RADIO VOICES: American Broadcasting 1922-1952 by Michele Hilmes

RADIO VOICES: American Broadcasting 1922-1952

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An often evocative study of the sociological impact of the Golden Age of radio. Hilmes (Communication Arts/Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) notes that the years in which radio was the principal source of American mass entertainment and information have been almost completely forgotten by the public and ignored by academics. She believes that radio had just as much of an impact on the way we live as the frequently studied media of film and television, and her study is an effort to redress this imbalance. Not attempting a complete history, Hilmes has cast the book as a series of interlocking but essentially self-contained essays on such subjects as the radio images of immigrants (Rise of the Goldbergs, etc.), blacks (Amos 'n' Andy), and women (the evolution of daytime programming, etc.). This is intriguing material and Hilmes, an admitted radio buff, appears uniquely suited to present it. However, Radio Voices is uneasily balanced between the more casual voice of popular history, with its entertaining anecdotes and emphasis on vivid personalities, and a more rigorous scholarly tone, with its heavy footnoting of sources and extensive, sometimes ponderous analysis. The more scholarly voice often wins out, and this is unfortunate, because Hilmes is at her best when simply telling the lively stories of such forgotten favorites as Gertrude Berg and Mary Margaret McBride. If her often insightful analyses were couched in the same easy tone, she might have had a book that would appeal to a wider audience than she attempts to reach. There is much to admire here, but pop culture buffs may wish that Hilmes could break her academic chains and speak as directly as the radio voices she so clearly loves.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0816626219
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota