A Blast From The Past: Orson Welles’s 1938 Broadcast of The War of the Worlds


Since it’s Orson Welles’s birthday and everyone’s kind of nervous about going outside right now, why not experience the live radio broadcast that panicked America in 1938?

Actually, there’s some debate as to just how panicked America got when they heard the Mercury Theater On The Air’s adaptation of War of the Worlds.  There was definitely some panic but there are differing reports on just how wide spread it was.  For our purposes, let’s assume that the entire country was terrified at the same time and that everyone was loading up a shotgun and planning to go out and look for aliens.  One thing is for sure.  With his adaptation of War of the Worlds, Orson Welles managed to invent the whole found footage genre that would later come to dominate horror cinema in the late 90s and the aughts.  Every Paranormal Activity film owes a debt to what Orson Welles accomplished with War of the Worlds.  We won’t hold that against Orson.

H.G. Wells, the original author of War of the Worlds, and Orson Welles only met once.  Interestingly enough, they were both in San Antonio, Texas in 1940.  They were interviewed for a local radio station.  H.G. Wells expressed some skepticism about the reports of Americans panicking while Welles compared the radio broadcast to someone dressing up like a ghost and shouting “Boo!” during Halloween.  Both Wells and Welles then encouraged Americans to worry less about Martians and more about the growing threat of Hitler and the war in Europe.

I’ve shared this before but this just seems like the time to share it again.  Here is the 1938 Mercury Theater On The Air production of The War of the Worlds!

From 1939, it’s Lionel Barrymore and Orson Welles in A Christmas Carol!


This radio production of A Christmas Carol was originally broadcast on Christmas Eve, 1939.  It’s not really Christmas unless you experience at least one version of Charles Dickens’s classic holiday tale and this version features not only Orson Welles providing the narration but Lionel Barrymore playing the role of Scrooge!

Other members of the cast included such well-known Welles’s associates as  Everett Sloane (Marley’s ghost), Frank Readick (Bob Cratchit), Erskine Sanford (Fezziwig) and George Coulouris (Ghost of Christmas Present).  Two years after this broadcast, Welles, Sloane, Sanford, and Coulouris would all appear in Citizen Kane.

For your listening pleasure, we offer up this journey to the past….

Listen to A Christmas Carol!


Now that you’ve had a chance to listen to radio productions of both It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, how about A Christmas Carol?

This version was produced by the BBC and it features Sir Ralph Richardson in the roles of both Scrooge and the storyteller!

From 1965, here is A Christmas Carol!