor who formerly broadcast for the Red Cross in Japan.
The technique, I should say, was about halfway between the "Hiroshima" reading and the traditional method. Julian used a good deal of straight drama but he also used far more than the normal amount of plain exposition. The exposition took the form of a conversation between Julian and his announcer, Roger Krupp. Somehow, the two men sounded as relaxed as if they were discussing Japan over an after diner cup of coffee and at the same time the talk had the coherence of a well-written script.
Julian explained why the Japanese did all that hissing (it's a form of politeness), how illogical the Japanese are about their emperor, and what a shrick strike is. Along with each small anecdote, he interpolated his own serious interpretation. By avoiding both cliches and pretension, the two men succeeded in sounding intelligent, one of the most difficult things in the world to do over the air.
The trick, I guess, is to match the technique to the message. To employ an ear-catching device when you are attempting to engage the intelligence is a serious mistake in anatomy. It is not sounds that stir men's minds, but ideas, and the sounds employed to put the ideas across ought to be on the same intellectual level as the ideas.
Well, let's not get too involved. I have just one other idea I'd like to pass along. Radio, it seems to me, is just beginning to master the technique of sound broadcasting at a time when television is just around the corner. The movies had the same experience. At just about the point the movie-makers were demonstrating a superb mastery of the techniques of silent pictures, sound pictures came in and the movie procedures had to start all over again. The broadcasters still have that ahead of them.
Copyright, 1947, for The Tribune
Billboard magazine article from September 28 1946 announcing World Security Workshop as a public service segment
|RadioGOLDINdex, Martin Grams' Radio Drama.
Notes on Provenances:
The most helpful provenances were the log of the radioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings. The least accurate was Martin Grams' Radio Drama
Martin Grams' Radio Drama cites the 47-04-03 title of World Security Workshop as "The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island" with Van Heflin. As a matter of historical fact, that was an episode of Radio Readers Digest over CBS, not World Security Workshop over ABC:
47-04-03 New York Times
10-10:30--Radio Readers Digest: "The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island," with Van Heflin--WCBS.
47-04-03 Wisconsin State Journal
9 p.m.--Digest (WBBM): "The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island."
47-04-03 Chicago Tribune
9:00--WBBM--Radio Reader's Digest: Van Heflin in "The Man Who Conquered Devil's Island."
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