The Library of Congress has recently published the final volume in its Performing Arts series, titled "Performing Arts: Broadcasting," which describes the Library's unique and comprehensive radio and television holdings. Since 1986, this series has presented articles on all aspects of performing arts in the Library's collections, as well as volumes devoted to music and motion pictures.
"Performing Arts: Broadcasting" contains 11 essays and more than 200 black-and-white images—film stills, publicity photos and scripts—that richly illustrate the golden age of radio and television. Comedian Jack Benny and radio host Fred Allen appear on the cover in a 1936 publicity shot for NBC's "Town Hall Tonight."
The book's overview of the Library's radio holdings begins with researcher and former network producer Karen Hansen's study of Mary Margaret McBride's radio interviews with newsmakers and personalities of the 1930s through 1950s, such as Harry S. Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bette Davis and Mike Wallace. Writer and former diplomat Donald Kent analyzes recordings of radio advice programs from the 1950s to the present in an article that reveals the dramatic behavioral and moral differences between past and present-day callers.
Tales of the early days of radio emerge from Library of Congress cataloger Kathleen Miller's study of the Library's NBC collection as well as film historian Alan Gevinson's analysis of the Radio Research Project of the Library of Congress. Funded in 1941 by the Rockefeller Foundation, the purpose of the Radio Research Project was to produce programs that exhibited "values inherent in the American tradition."
The story of Hollywood's influence on early radio is told by Ross Care, author and composer, who describes the crossover of film stars to the airwaves that resulted in the production of radio dramas such as "Fibber McGee and Molly." And Peter Rohrbach, a freelance writer and editor, describes how radio broadcasts from the U.S. and abroad kept millions of Americans informed about the events of World War II.
The Library's rich television holdings are a springboard for four essays on the medium's impact on American culture. The section begins with Donald Kent's essay on how television producers in the 1950s created audiences for arts-related programming by developing lively ways of presenting ballet, opera and theater. Paul Mandell, who is regarded by many Hollywood composers as an authority on television background music, discusses the history and fate of recorded works by television composers. The role of jazz music in television's early years is the subject of an essay by Krin Gabbard, professor and chair of comparative literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Finally, Barbara Pruett, a librarian, researcher and writer, traces the career of Groucho Marx from his early days in vaudeville to his television career as host of "You Bet Your Life."
The volume ends with a tribute to jazz innovator and saxophonist Gerard "Gerry" Mulligan by Iris Newsom, editor of the eight-volume Performing Arts series. On April 6, 1999—on what would have been Gerry Mulligan's 72nd birthday—the Library opened a permanent exhibition of the Gerry Mulligan Collection in the foyer of its Performing Arts Reading Room in recognition of a career that spanned six decades.
"Performing Arts: Broadcasting"—a 209-page hardcover book with 245 illustrations—is available for $47 from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh PA 15250-7954. Cite stock number 030-001-00181-4 when ordering. Copies may also be ordered from the Library's Sales Shop; credit card orders (888) 682-3557.