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In the House Were I Was Born

Comments on In the House Were I Was Born
mmilam
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Posted 11/24/05 - 11:26 PM:

I just read the description for this episode having heard it myself several times, I'm still kinda confused.

What I am to gather is that the character was somewhat a condut for other people's memories? Or were they simple his own? He says at the end that he is the "Chief of the Dead", which I'm thinking means of the memories of the dead that no one knows?

Anyone who has insight into this please help me, this episode is that good that I'm that passionate about these things.

Oh, and I'm glad I found this site, I'm rather new here.
Paul
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Posted 11/25/05 - 6:41 PM:

The man who speaks to you is the unknown soldier. He lies in the tomb of the unknown soldier, and he tells the stories of several of the unknown soliders he has been.

It's a confusing narrative at first listen, but if you follow it carefully you can tell where the story transitions from one person's story to another's (I believe he starts each new part with "The house where I was born..."). I think there were three distinct houses where he was born, though I'd have to listen again to be sure of the number.

It's a great episode, I don't think there's any other ending that I find as powerful.

Edited by Paul on 11/25/05 - 6:49 PM
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Posted 11/25/05 - 9:36 PM:

Paul wrote:
The man who speaks to you is the unknown soldier. He lies in the tomb of the unknown soldier, and he tells the stories of several of the unknown soliders he has been.

It's a confusing narrative at first listen, but if you follow it carefully you can tell where the story transitions from one person's story to another's (I believe he starts each new part with "The house where I was born..."). I think there were three distinct houses where he was born, though I'd have to listen again to be sure of the number.

It's a great episode, I don't think there's any other ending that I find as powerful.


Just when I thought things couldn't get any weirder, Northern Lights trumps this one. Can someone explain that ending? The narrator says it's cold, and that it's sub-topical in los angeles, and something about a machine being turned on.

These are some werid shows.
MS
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Posted 11/26/05 - 4:11 PM:

There are transcripts of these two episodes over in the Scripts section of this messageboard, if that's any help. "In the House Where I Was Born" is here:

http://www.quietplease.org/forum/comments.php?id=105

And "Northern Lights" is here:

http://www.quietplease.org/forum/comments.php?id=49

I agree with Paul about the script and the ending of "House" -- potent stuff. There's actually more than three houses visited. The first one is apparently Cooper's own house in Pekin, Illinois. The household of mother, grandmother and brother matches his own when he was a kid, judging by the census records. The "C. D. O 1884" carved on the old woodshed is probably from Cooper's uncle Clyde D. Oswald, born in 1884. Betty Wragge plays the mother and The Thing on the Fourble Board herself, Cecil Roy, plays the little boy.

The next house is in New York City. And that's followed by a house in Europe, with Lotte Stavisky playing the distraught lover. Then we're in the Texas panhandle. And then Ireland, where Pat O'Malley plays the brother. Not sure who does the singing in Texas -- might be O'Malley doubling.

Then we cycle through the locations again before coming back to the Pekin house which I'm guessing is now standing in for similar houses everywhere because there's a pack of letters there with the names of battles from the two world wars.

And then our representative soldier is killed in France and we get that remarkable montage of music and voices, followed by The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and that final poetic statement.

Some interesting precursors to "House":

Cooper wrote a script for "Lights Out" (entitled "Lights Out") about a soldier returning home on Decoration Day. It was broadcast as part of the 1945 LO summer revival series and apparently a script survives at the Library of Congress in their microfilmed NBC files.

Cooper wrote another poetic tribute to the Unknown Soldier which was broadcast at least a couple of times in the 1930s and read by actor Hugh Studebaker. The Chicago Tribune radio columnist praised it highly.


mmilam
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Posted 11/27/05 - 8:17 AM:

I might have that episode somewhere in the "Lights Out!" collection that I have. I will say that it is quiet a challenge to listen to the Quiet, Please episodes from '47 because of the scratches, but the quality of the program has me cranking up the sound just to hear it.

The funniest episode is the "How are you, Pal", which didn't make sense at first with me writing three pieces of paper. Later as it go to the end and he says the police at the door, I heard the bang and thought they really were at the door.

I'm either chicken, or this is really good.
Paul
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Posted 11/27/05 - 6:29 PM:

Can someone explain that ending? The narrator says it's cold, and that it's sub-topical in los angeles, and something about a machine being turned on.

As evidenced by them crawling all over Paul, there's a pretty bad overpopulation problem among the caterpillars at the place where the northern lights are. Thanks to the experiment, though, they've figured out where we live and see all our empty space. They can't survive outside of a deep freeze, so they have to convert the Earth into a deep freeze. Once they finish creating their super ice age, they'll move in.

Los Angeles is usually 85 degrees all year round, but now they're getting snow, which indicates that the plan is well underway and it won't be long until we're frozen out in favor of the caterpillars who will from now on rule the Earth.

I try to listen on the coldest night of the year.

The funniest episode is the "How are you, Pal"

I love the audience interaction there. Shame it has some of the worst sound quality (IIRC).

Edited by Paul on 11/27/05 - 6:34 PM
J.Mc.
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Posted 07/21/06 - 1:47 PM:

Does anyone know if the "I am the chief of the dead" poem at the end of In the House where I was born was written by Cooper specifically for this script, or is it a poem he found, and inserted into the episode? (either way, I think this is probably one of the most powerful memorial day tributes I have ever heard, and I can only imagine the effect it had on the original audience, that soon after WWII - I agree completely with the website that compares Chappell's performance to "Norman Corwin delivering one of his finest scripts")

Thanks
MS
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Posted 07/26/06 - 10:36 PM:

If it is a poem by someone else, I haven't been able to find it.

The idea of a "chief of the dead" apparently is used in various religions. One source I looked at says he is the "mythic progenitor of the human race ... a deified human being rather than a god" ... Other sources say that Adam -- "the first ancestor of mankind" -- is the Judeo-Christian "chief of the dead" because "in him all mankind died" ...

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