March 30, 1951 – What this week sounded like in 1951, and a look at Hollywood at a crossroads. A week loaded with drama – from hearings on Organized Crime to the Korean War to the Cold War to The Oscars (which took place at the end of March). From Capitol Hill, The Kefauver Crime Commission hearings were continuing and revelations that bookmaking was a huge business and the stunned reactions from people who had no idea such things were going on and that most everyone was honest. The stories of graft and corruption made for riveting watching and listening as the hearings were broadcast to the nation and the implications of this seedy side of American life brought into question our moral fibre and our standing in court of World opinion (yes, we cared about those things sixty-eight years ago). Senator J.William Fulbright noted that the collapse of most all the great civilizations of the past was the result, not of external forces but of domestic corruption, and he was afraid we were heading down that same road. That a democracy could recover quickly from physical or economic disaster, but when its moral convictions weaken, it becomes easy prey for the demagogue and the charlatan.
In other news – Argentina’s Juan Peron made claims that his scientists, headed by Austrian-born Dr. Ronald Richter, had discovered a new way of creating Atomic power without the use of Uranium. Peron claimed it was done by a thermo-nuclear method, similar to that of the sun. Scientists (including an interview with Enrico Fermi) doubted the claim, but held off judgement until further research was done.
And the subject of our Military strength as a deterrent to the Cold War was being asked and debated. The war in Korea was continuing without pause, while the human cost was being reported.
Since this week in 1951 also included The Academy Awards, a special report on the then-current state of Hollywood predominated the second half of this hour – the issue of inflated budgets, dwindling box office, the fact that Hollywood had become only a name and no longer an actual place, along with the growth of that new medium of Television made for an interesting look at where our culture was heading in the 1950s.
A lot of ground was covered in this episode of Hear It Now, presented by Edward R. Murrow and CBS Radio news. Much of it echoes what our current state of concerns are – the fact that, as much as things have changed in the 68 years since this broadcast, much has remained the same. It further provides evidence that history often repeats – maybe in different guises and intentions, but it repeats.