Halloween is upon us! Nightrider here.
As of this writing, the original radio broadcast of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” turned 80! On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles premiered an episode for the radio drama series “The Mercury Theatre On the Air” called “The War of the Worlds.” Welles produced and directed the broadcast. For Welles and CBS radio network, it was a Halloween episode; the public flew in a panic. What the populace at the time didn’t know were the introduction and intermission details that mention the PRODUCTION of “War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells. Instead, they heard the chaos performed by Wells and company.
The public’s reaction was panic and chaos. Then it was anger after CBS and Welles apologized for the performance and explained how the production worked. To this day, Welles’ “War of the Worlds” shows how the media controls the populace of a nation; the media STILL controls our lives! At the end of the broadcast, Welles famously describes that the program was the same as someone hiding behind a bush, covered by a sheet and jumps out to say “BOO!” He also says not to worry because the next day is Halloween!
Welles and the original author H.G. Wells met only once met in a lecture in San Antonio, Texas on the second anniversary of the broadcast in 1940. Wells asked Welles if his broadcast was to scare Americans or to have some Halloween fun with them. Welles appreciated Wells’ comment. They also exposed America’s stagnant neutralism with the broadcast because nothing will snap America into getting serious with world events; England was fighting Nazis for one year during WW2 while America was relatively naive about the war during its Great Depression. Wells and Welles’ observation about America’s stagnant neutralism came true on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.
Many media outlets, social and traditional, may promote programs or events so that they receive fame or followers and stuff. However, they will never deliver the quality of an audio performance and the aftermath that Orson Welles created 80 years ago. Welles delivered an audio masterpiece that still stands the test of time. It’s a shame that there will be no one as creative as Welles that can produce genuine masterpieces to the masses.