• Film Flashback
  • John Shaw and Thaddeus Bouchard
  • Published: Nov. 01, 2020 @ 5:30 PM

The War of the Worlds

Orson Wells at a Press Conference the day after the 1938 CBS Radio Broadcast of 'The War of the Worlds'

Just past 8pm on October, 30, 1938 Orson Welles delivered his famous deep-fake of the American public when CBS broadcast his radio adaptation of War of the Worlds.  Based on the 1898 sci-fi novel by H.G. Welles, the main broadcast presented itself as a live report from New Jersey, where Martians had touched down to invade Earth.  Some listeners mistook the broadcast as actual reporting on real events, prompting widespread panic.  The next day, the 23-year old Welles spoke to reporters at a hastily arranged press-conference to explain that this outcome was entirely surprising and unintended. However, the attention also made Welles famous, establishing his reputation as a gifted storyteller with the skill to convince audiences to suspend their disbelief in the incredible, one of the fundamental propositions of Hollywood filmmaking.

“When they talked about that [Welles] was embarrassed by it, I don’t think so. . . . If you look at that press conference, he’s so contrite, and he’s just acting his brains out, and he’s so clearly delighted.”  – Director John Landis commenting on Welles speaking at the press conference after the 1938 broadcast.

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