[The work of Clyde Gilmour]

Sunday, December 25, 1955

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

Talks about two Canadians. First is Clyde Gilmour, motion picture critic. Talks about his report of the George Awards (named after George Eastman). Talks about decline in silent films by 1925. Chaplin was among those elected to choose those to be honored. Runs through the list of all the names. Including Cecil Demille. Not one mention of Chaplin or his films. Chaplin is aloof, exiled himself from the U.S. and is considered sympathetic to the communist ideas, if not a communist himself. Compares the elimination of Chaplin from the honors to totalitarian states like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia re-writing history. Motion picture as a record of events. Ten Days That Shook the World. Rulers of Russia eliminated the figure of Leon Trotsky. Seldes admits to having a soft spot for Trotsky - calls him "a highly romantic and improbable figure in world affairs" and "a remarkably brilliant writer." George Orwell's 1984. Destruction of all remaining copies of newspapers and edited copies were made, so that history was being rewritten. "The truth crushed to earth shall rise again."

Talks about Marshall McLuhan, professor of English at St. Michael's College in Toronto. McLuhan gave an address, The educational effects of the mass media on communication. Talks about book "The Mechanical Bride." Western civilization based on Greek city-states. Roman roads - beginning of a new approach to communication. Writing and papyrus. Printing of the bible in 16th century. Vernacular nationalism and individualism. Print isolated the reader and the student. Shift in education from oral to written and visual instruction. Spread of information. Power press in early 19th century, newspapers were changing the character of politics by creating public opinion. Advent of telegraph had global effects. Knocks down cultural walls and natural consequence is diplomacy. Now we have radio and television. Can't have a new method of communication without tremendous social changes. We are the last generation where print is the primary medium of education. Battle between reader culture and electronic-based culture. "We are ill at ease because. . . we have to compromise between the print civilization in which we were brought up and this new and rather terrifying thing, which seems terribly mechanical to us, which is a civilization based on the electronic system of communicating ideas from one person to another."

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70380
Municipal archives id: LT6659

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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