The DuPont Company’s radio series Cavalcade of America ran from 1935 to 1953. A 1941 episode, “Down to the Sea,” took some elements of Herman Melville’s life, some of the more biographical elements from his books, and employed considerable invention. It creates a story with Melville at a New Bedford whaling port with the Shaws, setting sail on the Acushnet, jumping ship with his friend Toby and meeting Fayaway, returning home and struggling with artistic versus financial considerations, starting his own family, farming in Pittsfield, the New York Custom House.

The announcer at the start of the program named the scriptwriter as Robert Tallman. William Robert Tallman (1914-1991) made a career out of writing for radio, and is thought by some (for efforts other than this one) to have been among the best; see Abbott, John C. “The Best D**n Writers On Radio: Gil Doud And William Tallman.” Radio Recall. February 2013. http://www.mwotrc.com/rr2013_02/thebestwritersonradio.htm

If one keeps in mind that the half-hour broadcast may, in some ways, say more about 1941 than about 1841 through Melville’s Custom House years (1866-1885), it might provide some diversion in an idle moment.


A play built around the life of Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, will be presented on the Cavalcade of America program this evening. William Johnstone will play the role of Melville in the drama, Down to the Sea, into which will be woven much of the story of Moby Dick.
This will be the final Wednesday broadcast in the Cavalcade series. Beginning on March 31st, the series will be heard on Mondays over the NBC-Red network at the same hour.
Sacramento Bee. March 26, 1941: 29 col 4.

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