CBS's Norman Corwin, topflight U.S. radio dramatist, went to England last summer to try something that U.S. radio had not done before. He wanted to explain England to Americans by short-waving his dramatized observations of the English. Sunspots and short-wave incorrigibility spoiled U.S. reception of four of his seven broadcasts from Britain. Last week, at home under the happier auspices of U.S. medium wave, Corwin tried againand scored.
His subject (first of a CBS series, Tuesdays, 10-10:30 p.m., E.W.T.) was an English town. A narrator (Joseph Julian, onetime soap-opera star), a cast, and judicious music and sound effects told a simple, effective story. "Troy was a town," said the narrator. "So was Jericho. Lidice was a town. Likewise Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula, later to be known as Los Angeles. And Cromer was a town, and is a town, and you'll find it on a map of the east coast of England, in the district called East Anglia, facing the North Sea, facing Germany."
For a half hour Corwin's drama examined Cromer. There was a church, bomb-scarred but upright; a pier, wrecked in the middle to make it useless to invading Nazis; the beach where as many as 75,000 vacationists once toasted in the summer sun; Rust's nearly empty department store on High Street; a baker named Baker.
The conversation emphasized the small talk of people in the middle of a big waronly 20 minutes flying time distant from a Nazi aerodrome. People said "God Bless" to each other the way Americans say "Good-by." The maid at the hotel said "Thank you" each time she served a dish. A salvage worker proudly told how Cromer won the East Anglia salvage contest. There were echoes of a hot controversy about whether the church should set its wall back to make more room for parked cars. A German bomb had settled that.
Radiodramatist Corwin had overheard such authentic bits as a discourse between a Canadian and an English officer:
Briton: But what does Coca-Cola taste like? Cocoa?
Canadian: Well, no, it's sort of hard to describe.
Briton: Does it taste like ginger?
Canadian: It's more like molasses. No, that's not right either.
Briton: And what's the other drink like?
Canadian: Well, I don't really know how to describe that either.
Briton: Does it have a peppermint taste to it?
Canadian: No. It's about the same, almost, I think.
The 30-minute sum of such unimportant bits added up to a quiet, detailed, richly evocative piece of radio reporting. U.S. radio listeners could cheer Corwin's assumption that they were adult enough to understand common adult speech, could therefore be spared the painful explanations that often accompany radio's attempts to inform.