In the hype leading up to War of the Worlds, it's probably only right for us to give Orson Welles his due as the first popularlizer of H.G. Wells' seminal science fiction novel. There are so many myths about his 1938 radio drama adaptation of War of the Worlds that teasing out reality can be a little tricky. For example, it wasn't a Halloween prank (the broadcast was actually on October 30), it was thoroughly in keeping with Welles' pioneering style of radio drama (not a purposeful attempt to trick the entire nation) and Welles (despite his denial the next day) knew exactly what he was doing. Orson's radio work is the subject of a new book by my friend and colleague Paul Heyer called The Medium and the Magician, and in it, this radio broadcast is placed (finally) in its correct historical and cultural context.
The broadcast came at a time when America was gripped by fear (sound familiar), fear of some intanglible invading power that threatens civilization (hmmm... sounding even more familiar) and the electronic media had the ability to play the emotions of the population pretty much like a fine-tuned instrument. In today's world of orange alerts and CNN's breathless coverage of the latest fist-pumping speech from their President, the story is even more timely (which probably was a deciding factor in Steven Spielberg's push to make the upcoming movie re-make).
War of the Worlds was not Orson's best radio work, but it was his most well-known. Luckily, there's a website where you can hear just about all of it, so decide for yourself.
|:: posted by Ian Dawe, 6/29/2005|| Comments (0)|
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