|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
|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.
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.
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
The company rehearses Treasure
Island, the second program in The
Mercury Theatre on the Air series,
presented July 18, 1938.
|On the 30th of October 1938 Orson Welles caused a
nationwide panic with his broadcast of "War of the
Worlds" a realistic radio dramatization of a
Martian invasion of Earth.