It was not uncommon for Orson Welles, American director, actor, screenwriter and producer, to make broadcasts on air. In fact, by October 30, 1938, Welles had already made a name for himself through radio adaptations of popular books, including a 7-week series on Les Miserables. He was dubbed a creative genius whose name was often associated with fame and greatness.
The War of the World Broadcast
However, on that particular night, 23-year-old Welles pushed the creative limits a bit too far as he decided to make an unannounced adaptation of H.G. Wells's 1897 book, The War of the Worlds, on his live time with The Mercury Theatre. This particular project was made more memorable for the realistic use of a news format with the added use of between-breaks dial spinning.
In 1938, there was no way of verifying information, and anything on the radio would be perceived as the truth. The broadcast resulted in unprecedented phone calls to police stations, suicides, and eventual threats. On Halloween morning, Orson Welles' face was on the morning news, accompanied by the fake news broadcast and the panic it inspired. Over the years, in numerous interviews, Orson Welles both pleaded innocence and, at times, hinted that he knew what he was doing.
After the Broadcast
Orson Welles's fame grew after the broadcast and was met with Hollywood offers. Although he initially declined them to continue with radio, Welles eventually made the switch to the big screen. He contributed to a number of movies, including Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Journey into Fear, The Lady from Shanghai, The Stranger, and a 1948 adaptation of Macbeth.
He led a colorful personal life filled with marriages and divorces. He continued his work until his death on October 10, 1985, at the age of 70.