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Orson Welles Behind the Scenes of ‘War of the Worlds,’ 1938

All about the infamous 1938 Halloween broadcast.

Orson Welles War of the Worlds
31 Oct 1938 --- Actor Orson Welles explains the radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds to reporters after it caused widespread panic. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Orson Welles is remembered as one of the best and most influential filmmakers ever. Before “The Third Man” and “Citizen Kane,” however, Welles made a name for himself in radio, most notably in his adaptation of H.G. Well’s alien invasion novel “War of the Worlds.”

Instead of turning the book into a standard radio drama, as was common at the time, Welles presented the novel as a real life alien invasion through fake news broadcasts. This caused some minor panic in New York as the story was broadcast, and is seen by many as the first widespread hoax/”mockumentary” to come out of broadcast media.

While the prank definitely outraged many, it served to cement Welles as a deeply skilled dramatist and one of the more innovative storytellers of his time. Of course, Welles would go on to make “Citizen Kane,” often considered the best film ever made.

Netflix recently released a first look at the film “Mank” about the legendary film, by acclaimed director David Fincher. “Mank” stars Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz, and details the drama between Mankiewicz and Welles during the production of “Citizen Kane.”

What’s really wild is that you can actually listen to the entire “War of the Worlds” broadcast as it happened. The entire saga is riveting and Welles’ visceral talent for storytelling is on full display. Better yet, you can also watch his apology for the stunt afterwards. Check out both videos below.

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