Wait, wait . . . is that Carl Kasell?

Carl Kasell and Stephen Fletcher

NPR’s Carl Kasell and North Carolina Collection Photographic Archivist Stephen Fletcher examine photographs in the Wilson Library Grand Reading Room, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Photograph by Mark Perry.

Last Tuesday was a fun day at the office.  In the morning, library staff gave Carl Kasell a tour of Wilson Library.  Kassel, a UNC alumnus, returned to Chapel Hill for an evening event sponsored by the library moderated by WUNC radio host Eric Hodge.  Kasell was a member of UNC’s class of 1956 (although he did not graduate, having been drafted into the United States Army after four years as a student).

Kasell’s tenure at National Public Radio began in 1975 as a part-time news announcer for Weekend Edition.  Starting in 1979 he was the voice of the network’s morning news for the next thirty years.  Since retiring from that role at NPR in 2009, Kasell became a “roving ambassador,” and continued as the judge and scorekeeper for the “Oddly Informative News Quiz” Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!, which debuted in January 1998.

As you might imagine, Kasell has received several awards during his sonorous career.  In 2004 the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication inducted Kasell into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame.  In 2010 the National Radio Hall of Fame inducted Kasell into its ranks.  In March 2013 the North Carolina Press Association named Kasell “North Carolinian of the Year” for 2013, and the association made a wonderful biographical video available on their YouTube site.  Despite his stature in journalism, A View to Hugh has not been able to feature Kasell because Hugh Morton hadn’t photographed him, even though he been a co-founder of WUNC radio with Morton’s long-time friend Charles Kuralt.

Or so we thought.

Andy Griffith as Sir Walter Raleigh in The Lost Colony.  Carl Kasell, as Wanchese, is in the lower right corner of the photograph.

Andy Griffith as Sir Walter Raleigh in “The Lost Colony.”  Carl Kasell, as Wanchese, is in the lower right corner of the photograph.

We featured the above photograph a few years ago in a post about the comeback of The Lost Colony after a fire destroyed the production’s costumes and props.  Playing the role of Sir Walter Raleigh (right) is Andy Griffith.  But wait . . . wait!  Who is the fellow in the lower right corner wearing too much face paint?  None other than Carl Kasell!

As seen in the opening photograph, I showed Hugh Morton’s photograph to Mr. Kasell and he confirmed that that indeed was he in the corner.  The reference to too much face paint came from a story Kasell told during Tuesday evening’s event, when Andy Griffith told Kasell he had been a bit heavy handed in the makeup room before dress rehearsal.  Kasell confided that Griffith later helped him with a more appropriate application of face paint, and that Griffith was “a big, big help” during that season. (Kasell’s high school drama teacher was Clifton Britton, not Griffith as is often incorrectly stated on numerous web pages.)

We don’t know if Morton made the above photograph before or after that cosmetic lesson, but we now know the year Morton made the photograph: Kasell said it was 1952 after he had graduated from high school, and 1952 is the only year Kasell’s name appears in the official program.  And because we know what Kasell’s costume looked like, we can now identify other Morton photographs of Kasell.

Lillian Prince and Carl Kasell in The Lost Colony

Lillian Prince as Queen Elizabeth and Carl Kasell as Wanchese in “The Lost Colony,” 1952.

Kasell played the role of “Wanchese, an Indian chief.”  I believe as he looked at Morton’s photograph he dredged up from his memory a couple of his lines: “Mish-wi aga, Wingina” and “Wanchese no more chief.  Wanchese now king.”

Carl Kasell as Wanchese confronts Old Tom

Wanchese confronted by the character “Old Tom” holding his arquebus. “Get out of here, ye knavish rogues! Scat!”  Is this also Carl Kasell?  If so, Frederick Young played the part of Old Tom Harris in 1952.

If you couldn’t make the evening with Carl Kasell, you can watch a video recording of the event, which includes Kasell’s recollections from his performance in The Lost Colony while Morton’s photograph is projected on the screen.  Below is an image from a color transparency from the Morton collection not previously scanned.

Scene from The Lost Colony with Andy Griffith as Sir Walter Raleigh

This photograph is remarkably similar to the one that appears on the cover of the 1953 “The Lost Colony” souvenir program (see below).

1953 "The Lost Colony" Souvenir Program.

Cover of the 1953 edition of “The Lost Colony” Souvenir Program.

But least we think that the similarity between the two photographs means that Hugh Morton made the eventual 1953 cover photograph, too, here is a photograph published on page 35 of the 1952 souvenir program:

Lillian Prince and Carl Kasell pose for photographers

Lillian Prince and Carl Kasell pose during the 1952 annual press photographers day.

The cover photograph could have been made by any of the photographers above. . . . But wait . . . wait, don’t tell me!  Is that Hugh Morton (center right) among the press photographers?!

5 thoughts on “Wait, wait . . . is that Carl Kasell?

  1. A follow up to Clifton Britton. Britton first appears in programs for “The Lost Colony” in 1947 as Stage Manager, and his biographical sketch states that it was his first year with the production. He was Director of the Goldmasquers and head of the Dramatic and Radio Arts at Goldsboro High School, “the largest high school dramatic arts department in the South.” By then he had been at Goldsboro High School for five years and had “complete radio broadcasting facilities, stage and dramatic workshops.” He had also been made an honorary member of the Carolina Playmakers. Britton became Assistant Director of “The Lost Colony” in 1951, Associate Director in 1952, and Director in 1954.

  2. Stephen, the Carl Kasell post is one of the best ever…if not the best ever. Cleverly written with great information plus adding more identifications to the Morton Collection. It doesn’t get any better than that.

    In that final picture, the photographer on the left, standing on the steps is legendary photographer and Hugh Morton contemporary Aycock Brown. Seeing Brown in this image prompted me to check Editor David Stick’s 1976 book “Aycock Brown’s Outer Banks,” and on page 61 there is an image very similar to the second image in this post. The only difference being a tighter shot, slight costume differences and the little girl standing between Griffith and Prince is not the same. The caption for Brown’s photograph identifies the little girl as Page Girl Sylvia Cox, a role she played in 1953. In ’52 she played one of the Colonist Children. So, I think we can assume the book image was taken in 1953. There was likely a press photographer’s day each year and most likely Brown and Morton were there often.

  3. Thanks, Jack. I enjoyed pulling it together. Here’s a few more items. Aycock Brown was the Publicity and News Director for “The Lost Colony starting in 1948. I didn’t have time to look through all the programs to see how long he held that position, but it was into the mid 1950s. Ben Dixon MacNeill, whose negative collection is also in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, served in that role beginning in 1937 or 1938. MacNeill’s negatives are mostly casual snapshots off stage, but there are several promotional shots of Donald Somers playing “Old Tom,” and his photograph “A Modern U. S. ‘Flying Fortress” over Fort Raleigh” circa 1940.

  4. Thanks, Julia!

    I have another interesting discovery that has sprung from this post. While looking to see if any Morton photographs appeared in “The Lost Colony” programs, I found that he was on the Roanoke Island Historical Association board of directors from 1952 through 1961. (The RIHA is the outdoor drama’s producer.) This may explain why no Morton images won honors in the press photographers competitions, nor appeared in the souvenir programs during these years.

    From its inception, RIHA board membership consistently comprised many people of note in North Carolina, and Morton’s tenure with the organization likely served as an important component of his early years in public service. For context, the North Carolina Azalea Festival began in 1948 and the birthing of the USS North Carolina in Wilmington occurred 1961. From 1951 to 1961, Morton served as a member of the North Carolina Board of Conservation and Development under governors W. Kerr Scott, William B. Umstead, and Luther H. Hodges. He was Publicity Director for Hodges’s 1956 gubernatorial campaign and, under Governor Hodges, served as the chair of the State Advertising Committee. Morton’s first year on the RIHA board followed Bill Sharpe’s year as board chairmen in 1951, probably no coincidence. Sharpe began his role of editor and publisher of THE STATE, a magazine in which Morton was a frequent contributor of photographs.

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