May 6, 2015

20,000 Vinyl LPs 38: The War of the Worlds ~ Orson Welles @ 100

The War of the Worlds vinyl LP recording
the 1938 radio broadcast of 
Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre actors
front cover 
photo of album cover by Styrous®

Orson Welles was born one hundred years ago today on May 6, 1915, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He began his career in the theater and his stage manner of acting in his films gave him a hammy style by today's standards but I consider him a brilliant director; his filmography is astounding (link below).    

Orson Welles on March 1, 1937 (age 21)
photo by Carl Van Vechten
(click on any image to enlarge)

His most famous (notorious) oeuvre was on October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre actors terrified the nation with their broadcast on CBS of a dramatization of the H. G. Wells 1898 novel, The War of the Worlds.

Orson Welles, October 30, 1938
CBS radio broadcast 
Associated Press photo

Orson Welles & cast, October 30, 1938
CBS radio broadcast 
Associated Press photo

It was the most infamous radio broadcasts of all time; delivered as a news bulletin, it sent thousands of people into a panic. By today's standard of lightning-fast communication and multiple sources of information it may seem impossible such a thing can happen but it was a simpler time and such an event really did take place (link below to the broadcast on YouTube).

The first two thirds of the one-hour broadcast were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a sustaining show without commercial interruptions, adding to the program's realism. Much of the radio audience was listening to Edgar Bergen and only tuned in to "The War of the Worlds" during a musical interlude, thereby missing the introduction that proved the show was a drama.  

After the broadcast, Welles met with reporters in an effort to explain that no one connected with the War of the Worlds radio broadcast had any idea the show would cause panic. 

Welles with reporters
13 December 1938
Acme News Photos 
Prints & Photographs Division, 
[reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-123456]

Headline for The New York Times, Oct 31, 1938

Editorial cartoon by Les Callan (1905–1986), 
reprinted from The Toronto Star in Radio Digest (February 1939)

Orson Welles actually met H.G. Wells in San Antonio, Texas, on October 28, 1940, two years after his notorious radio broadcast. Local radio station KTSA recorded the conversation. That conversation can be heard on YouTube (link below).

Orson Welles, left, and H.G. Wells, right, Nov. 30, 1940 

The Grover's Mill, New Jersey, landing site is marked by a monument at the current day Van Nest Park in West Windsor Township, New Jersey.

Grover's Mill landing site monument
Van Nest Park 
photo by ZeWrestler

Title page of the original typescript for The War of the Worlds, used in the actual broadcast and featured on the front cover of the catalog for Sotheby's auction of Fine Books, Manuscripts and Original Drawings, dated December 14, 1988.

front cover, Sotheby's catalog
Wednesday, December 14, 1988

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About Orson Welles 

Welles first film was Citizen Kane (1941), which he co-wrote, produced, directed, and starred in as Charles Foster Kane; now, that's impressive. He was an outsider to the studio system and directed only 13 full-length films in his career. Because of this, he struggled for creative control from the major film studios, and his films were either heavily edited or remained unreleased. His distinctive directorial style featured layered and nonlinear narrative forms, innovative uses of lighting such as chiaroscuro, unusual camera angles, sound techniques borrowed from radio, deep focus shots, and long takes

On September 15, 1926, he entered the Todd Seminary for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois. At Todd School, Welles came under the influence of Roger Hill, a teacher who was later Todd's headmaster. Hill provided Welles with an ad hoc educational environment that proved invaluable to his creative experience, allowing Welles to concentrate on subjects that interested him. Welles performed and staged theatrical experiments and productions there. 

Welles had a troubled and difficult childhood. "In some ways, he was never really a young boy, you know," said Roger Hill, who became a lifelong friend.  

His most famous film was his first one, Citizen Kane (1941). This was followed by The Magnificent Ambersons in 1942 and Touch of Evil in 1958. He directed The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and Chimes at Midnight (1966); Shanghai starred his ex-wife, Rita Hayworth.   

On the evening of October 9, 1985, Welles recorded his final interview on the syndicated TV program, The Merv Griffin Show, appearing with biographer Barbara Leaming. "Both Welles and Leaming talked of Welles's life and the segment was a nostalgic interlude," wrote biographer Frank Brady. Welles returned to his house in Hollywood and worked into the early hours typing stage directions for the project he and Gary Graver were planning to shoot at UCLA the following day. Welles died sometime on the morning of October 10, following a heart attack. He was found by his chauffeur at around 10 a.m.

"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone."
- Orson Welles

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The album

The War of the Worlds vinyl LP recording
the 1938 radio broadcast of 
Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre actors
album interior detail
detail photo by Styrous®

The War of the Worlds vinyl LP recording
the 1938 radio broadcast of 
Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre actors
back cover 
photo of album back cover by Styrous®

The album design is a gatefold format. A gatefold cover, when folded, is the same size as a standard LP cover (i.e. a 12½ inch, or 32.7 centimetre, square). The larger gatefold cover provided a means of including artwork, liner notes, and/or song lyrics which would otherwise not have fit on a standard record cover. It is a Duophonic processing of a monaural recording. 

The War of the Worlds vinyl LP recording
gatefold album open (front & back)
photo of album by Styrous®

The War of the Worlds vinyl LP recording
gatefold album open (interior)
photo of album by Styrous®

The War of the Worlds vinyl LP recording
album interior detail
detail photo by Styrous®

The War of the Worlds vinyl LP
photo by Styrous®

The War of the Worlds vinyl LP label detail
detail photo by Styrous®


A War Of The Worlds (Part 1) 13:18
B War Of The Worlds (Part 2) 15:55
C War Of The Worlds (Part 3) 14:06
D War Of The Worlds (Part 4) 14:17


Label: Evolution (3) ‎– 4001, Stereo Dimension Records ‎– 4001
Format: 2 × Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo, Gatefold 
Country: US
Released: 1969
Genre: Non-Music
Style: Radioplay

Released by arrangement with Manheim Fox Enterprises, Inc.
This album has been rechanneled to simulate stereo.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout (Side I: Center Label): 36101
  • Matrix / Runout (Side II: Center Label): 36102
  • Matrix / Runout (Side III: Center Label): 36103
  • Matrix / Runout (Side IV: Center Label): 36104
  • Matrix / Runout (Side I: Run-Out Etched): SE 36101
  • Matrix / Runout (Side II: Run-Out Etched): SE - 36102
  • Matrix / Runout (Side III: Run-Out Etched): SE-36103
  • Matrix / Runout (Side IV: Run-Out Etched): SE-36104

Net links:
Complete 1938 Radio Broadcast  on YouTube  (57 minutes)   

H.G. Wells and Orson Welles Radio KTSA interview on YouTube    

The War Of The Worlds on Film   

The War of the Worlds ~ Jerzy Maksymiuk & Józef Skrzek      

Orson Wells Filmography    

Orson Wells in the theater   


Articles on Orson Welles: 

Rethinking Oson Welles: Wall Street Journal    

How Orson Welles’ narcissism sabotaged his career: New York Post                

He was bigger than life! 
Happy birthday, Mr. Welles, Orson, that is!

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I started the Vinyl LPs series because I have a collection of over 20,000 vinyl vinyl LP albums I am selling; each blog entry is about an album from my collection. Inquire for information here.   
~ ~ ~

Styrous® ~ Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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