Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2010 October 08 • Friday

The War of the Worlds incident, though giving rise to an extraordinary event, and revealing some remarkable aspects of America in 1938, was one of the most purely fortuitous events of Welles's career. His personal responsibility for it was negligible, beyond having directed it with great flair. Houseman precisely analyses the skill of the production, especially its slow build-up of tension; but most of the people who had been frightened by it had only joined the pogramme a third of the way through, so they were never subject to the manipulation. … There is, moreover no evidence that the programme was planned as the devilishly clever Hallowe'en prank that it seemed to be. Describing the programme as a practical joke was an idea improvised on the spot as a sop to the panic released during the broadcast. Nor was there a conscious attempt to play on fears of a European invasion.…

Welles was praised for having his finger on the pulse of his times, and for being the conman of the century, able to make anybody believe anything. The truth is that he was more surprised than anyone at what had happened, and extremely irritated by it: the day after the broadcast, a Mercury employee who wandered into the auditorium eating a Mars bar was sacked on the spot.…

For Welles in 1938, the immediate result of the broadcast was notoriety. … And not just in America: the news of the panic flashed around the world, where the incident was held up (particularly in Europe) as proof, if any were needed, of the ingrained idiocy of Americans.

—Simon Callow, Orson Welles Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu, 1995