Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THIS IS the 75th anniversary of The Mercury Theater on the Air October 30, 1938, broadcast of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds. A tale oft told, Orson Welles’ radio version was so well done that many were convinced Martians had landed at Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.


Orson Welles, 1915-1985, American enfant terrible, actor, director, writer, producer. Image from the War of the Worlds broadcast, October 30, 1938.

Here, in celebrating the occasion, I share some Wellesiana that might not have been repeated ad nauseam. (See for another.]

For instance, there’s an excellent argument that Welles’ War of the Worlds would have been a yawn were it not for singer Nelson Eddy.


Nelson Eddy, eternally collegiate baritone, 1901-1967, guest on Chase & Sanborn Hour, October 30, 1938.

NBC’s Chase & Sanborn Hour with ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wooden pal Charlie McCarthy owned Sunday radio evenings, 8 p.m. Opposite it on CBS, the arty Mercury Theater on the Air ordinarily snagged less than four percent of radio listeners.

Until Nelson Eddy started heroing his way through “Song of the Vagabonds,” and people started searching around their radio dials. To experience what prompted the dial spinning, check out

Utterly by chance, the station searching coincided with a comforting musical interlude, part of the War of the Worlds buildup—and past the initial mention of it all being fiction.

Through no intent on Welles’ part, many listeners were taken in by the subsequent fake news of a Martian invasion. Reported The New York Times the next day, “At least a score of adults required treatment for shock and hysteria.”


And, of course, written by H.G. Wells. For a fascinating meeting of Wells and Welles, check out

SiriusXM satellite channel 82, Radio Classics, is broadcasting War of the Worlds several times over the next few days. It’s also available from online sources including


The War of the Worlds Murder, by Max Allan Collins, Berkeley Prime Crime, 2005. It’s listed in various formats at and

Max Allan Collins’ The War of the Worlds Murder is a crackling good mystery fiction based on fact. It’s the day of the fateful broadcast. But why is Welles accused of murdering his mistress? And what does Walter Gibson, originator of The Shadow, know? All in good fun—and properly respectful of the era and people.

Another bit of Wellesiana in my collection is a Mercury Summer Theater production of Life with Adam, a wonderful satire of none other than Welles himself. Canadians Hugh Kemp, playwright, and Fletcher Markle, actor/director, captured Welles’ larger than life personality just right—and then poked playful pins into the image.


Life with Adam is part of a Mercury Summer Theater collection at As a single item, it’s also a free download at

Another of my Welles favorites is The Affairs of Anatol, a Mercury Theater of the Air adaptation of the Arthur Schnitzler play. It’s fin de siècle Vienna; Anatol and his pal Max are part of its frothy high society. Those who enjoy the comedic style of Oscar Wilde will love The Affairs of Anatol ( is one of several sources).

Effervescent in a completely different way, the play Orson’s Shadow by Austin Pendleton is also highly recommended. It’s based on actual encounters of Welles, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh (Olivier’s wife at the time) and theater critic Kenneth Tynan.


Orson’s Shadow, a play by Austin Pendleton, L.A. Theatre Works Audio Theatre Collections, 2003. The CD is listed at

The prologue to the L.A. Theatre Works production of Orson’s Shadow promises the glittering madness of two titanic egos—and the play delivers.

Last, Orson Welles: A Biography, by Barbara Leaming, is as near as it gets to an autobiographical view of this complex man.


Orson Welles: A Biography, by Barbara Leaming, Limelight Editions, 2004. The book, a Kindle edition and CD Audio edition are listed at

It’s a two-edged sword that Leaming had full and active cooperation of Welles in writing this 562-page tome. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining that both edges are reasonably well honed. And I’d value Welles’ own prevarications over those of some other biographer. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on October 30, 2013 by in And Furthermore... and tagged , , , .
%d bloggers like this: