Thursday, October 30, 2008
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. From the Meridian Room in the Park Plaza in New York City, we bring you the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra."
The sounds of "La Cumparsita" began to fill the airwaves. But within moments, the performance was interrupted by a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News, telling of strange explosions of incandescent gas occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars.
This dramatic approach - a performance interrupted by periodic news bulletins - is how writer Howard Koch adapted H. G. Wells's classic novel The War of the Worlds for radio broadcast. On October 30, 1938, the actors of The Mercury Theatre on the Air, led by twenty-three-year old Orson Welles, presented the adaptation on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Within the first forty minutes of the program, the actors had vividly described Martians landing in New Jersey and decimating the state.
It was Halloween Eve. As Welles explained at the end of the broadcast, the adaptation of The War of the Worlds was a holiday offering - "The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo!" But although CBS made four announcements during the broadcast identifying it as a dramatic performance, at least one million of the estimated nine to twelve million Americans who heard it were deeply scared by that "Boo" - scared into some sort of action.
You can listen to the broadcast by using the
POP-OUT PLAYER in the sidebar. The broadcast is the last item in the playlist. Happy Halloween Eve!
Source: About.com: 20th Century History