Thursday, July 6, 2017

Heard a Play: "The Rivalry" by Norman Corwin

Heard A Play: The Rivalry by Norman Corwin, presented by LA Theatre Works, 2009 production (for audio, I do not know about the play).

Dramatic look at the 1858 debates between Lincoln and Douglas. Acted by Paul Giamatti as Douglas, David Strathairn as Lincoln, and Lily Rabe as Douglas's wife Adele. Smippets of debates plus private conversations between the Douglas's and the Douglas's with Lincoln.

Don't listen to the audiobook out loud if only snippets can be heard by passers by. The reason for this is that Douglas's racism is a focus. A neat example of history told through fiction. Although I suppose there are plenty of critics about what Corwin did and did not give his characters to say.

The first debates to be transcribed and printed in newspapers. The 1858 senatorial race made headlines because of the importance of slavery being extended, or not, into the territories. From a modern eye Douglas was a racist prick. He focused on the Union above all and thought blacks were a lower rank of people anyway - Corwin includes several sections of Douglas's speeches where the rails against miscegenation and mongrels. Douglas also wants to get elected and uses half-truths whenever needed. Douglas was a party man.
Lincoln is also a politician. But Lincoln is also Lincoln so of course he will come out better than Douglas. Not a difficult thing to do anyway when Douglas is so easily hung by his own words. Lincoln is full of jokes and stories. His debate style is assured and clam next to a sometimes bombastic and emotional Douglas. He does not travel with his wife like Douglas does. His lawyer income is questioned.

The debates are also the same stuff you hear every 2, 4 and 6 years: Who is more patriotic? Who promises what? Which is them is a liar and cheat? What is being twisted to someone's advantage? The papers are lying about me! That paper told the truth, it's about time! Power, money and reputation are at stake so things get heated.

1. Douglas died at 48 years old.


Todd Mason said...

Douglas thus a cannier version of Trump, with more lined up against him. Certainly Lincoln was fortunate in his presidential election, if in little else...the Democratic Party as rent as the country and John Bell's Constitutional Union Party holding out the faint hope of squinting just enough to get by.

You typo Corwin's name in the headline. Corwin apparently published the play in 1960.

Gerard Saylor said...

I thought I'd fixed that typo earlier.

I'll admit to spacing out during classroom discussions on the political slavery negotiations from about 1840 to the war.