War of the Worlds 75th Anniversary: from SCPR & George Takei

Series produced by KPCC

Series image
Image by: Michael Uhlenkott/unknown 

October 30, 2013 is the 75th anniversary of the world's most famous radio broadcast, the Orson Welles/Mercury Theatre production, "The War of the Worlds." Your station wants to rebroadcast the classic, but you've probably discovered you'd have to pay licensing fees to the family of writer Howard Koch to do so. Well, Southern California Public Radio is distributing a rights-paid, radio-friendly version of the original 1938 CBS broadcast. There's also a new documentary from R.H. Greene, "War of the Welles," telling the back-story of the production, correcting many myths, and explaining why it works as a radio broadcast.

Both the 1938 rebroadcast and the new documentary are introduced by sci-fi icon George Takei, star of the "Star Trek" tv and film series. And best of all, both programs, produced by SCPR's John Rabe, are available free of charge to any station.

1938 "War of the Worlds" rebroadcast: 3 segments and promo now available
"War of the Welles" documentary: Teaser now available.

(Our license to air the 1938 "The War of the Worlds" expires November 4, 2013. The documentary "War of the Welles" may be run after that date.)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SCPR TO DISTRIBUTE ORSON WELLES’ “THE WAR OF THE WORLDS” INTERNATIONALLY, WITH COMPANION DOCUMENTARY “WAR OF THE WELLES”

(LOS ANGELES) – To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the most famous radio broadcast of all time, Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) is distributing Orson Welles’ original “The War of the Worlds” and a companion documentary internationally, introduced by an icon of science fiction, actor George Takei. The list of participating broadcast entities already includes the BBC and Minnesota Public Radio.

“The War of the Worlds” was first broadcast October 30, 1938, to millions of listeners on the CBS radio network. While many thought it was an actual invasion; most listeners simply drew closer to their radios to hear a chilling tale told with all the realism of a live news event. It had never been done before, and “The War of the Worlds” changed mass media forever. In many ways, it was the blueprint for Welles’ “Citizen Kane,” released three years later.

“Everybody’s heard part of the broadcast,” says SCPR’s John Rabe, executive producer of the rebroadcast. “But many people have never heard the whole thing; or it’s been a long time. Listening again, hearing the Martian attack unfold, you can almost feel the Mercury Theatre cast members’ fear of the impending war in Europe and the Pacific. And listening today, especially Welles’ narration of the destruction of New York City, you can’t help but think of 9/11. And as George Takei says in his introduction, "nobody, not Edward R. Murrow, Paul Harvey, Ira Glass or Howard Stern, has ever done radio better."

75 years after Welles took advantage of a nascent news environment, stock markets are being moved by fake Tweets, viewers flock to TV shows which re-imagine current events, and audiences are fishing through breaking news alerts on platforms all around them. The lessons of tbe hysterical reaction to the broadcast are still vital. “I was only 1 when the ‘War of the Worlds’ was first broadcast,” says Takei, a Japanese American who was interned with his family during World War Two. “But I remember my parents and their friends talking about it. And when you think about how many Americans honestly believed the Martians were invading, it’s not hard to understand why Americans would – just a few years later – be so paranoid as to think Japanese American citizens, who’d lived here for generations, could suddenly become America’s enemy simply because they happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Screenwriter Howard Koch (“Casablanca”) adapted H.G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds” for the production, and many members of the Mercury Theatre made significant contributions to the broadcast, but only Orson Welles – known chiefly until then as the voice of “The Shadow” – could pull it all together, like a great conductor leading an orchestra.

Rabe, host of SCPR’s “Off-Ramp” and producer of the NPR/ARW documentary “Walking Out of History,” says, “the CBS broadcast itself is in the public domain, but the Koch family holds copyright to the script. So we’re covering the license fee stations would otherwise have to pay.” SCPR is distributing “War of the Worlds” internationally (except for Australia), free to any radio station, through PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

As a companion to “The War of the Worlds,” SCPR is also distributing a new documentary on the radio production, “War of the Welles,” by R.H. Greene. Greene’s work includes “Airborne: A Life in Radio with Orson Welles,” the first radio documentary to assess Welles’ full radio career. With new interviews, including Welles expert Leonard Maltin, plus archival sound from his vast collection, “War of the Welles” will tell the backstory of “The War of the Worlds,” show why it works so effectively as a radio show, and debunk more than one myth about the production.

In "War of the Welles," Greene writes, “We remain fascinated not only because of the broadcast's dramatic impact, but because of the story behind the story. By sending terrified masses into the streets convinced a Martian attack had been launched, the Mercury ‘War of the Worlds’ taught us something deeply disturbing about ourselves: that no matter how sophisticated the tools of communication become, the trust we place in them, and the limitations of human perception, can make people susceptible to believing just about anything.”

Legal: This is Southern California Public Radio’s version of the 1938 Orson Welles/Mercury Theatre broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.” SCPR has purchased the international (except Australia) rights to distribute the program from the family of Howard Koch. This license expires on November 4, 2013. Any station may use it for free until November 4, 2013. Any subsequent use must be negotiated with SCPR and the Koch family.

Hide full description

Both the 1938 rebroadcast and the new documentary are introduced by sci-fi icon George Takei, star of the "Star Trek" tv and film series. And best of all, both programs, produced by SCPR's John Rabe, are available free of charge to any station.1938 "War of the Worlds" rebroadcast: 3 segments and promo now available"War of the Welles" documentary: Teaser now available.(Our license to air the 1938 "The War of the Worlds" expires November 4, 2013. The documentary "War of the Welles" may be run after that date.)FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESCPR TO DISTRIBUTE ORSON WELLES’ “THE WAR OF THE WORLDS” INTERNATIONALLY, WITH COMPANION DOCUMENTARY “WAR OF THE WELLES” (LOS ANGELES) – To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the most famous radio broadcast of all time, Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) is... Show full description


Additional Files

1 Piece

Order by: Newest First | Oldest First
Piece image
New documentary from R.H. Greene, "War of the Welles," telling the back-story of the production of "War of the Worlds", correcting many myths, and ...

Bought by KUHF, WVBI-LP, WCAI / WNAN, XRAY.fm, KJZZ and more


  • Added: Oct 01, 2013
  • Length: 49:28
  • Purchases: 31