Norman Corwin, Writer And Radio Pioneer, Dies

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Norman Corwin, a trailblazing writer, journalist and director whose work was heard by millions, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 101. Corwin's radio career blossomed during the mid-20th century at CBS, where he worked as a journalist alongside Edward R. Murrow and as a playwright with artists such as Orson Welles. He also created and directed dramatic productions, including his own program, called "26 by Corwin".

His work was legendary: for his 100th birthday last year, journalist Mary Beth Kirchner looked at Corwin's "Splendid Century". She talked with journalists, film directors and writers about Corwin's work. Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury summed him up, calling Corwin "the greatest director, the greatest writer and the greatest producer in the history of radio."

In 1946, Corwin was the first winner of the "One World Flight" award which gave him the chance to travel the globe, interviewing dozens of people, from workers to statesmen. He returned with enough material to stuff 13 CBS radio documentaries.

After his trip, he talked more about the devastating effects of war: here's a terrific black and white newsreel of him. He continued to reminisce about his four month journey and spoke in 1999 for Lost and Found Sound.

Some of his most admired works were two programs broadcast live at the start and end of World War Two. The first, broadcast about a week after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, was sponsored by the federal government. Called "We Hold These Truths", it starred Jimmy Stewart and combined music with dramatic presentations by actors who discussed the Bill of Rights.

The second production was broadcast on May 8, 1945, the day of the Allied victory in Europe. Titled "On A Note Of Triumph", it featured stories of soldiers, observations about the war, sound effects and live music. It's considered to be one of the greatest works in radio, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In 2006, a film about the 1945 broadcast called "A Note Of Triumph, The Golden Age of Norman Corwin" got the Oscar in 2006 for best short documentary. It wasn't his first brush with the Oscars. He'd been nominated in 1957 for an Academy Award for his screenplay "Lust for Life".

Corwin never stopped writing. In 1979, he joined the University of Southern California's journalism school and was a writer in residence until his death.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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