When Radio Ruled The Waves-Woody Allen's "Radio Days" (1987)-A Film Review
Radio Days, Directed by Woody Allen, 1987
I am a first generation child of the television age, although in recent years I have spent more time kicking and screaming about that fact than watching the damn thing. Nevertheless I can appreciate Director (and narrator) Woody Allen’s valentine to the radio days of his youth. I am just old enough, although about a half generation behind Allen, to remember the strains of songs like Paper Dolls and Autumn Leaves that he grew up with and that are nicely interspersed throughout his story as backdrop floating in the background of my own house.
I am also a child of Rock and Roll but those above-mentioned tunes were the melodies that my mother and father came of age to and the stuff of their dreams during World War II and its aftermath. The rough and tumble of my parents raising a bunch of kids might have taken the edge off it but the dreams remained. In the end it is this musical backdrop that makes Radio Days most memorable to me.
Let’s be clear- there something very different between the medium of the radio and the medium of the television. As Allen’s film poignantly points out the radio allowed for an expansion of the imagination (and of fantasy) that the increasingly harsh realities of what is portrayed on television do not allow one to get away with. There is, for example, the funny sketch here involving the ‘scare’ caused by Orson Welles narration of War of the Worlds. Today the space wanderers would have to be literally in one’s face before one accepted such a tale.
Allen’s youth, during the heart of World War II, was time when one needed to be able to dream a little. The realities of the world at that time seemingly only allowed for nightmares. My feeling is that this film touched a lot of sentimental nerves for the World War II generation (that so-called ‘greatest generation’) whether it was his Jewish families (as portrayed here) on the shores of New York’s Far Rockaway or my Irish families on the shores of North Adamsville, Massachusetts. Nice work, Woody.