The disease pellagra and its cause niacin deficiency are no laughing matter. But this 1944 US government-written radio play most definitely is.
Coming in at a whopping six pages, this affords us the chance of reading the whole dang play.
Pellagra is a serious disease still prevalant in certain parts of the world. The major symptoms are dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia. Which this website neatly termed “the three Ds”. It will indeed kill you if left untreated.
Pellagra reached epidemic proportions in the American South from the early 1900s right up until World War II. Many researchers believed a germ or toxin in the corn caused the disease. However, Dr. Joseph Goldberger was able to establish it was some type of deficiency in the diet, but was unable to establish what type of deficiency.
This has been dramatized by the Science Channel below:
It wasn’t until 1937 that researchers figured out that niacin could cure pellagra.
Corn must be nixtamalized in order to gain the niacin necessary to treat pellagra.
In 1944, the War Department produced a short drama about pellagra.
While pellagra makes for a terrible disease, it also makes for corny radio theatre…
Above: possible allusions to the dermatitis aspect of the disease.
“I wish I was dead!”
“you’re always walkin’ down into the valley”
Holy Hell, Jem’s turning all Lizzie Borden on poor Dave.
Never a good sign.
What could be turning Jem into a possessive psychopathic wannabe axe murderer?
IT WAS THE NIACIN! (or lack thereof)
Applause for what?
The niacin cure may be a modern miracle, this play certainly wasn’t.
The play is available here.
Join us on Monday for more monologues and on Thursday for another unknown playwright.