history meme: 02/10 moments | Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” Radio Broadcast
On the night of October 30, 1938, families everywhere were gathered around their radios for another episode of CBS’s Mercury Theater On The Air. The evening’s episode was a radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic War Of The Worlds, in which the Earth is invaded from outer space and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, The story was familiar to many, but was about to be presented in a way that had never been heard before. Instead of simply telling the story, the broadcast presented it as a series of newscasts that interrupted “regular programming” to describe a martian invasion that started in a small town in New Jersey.
While the live news format had been used in radio drama before, it had never been done as realistically or for as long without commercial interruption. The episode prompted many listeners to flee their homes and call friends and family for verification, suggesting to many that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. While somewhat primitive by today’s standards, the broadcast was far ahead of its time and was an early demonstration of the power of radio for both news and entertainment. [more]