Thursday, October 27, 2011

A nice honor...

As I was scrambling at the end of last month to tie up loose ends for my autumn trip to Europe, I was delighted – and honored – to learn I was a Finalist in the prestigious 2011 Association for International Broadcasting International Media Excellence Awards in the "International Radio Personality of the Year" and "Most Creative Feature - Radio" categories, for my programs in “The Making of a Nation" series for VOA Special English. 

Special English is a broadcast and web-based service for people learning English around the world. 

“The Making of a Nation” is devoted each week to a different chapter in American history. The programs recognized by the AIB judges involved General Eisenhower leading the D-Day invasion on the beaches at Normandy, and the Home Front during World War Two and how its music reflected the concerns over the war.

Each program is a 15-minute mini-documentary, combining music, historical actuality, and other audio elements, to create an engaging audio- and learning experience for the listener each week. 

Like to hear a sample program? I'll post files of the Finalist programs on my web site in the next few weeks, once I've seen to re-working some elements on the site.  Or just drop a line and I'll send you an mp3 file. Meanwhile, with a big "Thank you" to Ralf Gründer in Germany for posting my Berlin Airlift program on his Berlin Wall web site, this link will take you there. 

If you are in the voice-over field, you'll understand my sending you to this site instead of VOA's, as the compression used there is designed for slow connections and often makes me sound like I've gargled with Drano ;-)

Oh, and if this is your first time listening to Special English, please understand the delivery is intentionally slow to enable those learning English to digest and comprehend. 

Your C-54 awaits on the Tempelhof tarmac!

©2011 Steve Ember

P.S.: I just had to add something to this post, especially if you choose to listen to my Berlin Airlift “Making of a Nation” on Ralf Gründer’s web site.  I’ve long had an interest in the Airlift and the rebuilding of Germany from the devastation of World War Two with the help of the U.S. and its allies, as well as the often murky milieu of post war Vienna and other European capitals…the crucible formed of a populace hungry, desperate, cunningly resourceful, black markets, Iron Curtain, operatives on both sides…you know, the whole Graham Greene “The Third Man” scene.

But back to the Airlift…If you share my interest in this extensive “air bridge” operation to save Berlin from being starved into submission by the Soviet Blockade, let me point you in the direction of a pretty darn good movie by the writer-director-producer team of George Seaton and William Perlberg, who gave us some quite memorable World War Two espionage/adventure films in the ‘60s.  Two of my favorites in that category were the location-filmed “The Counterfeit Traitor” (William Holden, Lilli Palmer, Hugh Griffith, and a superb cast of actors from Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, strong score by Alfred Newman) and the engrossing “Thirty Six Hours” (James Garner, Rod Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, and a strong German supporting cast, great score by Dmitri Tiomkin!).  Too long for a “P.S.” to get into plot synopses, but highly recommended and most definitely on my desert island list for a sun-powered DVD player!

I vaguely remembered a film about the Airlift as I was producing the “Making of a Nation” program on the link in this post. And I do mean vaguely, as in having seen it on late night TV perhaps twenty years ago.  All I really remembered was it was in black and white, and had great shots of C-54s on the approach to Tempelhof.  This week, I finally tracked it down, and would like to recommend it to you.  It was called “The Big Lift” and, turns out, it was an earlier Perlberg-Seaton production, if you follow such things.  It was also an early role for the superb actor Montgomery Clift, with strong performances also by Paul Douglas and the lovely German actress Cornell Borchers.

“The Big Lift” was done for Twentieth Century Fox in 1950 as a semi-documentary and it had a gritty and realistic tone – not surprising, as it was shot in postwar Berlin amidst all the bombed out buildings and showing the narrow air corridors and precision approaches of C-54s into Tempelhof Airport in all kinds of weather.  Beyond that, all military roles with the exception of Sgts. Danny McCullough (Clift) and Hank Kowalski (Douglas) were played by actual U.S. military personnel, pilots, ground crews, etc. on duty in Germany. A nice touch...

If you share my interest in aviation, the Airlift, and postwar Germany, the story is guaranteed to take you along…and of course there is the romance between Clift’s character and the young German war widow played by Ms. Borchers.  But you’re in for a good ride, because the romance does not follow a “predictable” course (especially for films of this era) and the plot takes us into the decidedly seamy side of postwar Berlin. There's also a nice redemption of Douglas' character with the help of a good-hearted German gal.

If I’ve kindled at least a curiosity over the film, it’s a cheap gamble to try it on, yourself. Inexpensive DVDs abound on ebay. But if I’ve kindled an irresistible urge to see it now, and you don’t mind a few commercials you can skip past after five seconds, try it out here and let me know what you think.

Immediate seating in the loges.  Enjoy!  


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