Words At War / Edition 1

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Overview

Words at War describes how 17 radio dramatists and their actors fought a war of words against fascism abroad and injustice at home. Beginning in the late 1930s, the commercial networks, private agencies, and the government cooperated with radio dramatists to produce plays to alert Americans to the Nazi threat. They also used radio to stimulate morale. They showed how Americans could support the fight against fascism even if it meant just having a "victory garden." Simultaneously as they worked on the war effort, many radio writers and actors advanced a progressive agenda to fight the enemy within: racism, poverty, and other social ills. When the war ended, many of these people paid for their idealism by suffering blacklisting. Veterans' groups, the FBI, right-wing politicians, and other reactionaries mounted an assault on them to drive them out of their professions. This book discusses that partly successful effort and the response of the radio personalities involved. This book discusses commercial drama series such as The Man Behind the Gun, network sustained shows such as those of Norman Corwin, and government-produced programs such as the Uncle Sam series. The book is largely based on the author's interviews with Norman Corwin, Arthur Miller, Pete Seeger, Arthur Laurents, Art Carney and dozens of others associated with radio during its Golden Age. It also discusses public reaction to these broadcasts and the issue of blacklisting. Words at War weaves together materials from FBI files and materials from archives around the country, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the National Archives and a dozen university special collection libraries, to tell how the nation used a unique broadcast genre in a time of national crisis. Readers in the era of the current World Trade Center terrorism crisis will be particularly interested to read about censorship, scapegoating, and the government's role in disseminating propaganda and other issues that have once again

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Editorial Reviews

Jhistory: H-Net Book Review
...a layered and intriguing work....this marvelous book...reminds us that the Second World War was as much a battle of ideas as of troops and weapons.
The Radio Journal
Howard Blue is to be congratulated on the writing and publication of his book. He has retrieved a valuable story and begun a long and complex academic investigation into the role of radio drama as propaganda and the value of audio drama texts in cultural studies.
Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Wonderful...without question, Mr. Blue's book illuminates every aspect of that Golden Age.
Tim Crook
A Tour de force of research and writing...full of creative and complex characters...Howard Blue is to be congratulated on the writing and publication of his book. He has retrieved a valuable story and begun a long and complex academic investigation into the role of radio drama as propaganda and the value of audio drama texts in cultural studies.
H-Net Book Review (July 2006) Jhistory
...a layered and intriguing work....this marvelous book...reminds us that the Second World War was as much a battle of ideas as of troops and weapons.
Film & History
Wonderful...without question, Mr. Blue's book illuminates every aspect of that Golden Age.
CHOICE
Fascinating...Recommended.
American Jewish Committee Newsletter
...reveals the previously unheralded role of the American Jewish Committee
Today's Books
Exceptional!
Radio Recall
A nonfiction book with superb research...a fascinating and highly readable book about a major period in the history of both the nation and radio.
Communication Booknotes Quarterly
Ultimately, it is a chilling statement about censorship and scapegoating, one that increases the reader's sense of incredulity over how the nation could have so rapidly descended to such an iniquitous level following a war whose very essence was grounded in a desire to protect freedom from tyranny. This is an important study, one that should be a required reading in programs in journalism.
Journal of American History
[Blue] is at his impassioned best in describing the contents of wartime radio drama from the perspective of authors now in their nineties who remember their youthful wartime work with evident pleasure.
Journal Of Cold War Studies
...Blue has done an admirable job of showing that Americans were bombarded daily with many perspectives, helping them to make sense of their world. His thought-provoking book indicates that much work remains to be done, especially for comparable studies on other media industries. Just as the wartime radio broadcasters dramatized serious subjects that appealed to wide audiences, Blue has done likewise. As a freelance writer and educator, he has written a book full of anecdotes to satisfy old-time radio enthusiasts but also has provided a valuable resource suitable for media scholars. One thing is clear: Words at War has proven that the drama away from the microphone was every bit as remarkable as the drama transmitted into American homes.
American Communist History
Anyone interested in the impact of American Communists and fellow travelers on mass media will find Words at War extremely rewarding. Howard Blue spotlights a medium largely neglected in the literature on the blacklist.
Brown University
This may well be the best book on American radio ever written. Blue has captured the vividness of network radio in its golden era, meeting the crises of war with intelligence as well as drama (and comedy); and the now forgotten national tragedy of Cold War era crackdown on the very creators of the best programs. Radio has never recovered, and now we know the reasons.
— Paul Buhle
Journal Of American History
[Blue] is at his impassioned best in describing the contents of wartime radio drama from the perspective of authors now in their nineties who remember their youthful wartime work with evident pleasure.
Choice
Fascinating...Recommended.
Journal of Cold War Studies
...Blue has done an admirable job of showing that Americans were bombarded daily with many perspectives, helping them to make sense of their world. His thought-provoking book indicates that much work remains to be done, especially for comparable studies on other media industries. Just as the wartime radio broadcasters dramatized serious subjects that appealed to wide audiences, Blue has done likewise. As a freelance writer and educator, he has written a book full of anecdotes to satisfy old-time radio enthusiasts but also has provided a valuable resource suitable for media scholars. One thing is clear: Words at War has proven that the drama away from the microphone was every bit as remarkable as the drama transmitted into American homes.
Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Wonderful...without question, Mr. Blue's book illuminates every aspect of that Golden Age.
Brown University - Paul Buhle
This may well be the best book on American radio ever written. Blue has captured the vividness of network radio in its golden era, meeting the crises of war with intelligence as well as drama (and comedy); and the now forgotten national tragedy of Cold War era crackdown on the very creators of the best programs. Radio has never recovered, and now we know the reasons.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Howard Blue is a freelance writer, translator and former teacher. Two of his translations appear in An Anthology of Russian Literature (M.S. Sharpe). His article on radio drama appears in Encyclopedia of Radio, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers (2002).

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Acknowledgments Chapter 2 1 Introduction Chapter 3 2 The Writers Chapter 4 3 The Actors Chapter 5 4 On the Eve of World War II: Expressing Antifascism through Allegory Chapter 6 5 Corwin and the Office of Facts and Figures Chapter 7 6 The Office of War Information and Other Government Agencies Chapter 8 7 Private Agencies Chapter 9 8 Sponsored Radio Dramas Chapter 10 9 Presenting the U.S. Armed Forces Chapter 11 10 The Enemy Chapter 12 11 America's Allies: The British Chapter 13 12 America's Allies: The Soviets Chapter 14 13 The Home Front Chapter 15 14 Fighting Intolerance Chapter 16 15 Women Chapter 17 16 The War against the Jews Chapter 18 17 Looking toward the Postwar Era Chapter 19 18 The War Ends Chapter 20 19 The Postwar Era: A Change of Enemies Chapter 21 20 Conclusion Chapter 22 Collections Consulted Chapter 23 Selected Bibliography Chapter 24 Index Chapter 25 About the Author

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