[The exceptional man in the movies and advertising]

Thursday, December 17, 1953

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Last week he began a survey of popular entertainment over the year, but there were so many good things that he didn't get as far as he wanted. Interesting developments in the social and economic fields.

Position of the exceptional man in the movies. Hollywood puts him to work doing trivial things after great things. Example of John Huston. Income goes down and integrity goes up. Hopes for a getting together of entertainment and integrity; both sides have to compromise. Stanley Kramer (?).

A building with all the signs of the creative endeavors of man. All are conventionalized. Literature is represented by an open folio with a quill pen and the phrase Ex Libris. Symbolizes an attitude which many writers have.

Reminds him of a story of a man who refuses to read stories where a great man signs his name with a quill pen. How about a typewriter or dictating machine? Feeling that books are a higher form, which doesn't make sense because so many books don't sell well.

A new way of showing movies in your home at a price: paying for home viewing. What will this do to moviegoing? Free movie viewing - free except for the attack on your sensibilities, because they have been attacked by shouting pitchmen.

If producers begin to make movies for both theater and television, it's going to be quite extraordinary, because there will be a different approach. Example: in the movies, people go out to a place that is created for an illusion, whereas at home, the illusion is brought to you. In the movies, people come in after it's started and wait around for the beginning again. Movies recapitulate themselves to accommodate this. Assumption that the eye needs a change every 10 seconds, the audience needs a jolt every five minutes. Does the nervous system at home require to be stabbed so frequently?

Radio has moved rapidly. Frequency modulation, educational fields. Beginnings of efforts by stations to capture audiences that didn't get what they want on commercial radio - intelligent discussion. Drama is well handled on television, so you can't expect big audiences there. Possible that radio missed the bus a few years ago. Radio didn't make any effort to keep the audience that wouldn't be satisfied by television or by attracting more intelligent audiences.

Commercials in television versus on radio.

Advertising that threatens you if you don't use "commodity x" right off the bat. Power of vague threats in advertising.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 64350
Municipal archives id: LT3083

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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