Trick or Treat – Welles Peaks – ‘The Stranger’ and PBS’s ‘War of the Worlds’ – NYTimes.com

Disturbing Aliens, Some From Space

Welles Peaks: ‘The Stranger’ and PBS’s ‘War of the Worlds’

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Orson Welles in 1938, rehearsing for “The Mercury Players on the Air,” the radio show behind his “War of the Worlds” broadcast that same year.

By DAVE KEHR

Published: October 24, 2013

It was all Nelson Eddy’s fault. Seventy-five years ago, at 8 o’clock on the evening of Oct. 30, 1938, millions of Americans tuned in their radios to listen to NBC’s “Chase and Sanborn Hour,” a popular variety show starring the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy. When Bergen and McCarthy finished their first sketch — a routine about trick-or-treating — the announcer passed the microphone to Eddy, a booming baritone then starring with Jeanette MacDonald in a series of MGM operettas.

But when Eddy went into a thumping martial tune, “Song of the Vagabonds,” some of those millions went station surfing, and turned the dial to NBC’s less popular rival CBS just in time to hear a dance program interrupted by a special news bulletin. A Chicago astronomer had reported observing “several explosions of incandescent gas” on the planet Mars. Mysterious objects were moving toward Earth, “at enormous velocity.” A huge flaming object, believed to be a meteorite, had crashed into a farm near Grover’s Mill, N.J., 22 miles from Trenton.

via Welles Peaks – ‘The Stranger’ and PBS’s ‘War of the Worlds’ – NYTimes.com.

orson-welles-directing+on+CBSScreen Shot 2013-10-29 at 10.56.38 AM

10 Comments »

  1. I have the broadcast on CD somewhere.Lord knows where i found it now.Always loved the story.
    I like in fact both films made around The War of The Worlds as well.I recall some sort of TV show as well.
    One day however I hope someone dares to do the story,set it in England and in correct period.After all Verne has to by knowledge been done in period.Why not Wells.
    Here a useless fact for you.HG had a very squeaky voice.

  2. Yesterday, which was the 30th down here, the radio station I listen to in the afternoon played the whole radio play! Wonderful stuff. 🙂 It’s been a long time since I listened to it. It reminded me of the radio commentary we get here during bushfires. It might not be affecting you personally or immediately but there is a rising sense of anxiety as to what will happen.

    As I was listening I could really imagine the fear the unsuspecting listeners felt at the time. Imagine if they had the social networking that we do now, twitter would have exploded! 🙂

    • There is an edge that listening to a broadcast lends that make it even scarier — even if you’re right there and experiencing it.
      And, if you’ve figured out the mysteries of twitter you’re going to have to explain them to me 😉 .

  3. I could imagine it too and you give it an unusual context.Those were different times and maybe people were a lot more naive about what lay out there in space and the Planet Mars.About this time a prominent British astronomer was promoting the idea that there were canals on Mars,so it may not have seemed so far fetched in those pre-space flight days.

    Even today you can find people who believe in outlandish theories regarding space.Think of the very recently promoted idea that last year the Earth was going to collide with Planet X.It did not seem a problem for true-believers that even days before impact no one could see it.

      • oh he was quite amazing as a raconteur, I remember him being on TV quite a lot when I was a kid. He had to do all those terrible ads too of course, for Brandy and, well for almost anything. He did one in the UK once for frozen peas (!) and the director of it was young and a bit dumb. Made the mistake trying to direct Orson’s voice work and expression. There is an old recording somewhere (the audio only -see below) Tried to direct Orso to sound more “serious” or something, about frozen peas. The great man did not give him an easy time. Was not prepared to compromise, even on a hack job for peas. Sign of a great artist of course, but the recording is quite hilarious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol5RpDEzLzY
        I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the book. I’m a big fan. 🙂

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