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Thread: The War of the Worlds

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    The War of the Worlds

    This past October 30th was the 80th anniversary of one of the most famous and infamous radio shows of all time. On Halloween 1938, Orson Welles and a host of actors presented a radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells book “The War of the Worlds” on his “Mercury Theater on the Air”, a weekly drama presentation on the CBS radio network. The program's format was a simulated live newscast of developing events and included a series of on-location broadcasts from where the Martians landed and what followed. It produced panic among some members of the population, who thought it was real and took action to escape the invading Martians.

    Welles was a genius and the program was very convincingly done – but today it’s hard to imagine that anyone could actually believe that it depicted real events in real time, as the whole narrative took only an hour of broadcast time. One has to place themselves in 1938, with war clouds on the horizon and radio a rather new medium, only a few years old for many people. A live, on-location report from some remote location (that we take for granted today) had only just been introduced and was still rarely used. It has been theorized that some of those duped into believing the invasion was real had switched over from a boring part of another show, and thus missed the introductory material at the beginning of the hour.

    Welles left the studio immediately after the broadcast to work on another show and was only aware that the CBS HQ in New York had been flooded with phone calls. He remained unaware of the full extent of the mayhem until the following morning when he was cornered by the press. He does the best he can to explain what happened (he was only 22 at the time), but is clearly dumbfounded that the show had caused such panic.

    If you have never heard the show, it’s worth an hour of your time.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wa..._(radio_drama)
    Last edited by Skip Lackie; 11-04-2018 at 04:21 PM.
    Skip Lackie

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    President Member Gunslinger's Avatar
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    Back in the ‘70s or ‘80s there were a couple of TV movies along the same story lines but we’re updated to a nuclear attack. One was called”The Day After” but the direct rip-off of the “War of the Worlds” broadcast was “Special Report” or “Special Bulletin” or similar. Even with lots of previous disclaimers and also during the broadcast many didn’t get the word and there was much panic.

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    President Member Colgate Studebaker's Avatar
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    That broadcast scared the hell out of my mother as she didn't realize it was a "show", not the real thing. It was broadcast 11 years before I was born so I've only heard re-broadcasts of it, but it is very worthwhile listening to. Give it a listen, Bill.

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    I had always thought that it was broadcast on Halloween (10/31), not the day before (10/30).
    Gary L.
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    President Member ddub's Avatar
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    KIRO fm in Seattle did a recreation of the broadcast last week.
    Don Wilson, Centralia, WA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Lackie View Post
    today it’s hard to imagine that anyone could actually believe that it depicted real events in real time

    Hmmmm. People being frightened by fiction? Not so hard to believe.

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    President Member j.byrd's Avatar
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    Skip Lackie, we have a big multi-records 33 1/3rd album of this....very neat !

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    Quote Originally Posted by studegary View Post
    I had always thought that it was broadcast on Halloween (10/31), not the day before (10/30).
    Me too. But at the end of the show, Welles says something about tomorrow being Halloween. Missed that the first dozen times I listened to the show.

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    Chief Cat Herder showbizkid's Avatar
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    As a child of the '70s, my favorite version is not Welles' original, but Jeff Wayne's musical treatment with score by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues and narration by the great Richard Burton. When I was a radio programmer, this became a de riguer part of Halloween night - we tracked it in full without fail. Forthwith, a sampling for those interested

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    President Member j.byrd's Avatar
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    Thanks for that Clark ! i didn't know about this version, but anything with Justin Hayward being a part of it is worth owning. I went to my 1st of 3 Moody's concerts just to see for myself if he actually did the vocal that is so long on Tuesday Afternoon or it was an instrument, ha !

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    Worked for a guy in the 60's mounting tires. He relayed to me one time that when he was in the army his battalion was the one that was being wiped by the Martian invasion, he was home on leave and all of his friends were being killed. He thought it was very real and scared the hell out of him. RIP Glenn Crumbling.
    Jerry Kurtz

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    Silver Hawk Member bezhawk's Avatar
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    Wow! you mean people were so gullible that they believed a "fake" invasion was under way? Good thing that couldn't happen now...Oh wait!
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    Golden Hawk Member BobPalma's Avatar
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    An interesting post, Skip. 'Much as radio is panned, listening to something on the radio forces a person's mind to create a picture of what is happening...or happened, in the case of radio newscasts. You have to wonder how much mental exercise is lost by having real-time video in front of us 24/7 as opposed to audio only. BP
    We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

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    "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

    G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    An interesting post, Skip. 'Much as radio is panned, listening to something on the radio forces a person's mind to create a picture of what is happening...or happened, in the case of radio newscasts. You have to wonder how much mental exercise is lost by having real-time video in front of us 24/7 as opposed to audio only. BP
    Reminds me of the 1940s, before we had TV, my sister and I would each go to our rooms and listen to our favorite radio story shows.
    Gary L.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobPalma View Post
    An interesting post, Skip. 'Much as radio is panned, listening to something on the radio forces a person's mind to create a picture of what is happening...or happened, in the case of radio newscasts. You have to wonder how much mental exercise is lost by having real-time video in front of us 24/7 as opposed to audio only. BP
    Someone (who was much smarter than me) said that they liked radio better than TV because the pictures were better.

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    I taught an Audio Production class for six semesters. My primary area was Television Production, but when the economy crashes you take what classes you can get. As a project I opted to divide the class in half and each group was responsible for creating a "similar" situation like “War of the Worlds.” The projects required coming up with a sensational but plausible (at least to the common man) disaster that they are reporting on via radio.

    The students were held to keeping it under an hour and the project had to occur in real time (something the students struggle to grasp). Hence it was a fast moving disaster. They came up with some creative ideas, an earthquake breaks off a portion of California and it begins sinking, Scientist attempt to create a more temperate climate in Las Vegas and overnight the temperature plummets (my favorite line; "I'm in a freezer..., it's the warmest place I can find"). In another project a radio station interviews a lawyer and other panel members regarding an escaped murderer. As a sub plot the A/C in the building is defective. In the end the station goes outside to a reporter talking to protesters at the station. Just prior we hear a door open and a pop sound. As the reporter throws the show back to the interview in the station she comments that things should be cooling down because she sees the A\C repairman has just left. He of course was the murderer posing as the repair man. The last sounds we hear are labored breathing of a dying person.


    It was an enjoyable portion of my time teaching even if I was initially apprehensive about teaching a subject I was “lite” in background and experience with.
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