It’s May 11th. …
Happy Birthday Irving Berlin!
Your memory lives on in all the beautiful music you created, but if you don’t mind, I want to inform TJP readers on this occasion of a great contribution made by someone few people know of, your nephew, Irving Berlin Kahn.
After World War II, when radio and movies drew the greatest audiences and television was still in its infancy, Irving B. Kahn was pioneering radio advertising for 20th Century-Fox movies.
Those of us old enough to remember either daytime radio soap operas or evening programs such as Gangbusters, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet and many other shows, knew that with a good script, good actors, a great sound effects person, and the listener’s imagination, this was entertainment at its best.
Once shows moved to television, however, actors couldn’t use scripts. They had to learn their lines, their expressions and movements, just as if they were on Broadway. But unlike Broadway, there was a new set of lines to learn each time.
Shows had to be taped so that retakes could be taken when someone forgot their lines. All-in-all, a costly process, that is until Irving Berlin Kahn and two of his associates — one an actor, Fred Barton, and the other an engineer, Hubert Schlafly — invented a device which revolutionized television.
The teleprompter was born in 1950, first used on the set of a soap opera titled The First Hundred Years; it freed actors from having to memorize their lines.
While the original “prompter” was a mechanical device, today’s prompter is truly electronic, allowing the performer to read the lines on the screen as he or she looks into the lens.
Kahn not only envisioned the teleprompter concept, but he also correctly predicted that cable would eventually deliver most television reception. As a believer, he sold his share of the TelePrompTer business, investing in cable and satellite broadcasting.
Perhaps the reason Irving Berlin Kahn’s name is not usually associated with his famous uncle’s is the fact that Kahn was once convicted for bribery which he claimed was actually extortion committed by the other party.
To his credit, however, once released from federal prison in 1974, he bought a successful cable franchise, eventually selling it to the New York Times for $82.5 million and becoming their consultant for another $24 million.
The sale included the stipulation that he would never compete against them.
Irving B. Kahn obviously was a success in his own right. There’s no evidence that he ever boasted of his family connection to his more well-known uncle, Irving Berlin.
The Berlin family could well be proud of both Irvings, another Jewish immigrant success story.
“God Bless America,
Land that I love….”
It’s May 11th. …