Thursday, October 30, 2008

70th Anniversary of Radio's "The War of the Worlds"

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" (aired: October 30, 1938)-- Orson Welles and company's Halloween Eve "fright."

It's so inconceivable in the age of Photoshop and YouTube hoaxes, to think that anyone believed this was a real news report, but there is a definite realism about it (the first half, anyway).

Orson Welles told Peter Bogdanovich (regarding his beforehand feeling of the kind of response the broadcast would get): "The kind of response, yes— that was merrily anticipated by us all. The size of it, of course, was flabbergasting. Six minutes after we'd gone on the air, the switchboards in radio stations right across the country were lighting up like Christmas trees. Houses were emptying, churches were filling up; from Nashville to Minneapolis there was wailing in the street and the rending of garments. Twenty minutes in, and we had a control room full of very bewildered cops. They didn't know who to arrest or for what, but they did lend a certain tone to the remainder of the broadcast. We began to realize, as we plowed on with the destruction of New Jersey, that the extent of our American lunatic fringe had been underestimated."

John Houseman in his memoir Run-Through: "The... hours [following the broadcast] were a nightmare. The building was suddenly full of people and dark-blue uniforms. Hustled out of the studio, we were locked into a small back office on another floor. Here we sat incommunicado while network employees were busily collecting, destroying, or locking up all scripts and records of the broadcast. Finally the Press was let loose upon us, ravening for horror. How many deaths had we heard of? (Implying they knew of thousands.) What did we know of the fatal stampede in a Jersey hall? (Implying it was one of many.) .... Hours later, instead of arresting us, they let us out a back way and we scurried down to the theatre like hunted animals to their hole...."

You can download the broadcast at the Internet Archive.

Link to Wikipedia page.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I remember as a teenager in the 80's buying the audio recording of "Worlds". Very interesting to think about those who listened all those years ago and believed what they were hearing was an actual invasion.