|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
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 the radio.
Orson Welles Show (1941–42), also known as The Orson Welles Theater, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater and the Lady Esther
Show (after its sponsor), is a live CBS Radio series produced, directed and hosted by Orson Welles. Broadcast Mondays at 10 p.m. ET, it
made its debut September 15, 1941. Its last broadcast was February 2, 1942, nineteen broadcasts were produced.
Created each week with the same basic crew, featured music by Bernard Herrmann and a regular cast that included Conrad Binyon, Hans
Conried, Dolores del Río, Brenda Forbes and Blanche Yurka. On many of the shows, Cliff Edwards recreated the voice of Jiminy Cricket
and bantered with Welles between segments. Most of the series was produced while Welles was shooting his second feature film, The
Magnificent Ambersons (October 28, 1941 – January 31, 1942), and many of the cast participated in the Orson Welles Show. On
January 6, 1942, Orson Welles also began filming Journey into Fear.
The November 17, 1941, broadcast marked the debut of The Hitch-Hiker, an original radio play by Lucille Fletcher (wife of Bernard
Herrmann) that has become a classic of suspense. On the broadcast of December 29, 1941, Rita Hayworth was the guest player; this was
the first meeting between Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, who were married in September 1943.
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.
The Mercury Theatre On The Air