The Medium and the Magician: Orson Welles, the Radio Years, 1934-1952 (Critical Media Studies: Institutions, Politics, and Culture)

The Medium and the Magician: Orson Welles, the Radio Years, 1934-1952 (Critical Media Studies: Institutions, Politics, and Culture)

Paul Heyer

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0742537978

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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his quarry and his audience through voice alone. The origins of The Shadow are diverse. Most obviously, Lamont Cranston and his companion Margot Lane are an updating of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s dynamic duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, although Miss Lane seems more adept at interpreting clues than Watson. There is also, in several Charles Dickens stories, a nocturnal avenger named the Shadow. As regards the character’s dual personality, so integral to the 1937 radio version and its source,

believe. Today, of course, classical radio does seem an ephemeral medium for the public at large—despite the many taped broadcasts now available, especially on the Internet, to collectors—while film has become the art form of the past one hundred years and Welles one of its greatest practitioners. Yet even here there is radio. Conventions he employed in sound broadcasting profoundly influenced his cinema, as I try to show by assessing the feature films he made during the years in which he worked

These two criteria of course sometimes converge, as in the case of Dracula (11 July 1938), which was Welles’s Mercury Theatre radio debut; the War of the Worlds; and A Christmas Carol (23 December 1938 and 24 December 1939). Less an artistic than a ratings success, programs such as Rebecca (9 December 1938), the first broadcast in Welles’s Campbell Playhouse series, merit assessment on that basis. On the other hand, less well-known but brilliantly conceived productions such as Hell on Ice (9

by Miss Hayes, who he proudly declares has “adopted us,” adding that the Campbell Playhouse is the only radio program she will do this season. The inimitable Helen then expresses enthusiasm over her involvement with “radio at its best.” However, in her autobiography (which is not lengthy) she makes no mention of her radio work with Welles or her later forays with the medium—she had a short-run anthology series, The Helen Hayes Theatre. The following week Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! would

Welles employed using RKO resources. Less has been said regarding the use of radio conventions that characterize the audio portion of the film. Before looking at the ways in which Kane truly fulfilled RKO’s mandate to be a studio that made “radio pictures,” the general context in which Welles was allowed to do what he did (or did so without asking and got away with it) should be considered. He entered the studio a filmic neophyte, although he had had a camera in his hands before: at Todd; then

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