rand’s esoteric otr

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Ports of Call - Persia

July 23rd, 2008

With Presidential candidate Barack Obama visiting Europe and the Middle East, it seemed like a good time to once again delve into a program that highlights how media in the US depicted foreign countries in the past. “Ports of Call”, syndicated circa 1935-36, was produced by the Philip J. Meany Advertising in Los Angeles and mastered at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. The program is similar in style to the popular CBS radio network show "The March of Time" that dramatized current events in a magazine format.

In this episode, we visit the exotic land of Persia, and are treated to three thousand years of the country's history in a brisk half-hour. Highlights include the development of early religious philosophy of Zarathustra (and, yes, an announcer intones, "Thus spake Zarathustra!"), Mohammed, the story of Scheherazade and the Thousand and One Nights, and British conflicts over oil exploration as Persia sought to become more Western, but independent from European influence. Of course, Persia became Iran in 1935, so this show likely pre-dates that change.

"Persia" is a previously uncirculated episode of the series. The Old Time Radio Researchers group has episodes at archives.org of the show, certifying it as complete, but I believe other episodes may turn up since the series is rather obscure. (Program 33, "New Zealand", previously posted on the blog, is another not in the archives.org set.)

This program in the series uses a different theme than two other examples I previously posted in the blog; I suppose the excerpt of the "Nutcracker Suite" sounded more exotic. The show was transferred from an original blue Flexite pressing by Columbia, matrix numbers RR2328 and RR2329; the label doesn't indicate an episode number.

If you're interested in exploring more about how the US viewed other countries, check out my friend Sean Martin's blog, High School Musicals - The Origins, which looks at musicals written especially for performances in schools and local light opera companies.  His current entry, helpfully enough, is The Belle of Baghdad.

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