Radio Works of Orson Welles & Company
Hello MPIR Fans & Friends,
For the past week or so I have been going through my radio program archives and found some long lost friends. Episodes of Orson Welles Mercury Theater On The Air, and The Campbell Playhouse. Really enjoyable radio entertainment. The mystery stream is featuring my passion forthese shows. However, not just Orson Welles, but his entire radio group. Orson Welles, while very young had the ability to surround himself with talented actors, writers and musicians, sound technicians. Either they motivated and inspired him to great achievement or he inspired them, dependent upon which radio historian you read! I have researched and found radio shows that feature each member of his repertory company.
The following information obtained from Wikipedia:
The Mercury Theatre on the Air (first known as First Person Singular) is a radio series of live radio dramas created by Orson Welles. The weekly hour-long show presented classic literary works performed by Welles's celebrated Mercury Theatre repertory company, with music composed or arranged by Bernard Herrmann.
The series began July 11, 1938, as a sustaining program on the CBS Radio network, airing Mondays at 9 pm ET. On September 11, 1938, the show moved to Sundays at 8 pm.
After the front-page headlines generated by the "The War of the Worlds" (October 30, 1938) — one of the most famous broadcasts in the history of radio due to the mass panic it accidentally caused — Campbell Soup signed on as sponsor. The Mercury Theatre on the Air made its last broadcast December 4, 1938, and The Campbell Playhouse began December 9, 1938.
Paul Holler, writing in Critique, described the program's origin:
"Radio, with its power to excite the imagination and actually involve the audience in the creative process, had huge potential as a medium for serious drama. It seemed inevitable that the day would come when this medium, which had made Orson Welles a household name across the country, would become a part of his serious theater ambitions. That day came in 1938.”
Orson Welles presented a special challenge to the CBS sound effects team, The New Yorker reported. "His programs called for all sorts of unheard-of effects, and he could be satisfied with nothing short of perfection." For the first episode, "Dracula", the sound team searched for the perfect sound of a stake being driven through the heart of the vampire. They first presented a savoy cabbage and a sharpened broomstick for Welles's approval. "Much too leafy," Welles concluded. "Drill a hole in the cabbage and fill it with water. We need blood." When that sound experiment also failed to satisfy Welles, he considered awhile — and asked for a watermelon.
The New Yorker recalled the effect:
Welles stepped from the control booth, seized a hammer, and took a crack at the melon. Even the studio audience shuddered at the sound. That night, on a coast-to-coast network, he gave millions of listeners nightmares with what, even though it be produced with a melon and hammer, is indubitably the sound a stake would make piercing the heart of an undead body.
Only a handful of the original members of his repertory company achieved super stardom, however, while they were young and very serious and having fun at the same time. They produced radio entertainment that will endure for many generations of listeners. All the radio historians talk about Orson Welles, however it was the very talented actors and technicians that made him shine! It is a real pleasure for me to share these fine broadcasts with you, and thank you for inviting me into your listening time!
The MPIR Comedy OTR stream is featuring what I call spin-off shows. The Jack Benny Program, and the spin-off programs of The Dennis Day Show, The Phil Harris & Alice Faye Show. Fibber McGee & Molly and the spin-off of The Great Gildersleeve. All very successful radio programs!