|Orson Welles and John Houseman's
The Mercury Theatre On The Air Featuring:
The Mercury Theatre And The Campbell Playhouse.
The greatest radio drama of the 1930's was The Mercury Theatre on the Air first heard as a Summer series of nine shows, on CBS affiliated
stations and in Canada on the CBC. Featuring the acclaimed New York drama company founded by Orson Welles and John Houseman. It
featured an impressive group of talent, including Agnes Moorehead, Bernard Herrmann, and George Coulouris.It was the first time a theater
company brought drama to the radio. The shows featured hour-long dramatizations of classic books.
When the Summer series ended with "The Man Who Was Thursday" on Sept. 5, 1938, CBS continued to sustain the series, until Dec. 4 of that
year. It was during this time that the best known show from this series, in fact, the best known radio show in radio's history, was broadcast, the
radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds".
|Young Orson and his
on October 28, 1940).
A short conversation
between the two men,
originally broadcast on
KTSA San Antonio, Tx.
From 1936 to 1941, Orson Welles had a part in more than a hundred radio drama productions as writer, actor and director. He is considered one
of the outstanding figures in American creative arts. He continued this into the early 1950's.Radio was the platform to his rise to fame. In
September 1937, Orson Welles became the unaccredited lead in the popular radio series, The Shadow. Writer Walter E. Gibson had created the
character for the pulps, The Shadow really grew in popularity due to the radio show. Orson Welles did the scripts with no rehearsal which, along
with his wonderful voice and acting, gave the overtly melodramatic scripts intelligence and urgency that was very different from other adventures on
Orson Welles made many appearances on almost all the major radio shows of the time, as well as continuing dramatic work on such shows as
Norman Corwin's prestigious Columbia Theater Workshop and Suspense.
After the creation of his film, The Third Man, he was offered a radio series to work off the audience recognition of the main character. The Third
Man, subtitled The Adventures of Harry Lime, was done in 1951 - 52, transcribed for America. It features the famous music of Anton Karas. As
Harry Lime, Orson Welles is able to be suave yet duplicitous while working some scam or other for a hasty profit. Lovers of noir and the
hardboiled school will admire Orson Welles' subtle European variation on the theme.
During that same period, Orson Welles found time to do The Black Museum. This was Scotland Yard's "mausoleum of murder," a "repository of
crime." As narrator, Orson Welles walked through the echoing museum, picking a common object and relating its criminal past.
The legendary Orson Welles was a phenomenon in the radio and cinema worlds, but his individual genius was inherently counter-establishment.
Orson Welles railed on against the Hollywood that rejected his genius. He turned entertainment into art. His touch is missed and needed today.