Simanaitis Says

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NOT THAT there aren’t elements of unreality about this year’s presidential campaigns, but here I present Fantasy Politics, an entertaining blend of fact and fiction. Indeed, mostly fact.


George Orson Welles, 1915 – 1985, American actor, director, producer, writer. Image by Carl Van Vechten.

Orson Welles was a polymath: actor, writer, radio, theater and film producer. His 1938 radio adaption of War of the Worlds brought him notoriety after causing panic among those who mistook it for an actual attack from Mars. His 1941 Citizen Kane (70th Anniversary) redefined movie biopics with its thinly veiled William Randolph Hearst.

During World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent Welles to South America on a goodwill mission; this, to counter fascist tendencies there and preclude Axis collaboration. At home, stirring radio series during the war featuring Welles included Hello, Americans; Ceiling Unlimited; Command Performance and The Orson Welles Almanac. His eloquence was important in War Bond drives raising tens of millions of dollars (hundreds of millions in today’s value).


Welles and Col. Arthur I. Ennis, head of the public relations branch of the U.S. Army Air Forces, discuss Ceiling Unlimited radio series, 1942.

Welles was active as a political Progressive and strong supporter of FDR. During the 1944 presidential campaign, Welles spoke at New York’s Madison Square Garden, accompanied by Helen Keller and Vice President Henry A. Wallace (being dumped that year for Harry S Truman). In her biography Orson Welles, author Barbara Leaming describes crowds calling out after the rally, “Wallace and Welles in 1948!”


Orson Welles, a biography by Barbara Leaming, Limelight, 2004. Amazon says, “Though clearly biased toward its subject, this book benefits considerably from Welles’ wit and charm.” My view: I’d prefer his fabrications to those of some biographer.

Leaming says that Roosevelt had advised Welles to seek a seat in the U.S. Senate, something he considered in 1946. Welles lived in California at the time; other options besides running in this state included establishing residency in New York or his native Wisconsin. However, he chose not to exercise any political ambition.

In the U.S. Senate elections of 1946, Republican William F. Knowland was reelected in California. Irving M. Ives, another Republican, won in New York. And in Welles’ native Wisconsin, Progressive Robert M. La Follette, Jr., lost to Republican Joseph R. McCarthy; he, of McCarthyism.


A famous erroneous newspaper that never existed.

During the Red Scare madness of the 1950s, Orson Welles was one of the people named in the Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television. An example of Fantasy Politics of another sort entirely.

Maybe you have some favorite Fantasy Politics too? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016


  1. Larry Crane
    March 31, 2016

    I think the only positive result of “The Red Scare” was the Marshall Plan. Our money trumped Russia’s money west of the ferrous drape and kept “the new Nazis” out — mostly.

  2. Larry Crane
    March 31, 2016

    Welles would have made some interesting history as a national leader.

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