Norman Corwin (1910-2011)

Norman Corwin died October 18 of natural causes at the age of 101.

Ray Bradbury called Corwin “my dearest friend and greatest teacher” and said “I wrote The Martian Chronicles for him.”

The foundations of Corwin’s fame are his two radio programs that bookended World War II. In 1941, he wrote “We Hold These Truths,” a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights that aired simultaneously on all four radio networks days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In 1945, “On a Note of Triumph,” a reflection on the allied victory in Europe and the changing world, was broadcast nationwide on V-E Day.

Among Corwin’s other accomplishments, he wrote the Academy Award-nominated script for the 1956 film Lust for Life, a biography of Vincent van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas.

William Shatner, who narrated several of Corwin’s later radio programs, called him “the poetic soul of discretion and a monument to artistry in America.” Shatner participated in the California Artists Radio Theater production of Bradbury’s Leviathan ’99 mounted to celebrate Norman Corwin’s 99th birthday in 2009.

Bradbury has said of Corwin, “He taught us then not only how to open our mouths but how to insert bright pebbles beneath our tongues so that eventually we might fire forth a sentence not only worth listening to but thinking about.”

Egyptian Premieres
Charles Beaumont Documentary

Left to Right: John Tomerlin, William F. Nolan, Marc Zicree, Jason Brock, Sunni Brock and George Clayton Johnson.

Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater screened Charles Beaumont: The Short Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man on March 27. On hand were John Tomerlin, William F. Nolan, Marc Zicree, Jason Brock, Sunni Brock and George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner Jr. and Norman Corwin.

John King Tarpinian reports:

The premiere of the documentary was well attended with a book signing preceding the 90 minute documentary and a Q&A afterwards. 

John Tomerlin related a story about the time he, Bill Nolan and Charles Beaumont returned to New York from an auto racing event in Nassau with only $1 among them.  At the end of the taxi ride the taxi driver gave them money. 

Bill Nolan related a story about Charles Beaumont and Ray Bradbury. They were driving somewhere around Los Angeles and they passed a cemetery which had a sign out from advertising FREE DIRT. They both agreed that would be a great title for a story. They argued over who should write the story. Beaumont won the coin toss and wrote the story first, years later Ray wrote his story.

Bleeding Edge Signing in Glendale

Seated: Ray Bradbury, Norman Corwin, George Clayton Johnson. Standing: Cody Goodfellow, John Tomerlin, Lisa Morton, Earl Hamner Jr., John Shirley, William J. Nolan. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Ray Bradbury and many other contributors to the The Bleeding Edge signed copies of the book at the Mystery and Imagination Bookstore in Glendale, CA on February 20.

Stefan Rose posted two YouTube videos of the event. In the first Ray Bradbury arrives and greets Norman Corwin. The second scans the writers assembled around the autograph tables

John King Tarpinian notes, “Very nice event. The only ones missing in action were Richard and R.C. Matheson due to their having forgotten that it was Richard’s birthday when they committed to attend. Darn. We hope that he will be making it to the Charles Beaumont documentary premiere next month. Everybody else listed on the flyer was in attendance plus John Shirley came down from the Bay Area.” 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Leviathan 99

Cast of Leviathan 99 Ray Bradbury and Norman Corwin chat at Leviathan 99  Ray Bradbury and William Shatner at Leviathan 99  Ray Bradbury and Sean Astin at Leviathan 99  Ray Bradbury and Leonard Maltin at Leviathan 99 Ray Watches Samantha Eggar at Leviathan 99  Ray Bradbury Speaks at Leviathan 99  Walter Koenig Performs in Leviathan 99  Ray Bradbury, Norman Lloyd, Norman Corwin at Leviathan 99

By John King Tarpinian: California Artists Radio Theatre presented Ray Bradbury’s Leviathan ’99 on May 3 in honor of his friend’s 99th birthday, Norman Corwin.  Leviathan ‘99 is Ray Bradbury’s version of Moby Dick — only in outer space — inspired by his having written the screenplay of Moby Dick for John Huston, in 1953.

Norman Corwin wanted to produce this in 1961 but CBS Radio wished to do it in 3-minute segments. It did not get produced as a radio play until 1968 and that was by the BBC.

John Harlan did the announcing. He has over 50 years experience as a TV announcer: a voice you immediately recognize. The lead character of Ishmael Jones was played by Sean Astin. William Shatner played the 8-foot-tall eight-eyed spider alien, Quell. Norman Lloyd was the crazed captain of the doomed Cetus 7. Walter Koenig was Father Colworth. H.M. Wynant was Elijah. Richard Herd was first mate John Redleigh. Samantha Eggar was Captain Rachel of the Pius One.

Sean Astin is best known for his role in The Goonies and as Samwise in Lord of the Rings, Bill Shatner for Star Trek, T.J. Hooker and Boston Legal. Norman Lloyd formed the Mercury Theatre with Orson Welles and John Houseman, not to mention starred in two Hitchcock films, directed most of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents (including Ray Bradbury’s “The Jar”), The Twilight Zone, Saint Elsewhere…the list goes on.  Walter Koenig is best known for Star Trek and Babylon 5.  Samantha Eggar played opposite Yul Brynner in Anna and the King, in Dr. Doolittle, etc.  Richard Herd’s TV roles are voluminous, including All the President’s Men and The China Syndrome.  H.M. Wynant is probably best known for the Twilight Zone’s “The Howling Man.”

Top photo: Leviathan 99 cast members: Robert Legionaire, H.M. Wynant, Samantha Eggar, Sean Astin, William Shatner, Norman Lloyd, John Harlan.

Update 05/08/2009: Listed Robert Legionaire in the cast photo, following the correction in his comment.

Leviathan 99

California Artists Radio Theatre (CART) will present a live performance of Ray Bradbury’s space tale Leviathan 99 on May 3 in tribute to Ray Bradbury and Norman Corwin. The occasion is Corwin’s 99th birthday, and both Bradbury and Corwin will attend.

Scheduled to appear are: William Shatner, Sean Astin, Norman Lloyd, Samantha Eggar, Richard Herd, Walter Koenig and H.M. Wynant.  Also John Harlan, Robert Legionaire and Sky McDougall.

This brings back memories. Leviathan 99 is the spacefaring version of Moby Dick. When I saw it performed in the 1970s the lead was played by William Marshall of Blacula fame.

Reservations are required. The event will take place Sunday, May 3 at 2:30 p.m. at the Writers Guild of America Theater, 135 South Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase through the CART site.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]