The Medium and the Magician: Orson Welles, the Radio Years, 1934-1952 (Critical Media Studies: Institutions, Politics, and Culture)
Few twentieth-century artists are renowned in such a variety of media as Orson Welles. Well known for his work in film and theater as director, actor, and writer, Welles's influence in the field of radio has often been overlooked for the more glamorous entertainment of his movies. The Medium and the Magician is a comprehensive review of Welles's radio career, devoted to assessing his radio artistry and influence in the field. Paul Heyer offers a new look at the infamous War of the Worlds panic broadcast and a discussion of how Welles's use of sound in radio influenced his motion pictures.
his theatrical ventures with Houseman. He would later tell Peter Bogdanovich, “without a single radio listener having ever heard my name, I was taking home $1,500 weekly.”25 When doing promotions for the program and its various spin-offs—the magazine, a comic strip, and various fan clubs—he would appear in black, with a Lone Ranger type of mask, a cape, and wide-brimmed hat. By year two of the series, with his theatrical notoriety burgeoning, it behooved both the network and sponsor to let the
cozy it can make us in winter, especially in places like Buffalo that are experiencing heavy blizzard conditions—some things never change. The Shadow’s characteristic sign-off, almost as famous as his introduction, was no doubt geared to convince younger listeners to stay on the straight and narrow: “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay. The Shadow knows . . . ha, ha ha.” Again, it is not Welles’s voice, but the one that opened the program. Early the following year an episode
valuable creative outlet for Welles. The new artistic direction helped offset problems in the previous one. As Mercury geared itself to the airwaves, its theatrical incarnation was experiencing setbacks. The second season was supposed to unfold with Five Kings, an ambitious Shakespeare adaptation, and William Gillette’s Gay Nineties farce, Too Much Johnson. Reversing the order seemed wise. Five Kings was an elaborate and expensive production, which, it was thought, would benefit from a lighter
was consigned to be immolated with her deceased husband. The reserved Fogg, although falling passionately in love with her, cannot indicate these feelings until the voyage is almost over, and only after she proposes to him! In the finale, Fogg, after having spent his fortune trying to win the wager, believes he has failed by fifteen minutes . . . only to find out that he gained a day because of the logistics of crossing the international dateline west to east. Welles tries to explain the theory
studio worlds in which he could extend his talents. The opening logo of their films must have seemed like a clarion call, urging him to bring ideas from his previous medium to this new one: a tower beeping signals into the ether while the words read “An RKO Radio Picture.” The three letters signify Radio Keith Orpheum; the latter two representing a vaudeville theater chain. The studio was launched under the three-letter moniker in 1928, as a result of wheeling and dealing by Joseph P. Kennedy,