Studio One

Season 10 Episode 1

The Night America Trembled

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Aired Sunday 7:30 PM Sep 09, 1957 on CBS
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The Night America Trembled
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The landmark Halloween edition of Orson Welles' weekly radio show created a panic that swept the Nation as the classic tale of a Martian invasion was broadcast to more than 1 million households.

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    • TRIVIA (1)

      • Orson Welles was already established as the boy wonder of Broadway with his revolutionary productions of classic plays. He had moved into radio with a regular Sunday-night dramatic series, for which he was co-producer, director, co-author, narrator and star. On October 30th, 1938, he presented an adaptation of H.G. Wells' science fiction tale "The War of the Worlds", which reported on an invasion of the earth by monsters from Mars. Welles' technique called for a news-type presentation, with simulated on-the-scene reports of the horrifying events from the point of landing in New Jersey. His realism worked too well. Radio listeners by the millions thought they were hearing an actual news broadcast. Their panic became one of the freak events of American history. This one-hour play recreates the event, switching from scenes at the radio studio prior to and during the broadcast, to simultaneous scenes of people in various walks of life in their homes, at a bar, at a police station, in an automobile, in a newspaper office.

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    • NOTES (1)

      • Orson was angry about the 1957 Stdio One play called "The Night the World Trembled." It was a dramatization of the events following Welles famous 1938 "Invasion From Mars" radio drama. The telecast, a highly effective one, told of the panic the program caused with thousands of East Coast residents positive that beings from outer space were invading the United States. "I think it was very unfair for them to put on that show," Welles declared. He was particularly displeased with the quarrel that caused Studio One officials to write his name out of the script. "Yet they impersonated me," Welles fumed, "They used stuff that I wrote and even included expressions that I adlibbed. They did me every kind of disservice." The production was a bone of contention from the start. "I was against putting on the show except as I wanted to do it," Welles stated. "And, I didn't want to do it from the point of view of the broadcast itself. "Someday I'll do it my way, based on the stories and incidents that I know followed my broadcast." Looking back on the famous drama, Welles declared, "For a week after the broadcast in 1938 there wasn't a CBS official in New York. You couldn't find anybody but the elevator boys. And now they want credit for it." Welles felt at the time that his program would scare people. "But, it was a quantitative thing. The effect was greater than I expected. "I feared that people believed everything they heard on radio," he said. "Radio was the voice of God. My purpose was to blow up that myth, to show that radio could lie just like anyone else. "Anyway, we're going to sue" he concluded.

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