Time marches on: it wasn’t all that long ago when neither television or the internet, but radio, was king. Radio offered its listeners an art form of its own: radio drama, theater for the imagination.
Last Sunday's Radio Memories centered around the Edward R. Murrow news program Hear It Now, the first step on the treadmill that led to today’s 24/7 news cycle. I thought it would make an interesting contrast to go a bit further back in time this week, to another approach taken to delivering news over the radio: having current events dramatized as a radio play.
The program for this Sunday therefore is The March Of Time, an early outgrowth of Time magazine. Time, of course, is still being published today, but the radio series didn’t last beyond World War II. A few seasons into its fifteen year radio run Time would create a second series with the same title, destined for movie theater screens, where in that format it outlasted its radio counterpart by many years. (A quick aside: I am appalled at how inaccurate Wikipedia’s entries on old radio programming are proving to be. Last Sunday's Radio Memories post included my disagreements with their entry on Hear It Now; the Wikipedia entry for The March of Time has only one brief statement on the radio series, and yet gets half of it wrong. The series started in 1931 but ran until 1945, not 1935, as affirmed by Wikipedia.)
Each episode of The March Of Time would select stories from that week’s issue of Time Magazine, and dramatize them on the air. A handful of actors would rotate through the many roles each week's script demanded, often with very little rehearsal, as the magazine wanted its shows as up-to-date as possible. From major international figures like Adolf Hitler and President Roosevelt to "ordinary" citizens getting their 15 minutes of fame, The March Of Time makes for intriguing listening from our vantage point today; like a ticking bomb in slow motion, each week is a virtual countdown to the eruption of World War II.
Every so often, however, it is the stories in the margins of history rather than its main streams that seem to say the most about the paths we've traveled in seventy years. Particularly so for this week’s offering, originally aired February 10th, 1938. Among the stories of pirate submarines, arms races and Nazi purges, there’s a short account at the ten-minute mark that seemed fitting to reflect on, given what took place in Washington, DC, this past Tuesday.
Time, indeed, marches on…
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