Friday, May 30, 2014

Radio Greats: The Eternal Joan (CBS Radio Workshop)

Today is the feast of St. Joan of Arc, one of my favorite saints, so it seems appropriate to put something up for it.

CBS Radio Workshop came at the very end of the Golden Age of Radio. Radio drama was dying, its demographic taken by television, and so radio networks were trying bolder, more experimental things. CBS had had some reasonably good success with earlier series focusing on experimental theater, so it put a considerable amount of effort into this one. Probably what it really needed was a longrunning experimental series, to build up a significant audience loyalty; trying to jumpstart a new one in the late 1950s was a little too late to be trying to capture people's attentions, a way of locking the barn door after the cows are gone. But CBS did put a considerable amount of effort into it, and the overall result was not bad, and people did like it; it just wasn't enough to have much of a long-term effect.

Because CBS Radio Workshop did experimental theater, it has no typical episode. It opened with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, narrated by Huxley himself; another episode was an interview with William Shakespeare; another a modernized Cinderella story; another a series of Japanese Noh plays; there were several biographies and quasi-documentaries. "Report on the WeUns" is a clever two-edged satire. One of the most popular episodes was "A Passion Play", an Easter episode, which consisted of several famous radio actors reading portions of the Gospels (Vincent Price was the Gospel of John). Their version of The Little Prince is nicely done, and quite charming. There's a very, very good episode, perhaps the best episode, on Hamlet, "Another Point of View, or Hamlet Revisited", which, tongue-in-cheek, argues that Claudius is the hero of the play and that Hamlet is the villain.

"The Eternal Joan" is another good episode. It pulls together a large number of different historical and literary sources in order to build a composite picture of Joan. Louis Kronenberger's narration takes a little getting used to. At least, the way he pronounces French names cracks me up; 'Rouen' sounds like a donkey bray. But the Jimmy-Stewart-like earnest plainness of his voice nonetheless does a good job of binding together the different episodes of the story, which are often intensely acted. Allowing for occasional dramatic license, it's quite accurate, and a lot of St. Joan really does come through.

You can listen to "The Eternal Joan" online at My Old Radio.


  1. Itinérante3:05 AM

    I love St. Joan of Arc!!
    I tried to follow the link but it gives me that "You don't have permission to access /old-radio-episodes/cbs-radio-workshop-the-eternal-joan-ep-23/7 on this server."
    I really was looking forward to the pronunciation part! I wanted to listen to The Little Prince one as well because it is one of my favourite books! Ah well...

  2. branemrys9:48 AM

    Here are some other places where it's available:

    some of the episodes are available on YouTube, as well. So it might just be a matter of finding a different place.


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