It was Sunday, the night before Halloween, and Orson Welles was on the radio…
📆 In 1938, October 30 was on a Sunday, too
🇺🇸 There was a war scare in America, as Hitler had just invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia. People even feared a nazi attack.
🎭 Television was still years away, so the main entertaining unit in the living rooms was the 📻 radio. A few broadcasting networks were competing. CBS had a 8-9 PM segment broadcasting live-radio theatre on Sunday nights, from the Mercury Theatre studios in New York. The broadcast was available coast-to-coast through the network. An estimated 1 million audience tuned in that night
🎃🎃 23-year old Orson Welles, an employee at CBS, was directing that night’s piece, an adaptation he fought for and got approved based on “The war of the worlds”, the 40-year old H.G. Wells novel first published in 1898. Young Welles made sure the script is dramatic to the point of credibility, while having 4 disclaimers being read during the broadcast, indicating it was not a real situation but a fiction.
🎙The broadcast was such a scare that -following calls to the staion by panicked listeners – there was an attempt to take the show off the air before the half break. Welles resisted and completed the broadcast.
📰🗞Thousands of newspaper articles were published in the next month about how the radio show got the Americans out in the streets, thinking there was an invasion
📺 In 1957, almost 20 years later, CBS used the radio story for a TV program. It is fascinating, as they re-created the 1938-era radio studio for the program.