The American journal; Writing, part 1
The American Journal produced four national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin radio station WAGA and Riverside radio WRVA our New York. Home. But actually what happened John was not not the rats deserting the ship that the ship kind of deserted the rats. There were no more platforms left for writers like Shah Askey NPL and dad was all the rest. There were no playhouse 90s there were no silk Studio 1 and Kraft theater as they left. I thought I'd come back to Washington and seem like a good time the Kennedys were right and I have the
time. I thought I'd have eight really good years of fun and games there. And so I came back. And I'm not so I did it because I'm having a lot of fun on Washington and there's a lot more balloons to burst in Washington than I was in Paris. For Madame Blavatsky was a spiritualist a medium and she had arranged Yeats was interested in automatic writing. He had arranged to send back signals and she had friends posted at the at the telegraph key to see what she said but nothing came through. I think there's too much dust in the way. You've got to have the ability to engage in creative life and I wanted to live amid difficult issues and tension. If you can't laugh in life you have a miserable human being.
The American Journal a look at the fine arts and the not so fine arts in America today. This series is not a history not a diary not a seminar not a critique. It's a few people in four hour long programs talking about the fine arts without being arty about it or precious or obscure public or a far out or far end or anything but honest about the whole business. We could say this series is dedicated to all of the fine arts theater literature bating music poetry but that's pretty precious right there and it's only half the truth. The book The series is really dedicated to the proposition that the finest of all the arts is living how to live a fuller life without emptying out your neighbors. That's where the art comes in.
Television may or may not be a fine art. The point is moot. They videotapes of Red Skelton may one day be regarded as classical as Charlie Chaplin in the Tramp. The definitive Western film may yet be a bonanza episode rather than stagecoach or Oxbow Incident. Victory at Sea may well have been the great American novel wasteland at times Wonderland and others the stark fact remains that television allows Huntley-Brinkley to have a bigger circulation than all the country's newspapers combined. It enables Richard Burton to play an electronic Hamlet and reach more people than all the performances of all the hamlets ever. What can be said at this point without contradiction is the television is big. As they say in showbiz it's beautiful. It deals in box car numbers when it comes to the house. And because it's big it's brutal too. A man eminently qualified to discuss both its beauty and its brutality is
writer Rod Serling. John Campbell is our West Coast editor talked with him about television drama Serling reminisced about Playhouse 90. And when campus asked him what he most admired about those shows. This is what he said. Serling it turns out is a walking testimonial to the old philosophical adage if you want to find out how hot the fire is stick your hand in a flame. The aim always showed in all the productions even the very bad ones and even a very bad Playhouse 90 aimed high even if it didn't remotely get close to its its objective. The unfortunate thing about it was that to sustain a 90 minute show it had to come with many many sponsors to help foot the bill. The presence of so many sponsors were intrusive on a commercial level because it involved that. Excuse me. There were 12 minute acts separated by commercials. And it's almost impossible just to sustain a dramatic mood when every 12 minutes you've got to have kind of an artificial curtain. Bring in dancing rabbits with toilet paper and go back to the play and expect you know a
continuation of the mood. It's almost impossible. The other problem with Playhouse 90 was that it lost money consistently from the minute it went on the air. It was just not enough money to put out this kind of ambitious drama weekly because it was a live show. There was no question of residual rights or residual values. That is to say if this were done on film this could be shown again and again and again and those sold for a nominal figures could nonetheless recoup its loss over a period of years playlist when he was done alive. Therefore to do it again in a taped version which they have done involves a renegotiation of all contracts with actors writers directors and the rest of it so that it became almost as expensive the second time around as it was the first. So this eliminated the possibility of it of its recruitment of losses. And my guess is that over a period of three years of Playhouse 90 was on that. So the loss must have been well over a million dollars even when it was fully sponsored.
John Campbell has asked Rod Serling if the writer's burning out wasn't part of the reason for the demise of Playhouse 90. I don't think this is the key clue to the loss of play I was 90. My guess is that people look to Rose and myself and Bob Arthur and Garvey Dahl and Tad Moselle a few others you know as the as the providers of the product. But this points up yet another problem that television though anxious not to say hungry for new material is provided no channels through which new talent could be recognized. When when Rose and myself and a few others came on the scene in the early 1950s it was a pretty free area. Anybody who thought that he could write had something to say could find a platform for his speech. This does no know this no longer holds true that there are many good writers dying aborning through simply a lack of exposure. And that Word provides no doors through which they can enter. Ad agencies won't look at new writers material. Agents won't handle writers who are not published
or produced and God knows how many good writers you know are standing around the wayside ready to pick up gauntlets but who simply aren't being permitted a chance to show their wares. Most of the qualitative writers John have left the medium Bob Arthur does mostly motion picture in Broadway now Garvey dollars not written for television about five years. So I ask you of course is left long ago of the few of us who remain in the medium. Reggie. Does the defenders but does precious little writing on it he does mostly editorial work and myself of course I've been hooked to a series programme which of its type performs its function pretty well I'm referring to Twilight Zone. But it begs the how far a show is simply a vignette a totally legitimate dramatic form. So actually what happened John was not not the rats deserting the ship the ship kind of deserted the rats. There were no more platforms left for writers like shy ASCII envy doll
and dad was on the rest of them. There were no playhouse 90s there were no Phil goes Studio 1 and Kraft theaters they left. And these men had to turn their talents toward other forms of writing and in most cases it's been the Motion Picture of the Broadway stage. Could television drama in those days because a new art form. I think it pointed to it ultimately. Being precisely that a brand new kind of art form in a sense stemming from a marriage between the flexibility of film the immediacy of the stage and the coverage of radio but it never really fulfilled its function or really approached the horizon of its potential at all that we stopped dead in our tracks about 1950 to 1953 and nobody tried anything new after that at all. We rested on what few laurels we had. And again we subscribe to the
idea that television is is not the perpetrator of of national taste it is something to reflect or it isn't there to make people think. It's simply there to reflect what are the thoughts extant at the time. And this of course is the philosophy I think that mass the mass media has been operating under. And with the idea that we're simply not there except to respond to the tastes that already exist. Is the program content really in the hands of the writer. Aren't there many other fingers in the pot on a commercial level of course this is a TRUE. This is a totally a truth that the sponsor of the ad agency. Have very much placed themselves in control of program content. They do so because of a deep rooted philosophy and the pride of the American advertiser that anything connected with his name must of necessity fall within his Bailey wick of Braga.
It is my own contention and a deep rooted philosophical one that it is altogether improper that any sponsors have even a degree of control in the content of anything he sponsors. Why should a man who sells soup and who knows how to sell soup try to tell me how to write a drama how to tell me what is proper motivation. How to tell me what is tasteful or inoffensive. This is not his area. This is my area conversing I wouldn't tell him how to sell soup so I don't understand why he persists in trying to tell me how to write drama. I've always felt that in an odd way this ambivalent position the networks find themselves in a date desperately afraid of a big stick from Washington threatening to put on a federal network as a third competitive as a fourth competitive entity in the network scene. They're desperately frightened of this very Teresa but sometimes their temerity sometimes their term
business takes on a strangely militant form in which they start talking about censorship about socialism at all at all when they themselves have already relinquished their prerogatives and given them to the agencies many many months and years ago. My own feeling here is not to belabor this point but and it's been this is hardly a unique idea nor is it personally mine. But I would always much prefer seeing a magazine concept in advertising in which the sponsor buys time watches he buy space in a paper he is responsible for filling up a commercial message during that minute but what precedes or follows it means nothing of his concern at all that this is an artistic medium and all he's doing is kind of riding piggyback on it. If I had a burning yearning. Burning yearning as I said near the Edgar Guest to the
I think if I really had a hunger to write substantial themes. And utilize drama as really a vehicle of social criticism. I rather doubt if I'd waste it in television because of some of the building limitations which are legitimate not the least of which as we discussed earlier language. I can well understand the concern one would have for a mass media which plays to several millions of people including youngsters. The concern for language profanity which might be integrity in the in the formulation of drama and which could very easily play on a stage or a motion picture but which would be somewhat questionable in a mass medium. This is just one of the areas that would make me think twice about sticking in some real commentate of drama on television. But my crit my criticism of intrusions on the part of that agencies is simply that there are probably more
specious less important than major themes selection. It's their alteration of the English language. It's their insistence that no competitive product be shown or stated. You can't ford a river if you're sponsored by Chevrolet. There are been instances when the Chrysler Building was blacked out as you've heard this is an old but hardly apocryphal this is a true situation in which a program sponsored by Ford eliminated the Chrysler Building in the New York skyline. You can't say the word lucky if it's sponsored by a rival cigarette firm. You can use the word American. If it's sponsored by a rival cigarette from you can't show people drinking tea if you're sponsored by coffee. You can't show of a ward heeling politician smoking a cigar if you're sponsored by a cigarette company. Granted these are not major thematic intrusions but I think what's involved here is a principle that once you start manipulating English language under the guise of protecting a commercial entity
the extension of this the projection of this or even more serious intrusions. This is why I'd like to draw the line right here. Let us use the English language as we know it. The medium has been rather good to me. You know I have a good car and I paid up mortgage so it's very difficult to rather predator really bite the hand that feeds here. But I'm going along with television in the past five or six years very cognizant of its weaknesses and its limitations and the fact that I doubt very much of it will go any further until it is Cimzia responsibility which it doesn't seem prone to assume at all and that is for being really the eyes and ears of the populace of being a responsible broadcasting unit. Which comments on the passing scene with total objectivity which professes to told to do drama as Broadway used to do drama with a point of view. So long as it is controlled by commercial interests these things simply will not evolve. And I
for one am disappointed that this is the case. But I'm not about to say that we should you know we should all form ranks and do something about it because I don't think anything can be done short of some kind of government intervention. I have an idea in mind. I'd like to try on television. I'd like to do a 90 minute television show. And this too is not unique. Many people have thought about this should as we would shoot a quality motion picture. Given the kind of taste and time and preoccupation with quality and with interpretation and with thematic judgment and selection and shoot this thing. Not against a clock as we do now but shoot it within the framework of acceptable time and flexibility and perhaps do a 90 minute anthology much as we shoot a movie and show it as a motion picture on television. See I don't think that I don't subscribe to the view that life was better because it's a better technique. I think both have their own strengths their own and they pars. Whereas
rive is a much freer medium. You have a sense of immediacy that you don't have in film. It is much more the persone of drama as opposed to the lens drama. There is no no there are none of my strengths in film television. You can get polish. You can get a degree of perfection you can nonetheless get good performances and you can get the magic values that are equivalent to live. And the problem is we don't utilize this technique in its proper form. We shoot them around the clock. The old adage applies that they don't want it good they want it Thursday. And my personal feeling is that potentially film television can be every bit as adult and every bit as probing and every bit as honest and moving as drama as it is as its live counterpart. That's one thing if ever I do anything on television again and this is what I want to do. A 90 minute dramatic and theology shot this way. Short of that John I don't think there is anything in that we have television that could excite me any more. I kind of had it. I think I've given of it everything that it's conceivable I can give. I've given it some of its good moments and God
knows. In all honesty I've given some of it's bad too. I am not the most consistently good writer on the scene. Far from it. And I say this with no phony humility and modesty it's just a matter of fact. I wrote to. Almost 90. How far are Twilight Zones over three or three years and suddenly what happens there is that your interpretive strengths are lost to you. You no longer are in that marvelous position of being personally able to judge what is good and what is bad. It all comes out as kind of a morass of substance and material. When you can interpret what is good for you or your own lines of judgement somehow get found out. And this is what's happened in my case. But I think this applies to a lot of the writers that they just wrote to many things. Too much was demanded of them against a clock. And you don't create story this way you don't write this way. No good novelist has ever bashed out
a novel because it was essentially a done by Friday afternoon. No good playwright has written a play that represents his best if he's got to concern himself with a calendar rather than a set of judgments. But the point you made earlier about we write ourselves out. This is happened in my case I think to a large degree. Wright just wrote too many damn things.
A man who wouldn't be caught dead admitting that he writes Too damn many things is newspaper columnist Art Buchwald. I kind of cross between Will Rogers and comedian Alan Sherman Buckwild describes himself as a 20th century Drugstore Cowboy a man who goes around milking sacred cows. There are better comedy writers around and there are better political writers around. But there are no better comical political writers around than a good King Arthur. After all it was Buckwild who observed only last year that was a presidential election desperately needed was a bona fide a Republicans for Goldwater organization at the grassroots. Here's reporter Gerry Ellis talking to Art. Well for about 14 years you were known as the American in Paris when you wrote your column in the Paris edition of The New York Herald Tribune. Right now what brought you back to the states. Well I was going there for 14 years and I sort of got a little tired of doing the same old thing
and becoming the American apparently getting tired of the title so I decided to come back to Washington and seem like a good time the Kennedys were riding high at the time and. I thought I'd have a really good years of fun and games there. And so I came back and I'm not sorry I did it because I'm having a lot of fun in Washington and there's a lot more balloons to burst in Washington than there is in the parish. That's what you are you are very sterile and you take the lighter side of most things. Sometimes they are light subjects sometimes they're things that people can't smile like you seem to have the ability to make them smile at themselves too well. The only formula I have is to treat like subject seriously and serious subjects lightly what makes you decide to attack and I never think of myself as an attack I always think of myself as a defender. I'm always defending the wrong chords as. I know you are a regular writer you write certain hours during the day or know right
away when I get the idea. You know it just doesn't take me very long takes about an hour. To do what a column. Now. I have the idea. How often does your column appear three times a week. I see that I work on other things I'm on a show they entertain as a television show. Oh I'm writing a Music Co and I'm putting out a book and I'm just doing I'm compulsive about work. You're prolific noncompetitive is a better word than some of the titles of the books that you've written are very fascinating and I like don't forget to write. Now I have read the book what is and is it also it's a collection of articles about. I think I got that. From my father. So. When you went to camp you said Arthur back well please don't forget to write to me when I went to Paris. If you don't have to write. It at that time I said gee what a wonderful idea for a book. Oh you mean you wrote the book after you had the title. Yeah sure. Do you generally start out with the title first start or are they. Well actually it's a collection of this is actually all of them a collection except for a novel I
wrote to get from the boys. I wrote one novel. What is the subject of an hour that was about a man who was deported from. The United States like Lucky Luciano and he get sent back to Italy and he goes back to the town where he was born. And the boys and his gang don't know what the game is a going away present so they can move girl. That's not the way. They made it into a very bad movie. What was it about a movie called Surprise package. With Brennan Mitzi Gaynor. Who was an awful that's a surprise combination and it was a surprise the whole thing with the bomb. You didn't like it. No I hated it. Did you do the script for the No. I just they bought the novel and you have no control when they buy the novel. This is what happens so often though with novels isn't it when it's translated into movies because the author doesn't really take part in the script is it art because he's not a script writer or because they want complete artistic freedom themselves. When they translate it into a movie if they want to set up themselves without doing them.
They do a mess of most books well and then later we do invite I don't think I titled X and the Single Girl off. Because how much did did was Helen Gurley. What did she get her just out of and just for the title for the time. Is now. If you drop a clever phrase and put a book behind it why you could sell the title Have you thought about how you have some terrific titles there yeah could you sell any of what you have been and I damn is it safe to drink the water. That's the title of one of your books like that with Dean Martin. How about that. How much is that in dollars. Yeah. Well I don't care they can buy the titles any time they want. Well every once in a while there's a column that I sell to the movies I develop it into a movie story. The germ of a. Germ of an idea is in the car. Do you outline the story or yes I write a treatment of maybe about 30 pages. I see the last one I sold to MGM. What did MGM do with it. They're working on the script now they're going to make it. See What's the subject of that subject is about a kid and parents just going to get drafted.
If he doesn't prove he's a good artist and he has no way of proving it except for the boys in his gang that he hangs around with decide if they steal his paintings and he must have some value. So they arranged to steal his paintings. And. It's a very. Wild thing because they have a French Inspector people get them back. And it's a funny story. I'm most writers don't have a column working for them. Writers are not really well-known again comes out. It has a big splash. As a matter of fact the right is really get mad at me on this but I chose capital punishment because I reviewed it myself in my own column. And I gave a marvelous review Well I think it was one of the best books I had read all year and I couldn't put it down. They said How do you get the gall to do that. And I says Well get your own column. It was a very well balanced review. Did other reviewers review book your book. I guess capital punishment have but not with as much care because it's not I read it with more
- The American journal
- Writing, part 1
- Producing Organization
- WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
- WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- This program, the first of two parts, features interviews about writing with Rod Serling, Art Buchwald, John Ciardi.
- This is an informal, "magazine" style interview series on the fine arts.
- Asset type
- Fine Arts
- Media type
Composer: Voegeli, Don
Host: Schmidt, Karl
Interviewee: Buchwald, Art
Interviewee: Serling, Rod, 1924-1975
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: cpb-aacip-b256689f2c9 (Filename)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “The American journal; Writing, part 1.” 1965-02-17. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 22, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-q52fct6c>.
- APA: The American journal; Writing, part 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-q52fct6c