Wednesday, March 29, 2017

War of the Worlds

I was just driving back from Brookline to Cambridge and turned on the radio. I was tuned into WMBR, MIT's station, and they were playing Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, the retelling of the 1897 H.G. Wells novel of the same name in which Martians take over the earth.

Originally broadcast on October 30, 1938, War of the Worlds caused mass panic that night among a listening audience who believed that the United States was indeed under attack.

The nationwide uproar spurred CBS to demand Welles read a public statement the following morning and take questions from reporters.

Question: Were you aware of the terror such a broadcast would stir up?
Welles: Definitely not. The technique I used was not original with me. It was not even new. I anticipated nothing unusual.
Question: Should you have toned down the language of the drama?
Welles: No, you don't play murder in soft words.
Question: Why was the story changed to put in names of American cities and government officers?
Welles: H. G. Wells used real cities in Europe, and to make the play more acceptable to American listeners we used real cities in America. Of course, I'm terribly sorry now.

All I can say is, I can see why War of the Worlds scared the crap out of people.