Posts Tagged ‘War of the Worlds’
Take the test, then enjoy this tribute to the power of props:
* Designing for Films, Edward Carrick, 1950
As we wait for the telephone to ring, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Universal Pictures released Mars Attacks the World, a space opera that prominently featured a classic hand prop, the ray gun. Originally produced as a 15-episode serial, Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, the studio had it recut as a feature, planning a 1939 release. But on October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater broadcast their infamous adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Capitalizing on the frenzied attention that Welles created, Universal quickly changed their feature’s title from the originally-intended Rocket Ship, and launched it into theaters.
[Thanks to CE]
As we watch out for sentient banana peels, we might send bombastic birthday greetings to actor, director, writer and producer Orson Welles; he was born on this date in 1915. Welles was a pioneer in the theater (e.g., his Broadway adaption of Julius Caesar, the debut of the Mercury Theatre) and on radio (e.g., his 1938 The War of the Worlds, the most famous broadcast in the history of the medium). But it was his films (his first, Citizen Kane, is regarded by many to have been the greatest American film) that gave lie to his own observation that ” movie directing is the perfect refuge for the mediocre.”
Trying to master a role in a Tennessee Williams play? Place someone by their accent? Steven Weinberger, a linguist at George Mason University can help. He’s created The Speech Accent Archive, where one can click on a map to hear some native, some non-native English speakers from all over the world– but in each case reciting the same short English paragraph, crafted to contain every sound in the Queen’s Language.
(C.F. also the previously-reported British Library Map of Accents and Dialects.)
As we smooth our sibilants, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Northwestern University conferred an honorary degree on ventriloquist’s dummy Charlie McCarthy (whose “partner,” Edgar Bergen, had attended Northwestern, but never graduated).
Lest we doubt that Bergen and his wooden friend were worthy of the academic accolade, we might note that they have been credited by some with “saving the world”: later that same year, on the night of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles performed his War of the Worlds radio play, panicking many listeners, most of the American public had tuned instead to Bergen and McCarthy on another station. (Dissenters note that Bergen may inadvertently have contributed to the hysteria: when the musical portion of Bergen’s show [The Chase and Sanborn Hour] aired about twelve minutes into the show, many listeners switched stations– to discover War of the Worlds in progress, with an all-too-authentic-sounding reporter detailing a horrific alien invasion.
Charlie McCarthy, BA (left), with his friend Edgar Bergen (source)