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Before Orson Welles became an innovative director and tried to take Hollywood by storm, the young boy genius worked in radio and the theater. He was the brain behind one of the most talked about moments in radio broadcasting history, a version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds that supposedly incited panic across the country. That legendary broadcast turns 75 this week.
Welles’ version of The War of the Worlds took place in a small New Jersey town on Oct. 30, 1938. As Philly.com notes, the broadcast had inturrupted a Ramon Raquello and His Orchestra’s dance music and began like a breaking news bulletin. “An atmospheric disturbance ... incandescent gas exploding from the surface of Mars ... ‘like a jet of blue flames shot from a gun,’” the broadcast began.
The entire thing was made up, even the orchestra that the bulletin supposedly interrupted was fiction. Still, to this day, it is assumed that the broadcast incited panic around the country.
However, this is a myth that Slate.com attributes to newspapers. The New York Daily News ran a famous headline that read “Fake Radio ‘War’ Stirs Terror Through U.S.” But that wasn’t the truth, as many were actually listening to other programs, mostly on CBS.
No matter. The publicity drew Hollywood’s attention and Welles was eventually brought to the West Coast. He signed with RKO, made Citizen Kane and the rest is history.
image: Wikimedia Commons