Newsreeland

JOHN ‘HOSBV is widely known for his syndieated column “Radio in Review.”His article “Radio and Who Makes It" appeared in the January, 1948, Atlantic.

FILMS

by JOHN CROSBY

ABOUT six months ago one of the I U.S. Army ocenpalion officers in Japan wrote the War Department pleading for newsreels more representative of American life. “There must be some ot her activity in the United States besides ski jumping,” wrote this desperate officer.

Well, as a lifelong resident of Newsreeland, I have no idea what sort of life they lead in the U.S.A., but I resent the implication that we in Newsreeland do nothing but ski jump. We have a number of other activities, most of them deathdefying, Almost any typical male inhabitant of Newsreeland, for example, spends a good part of his day clinging to a rope at ihe end of a Kris-Kraft, skimming across the blue waters of beautiful Lake Onadonga at what our official historian, Ed Thorgcsen, refers to as “thrill-packed speeds.”Usually there is a pretty girl on our shoulders and invariably there are a dozen other lovelies riding the Kris-Kraft.

There are no seasons in Newsreeland. We’re on a surfboard one minute, a bobsled the next —• so the rest of the thrill-packed day presents an unusually large choice of activities. We’re likely to go parachute jumping, steeplechasing, midget car racing, or — a recent fad that passed quickly —swan diving off blimps. The inhabitants of more sedentary lands, I understand, go in largely for golf and tennis, but here we insist on (again quoting Mr. Thorgcsen) “king-sized thrills.” If it isn’t kingsized, the hell with it. Incidentally, the average Newsreelman has to have on hand a rather staggering supply of equipment—javelins, Pogo sticks, polo ponies, iceboats, Kris-Krafts. (Blimps are optional.)

However, you would be wrong in assuming that we in Newsreeland worship sports to the exclusion of all else. We are great lovers of beauty, particularly in a bathing suit. While the men are out bobsledding, the girls are winning beauty contests, usually beside a swimming pool to the accompaniment of a dance band. Dropping in at what George Putnam refers to as a “breath-taking display of feminine pulchritude” — a phrase he picked up somewhere — you will note that all our girls are about eighteen, all are entrancingly beautiful, and all are built along the general lines of Rita Hayworth. We have nothing bul beautiful women in Newsreeland and none over eighteen. At their nineteenth birthday, the girls are dispatched to the gas chamber, their usefulness at an end.

If the girls are not in a beauty contest, you may find them modeling in a fashion show. Now fashion shows, I understand, are not uncommon in the outside world, but ours are a little different. Where else can you find bathing suils made entirely of ermine? Wc have male fashion shows featuring mink smoking jackets. Not long ago we displayed the New Look as it pertained to nine-year-old quadruplets. (Lots of nine-year-old quadruplets in Newsreeland.) Because we’re so athletic, we devote entire fashion shows to what the well-dressed bicyclist will wear this season. A girl would be shot dead by Adelaide Hawley if she got caught in the same garment next season.

We even have fashion shows for monkeys, and that leads to another rather unusual aspect of Newsreeland. The humans in our land are too busy diving off blimps to earn a living. The monkeys do all the work here. Most phenomenal little beasts you ever met. They run little stores, carry and deliver bundles on bicycles, and even have their own fire department which goes clanging to spectacular little blazes at which one monkey dressed in a skirt jumps from the fourth floor into a net held by six monkeys in red hats. Cwaziest thing you ever saw. We’re animal-happy, anyhow. We have an especial love for Saint Bernards that have just given birth to twenty-six little Saint Bernards, fox terriers that have carried babies out of burning houses in their teeth, and cats that adopt lion cubs.

I don’t like to leave the impression that we don’t have our troubles in Newsreeland. We do. Floods, for example. We have floods in the spring and million-dollar fires all year long. When we’re not extinguishing fires or stemming floods, chances are you’ll find us at a cherry festival. We’re the greatest little festival at tenders you ever saw — cherry festivals, apple festivals, pecan festivals, all kinds of festivals. The climax of each comes when we bury a pretty girl up to her ears in oranges or whatever we’re festivalizing. And, of course, we never miss the Rose Bowl, the Mardi Gras, or the Mummers Parade.

One of us is always winning a quarter of a million dollars in a sweepstakes. “I was shaving when the telegram came,” we say, blinking shyly into the cameras.

The language of Newsreeland is a rather extraordinary offshoot of English, consisting almost entirely of exclamation points: “Wind-driven scooters scoot ing along at breakneck speeds on Lake Geneva! A thrill a minute in these fast-action ice races! . . . Something brand-new in Far North rescue! Parachuting huskies that jump from planes to speed the removal of air-crash victims in frozen wastes!

. . These daring skiers put on a spectacular show as they speed down the snow-clad Alps at a breakneck, mile-a-minute clip! . . . Dick Button, figureskating ace from Englewood, New Jersey, sweeps to another victory for the red, white, and blue!” Every horse race is referred to as a “turf classic" and almost everything else is an “eye-filling spectacle.”

There is a legend that the first newsreel was a shot of Admiral Dewey’s battleships entering Manila Bay. Whet her or not it’s true, it’s a fact that battleships play a far more important role in Newsreeland than they do in modern sea warfare.

We like to watch them proceeding single file over the bounding main (another of our phrases) while Lowell Thomas talks impressively about our armed might. Suddenly the big guns wheel massively and go boom at an imaginary enemy across the horizon. The admirals may be able to dispense with battleships but we couldn’t get along without them.

In fact, the perfect newsreel shot — one you’ve been probably waiting for these many years during which newsreels have presented their singularly unvarying fare — is one in which a dozen battleships in single file would unlimber their fourteen-inch guns. Out of each gun would shoot a pretty girl who would do a swan dive over the horizon. The menfolk of Newsreeland — every lithe, bronzed, athletic one of us — would be water skiing from the rear end of the battleships while brass bands composed entirely of monkeys would tootle away on poop decks. That ought to sum up our activities fairly well in about thirty seconds and you of the outside world could settle down happily to the feature picture where by comparison life is presented in much more stark and accurate outlines.