Orson Welles’ Iconic ‘War of the Worlds’ Marks 70th Anniversary on Thursday, October 30
NEW YORK, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire/ — Tomorrow marks the 70th Anniversary of “War of the Worlds,” the groundbreaking radio broadcast that terrified millions of Americans who thought that the fictional audio play was real and Martians were actually landing in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.
The original hour-long broadcast, which aired on the eve of Halloween, October 30, 1938, was part of CBS’s Mercury Theatre On the Air, directed and narrated by Orson Welles, adapted from the H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds, with the audio play written by Howard Koch (writer of Casablanca). It simulated a live news report of a Martian invasion with a series of realistic newscasts seeming to interrupt regularly scheduled programming.
According to Ron Simon, Curator of Radio and Television, Paley Center for Media: “Blurring reality and fiction so seamlessly, Orson Welles established himself as a major artist, and helped to legitimize radio as an artistic medium and major force in American culture.”
As part of the program, a fictional CBS news reporter tracks the Martians progress until he himself keels over …
“Five great machines … They rise like a line of new towers on the city’s west side … Now they’re lifting their metal hands. This is the end now. Smoke comes out … black smoke, drifting over the city. People in the streets see it now. They’re running towards the East River … thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke’s spreading faster. It’s reached Times Square. People are trying to run away from it, but it’s no use. They’re falling like flies. Now the smoke’s crossing Sixth Avenue … Fifth Avenue … a… a hundred yards away … it’s fifty feet …”
The broadcast is said to have been heard by over 6 million people that night. According to historians, various factors contributed to the widespread reaction: Tensions were running high leading to World War II, the convincing natural delivery of the cast, long stretches of commercial free airplay and only three disclaimers during the broadcast clarifying its fictional nature. As a result, the show ignited a reaction of fear and confusion among listeners across the country. News reports cited people fleeing their homes, and police lines flooded with listeners trying to determine the validity of the Martian invasion.
The broadcast, considered one of the great moments in media history, continues to live-on through re-airings, live re-enactments and adaptations all over the world, introducing a new generation to the power of radio.
For more information and to listen to the entire original broadcast, please visit http://www.radioheardhere.com/waroftheworlds.
About Radio Heard Here
Radio Heard Here, a coalition of the National Association of Broadcasters, the Radio Advertising Bureau and the HD Digital Radio Alliance, representing commercial radio stations across America, is a far-reaching, multiyear initiative designed to reignite the public’s passion for radio. Despite the arrival of new communications and entertainment devices within the past 20 years or so, radio has maintained its integral and near-ubiquitous presence in American life. For more information, log on to http://www.radioheardhere.com/.
About Ron Simon
Ron Simon, the curator at the Paley Center for Media since the 1980s is available for interviews to discuss the cultural significance of the “War of the Worlds.” Simon is also an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University, New York University, and Hunter College, where he teaches courses on the history of media. Simon has written for many publications, including The Encyclopedia of Television and Thinking Outside of the Box, as well as serving as host and creative consultant of the CD-ROM Total Television. A member of the editorial board of Television Quarterly, and a judge on the George Foster Peabody committee, Simon has lectured at museums and educational institutions throughout the world. Among the numerous exhibitions he has curated are The Television of Dennis Potter; Witness to History; Jack Benny: The Television and Radio Work; and Worlds Without End: The Art and History of the Soap Opera.
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