Campbell Playhouse with Orson Welles
This recording is part of the Old Time Radio collection.
#34, Helen Hayes as Victoria Regina
and Welles as Albert - you won't hear Orson and Helen, you will hear Victoria and Albert. Not for one second will you lose belief in the play and that you aren't hearing the actual persons- it is that good. The abilities of Hayes and Welles to channel in the personas of Queen Victoria and Albert is astonishing. I felt as if I were in the very rooms Albert and Victoria were in, with them. Orson was a genius. There wasn't anything he could not do. Campbell's people often bossed him over content, criticizing his sound effects, everything. If they were smart, they'd just hand over all control to Welles. Once, the head of Campbells criticized Welles insertion of background noise (sorry, not the exact words) in a particular episode- Welles reported "WHAT 'background noise"?: Campbell's wanted it out, Welles had the audio there for a reason as part of the show. He had a really hard time with the sponsors & their butting in to his creative direction. Anyway, this is superb radio. Thank God it's on the archive, otherwise the world would be missing out on something very wonderful.
After the big BOOOO
The cast and crew of the Mercury Theater of the Air were geniuse crafting the most amazing radio of any time. When they hit the big time with their Haloween scare, the War of the Worlds, the world took note and things changed for them. The first was a Sponsor, Campbell soup. The second was a breaking apart of the ensamble atmosphere with Orson Welles rising to top dog status , John Houseman being pushed down a few pegs and the ensamble taking a second billing to the Hollywood stars the sponsor moved in to star in the productions. Still the writting was top notch and everyone put forth amazing efforts regardless of the backstage politicing. Houseman got a chance to take back his place when Welles left for Hollywood, the show lasted one more season. The writting work of both Howard Kooch and Wyllis Cooper were right on the mark forshadowing the works they would do in the years to come. All in all a great series, one of the better of the age.
I just finished hearing" Ah Wilderness", if anyone throughly understood the mechanics of radio, it was Orson Welles... right down to how the sound effects should sound, and how the actors should sound & how far or how close they needed to play their parts into the microphone. I've heard today's attempts at sound mixing for shows such as Twilight Zone, & they don't compare to "Ah Wilderness" of 70+ years ago. I caught myself straining to hear all of the actors lines,because they seemed so far away from the microphone and yet it added to the true realism to a night time, outdoor scene. The best that modern attempts do to adding to sound realism is moving the sound effects, is to switch the sound from the left channel to the right. Welles knew his stuff. No producer of radio, since Orson Welles, has yet to duplicate what Welles could. He was ahead of his time, and that's what made him a genius. For all his film success... he never turned his back on radio.
He was just great, wasn't he? I love Welles in interviews later in his life, especially in a decorum where language isn't a problem. He tells some GREAT stories . . my favorites are about jokes played on each other - best when on the air - like yanking a guys pants down, or planting words in the other actor's mind to get him to say it instead of the script! They had great nicknames for each other on Mercury and Campbell: Orson Swelles, Joseph pickin' Cotten, Agnes "the old bagnes" Moorehead, etc. etc. I now listen to classic radio more than watching television! Great entertainment.
Check out WELLES MEETS WELLS
great interview, I even dare call it historical, including Welles satisfying Wells's curiosity about the then two year-back War of the Worlds broadcast, which in this old time radio context needs no explication. Wells suspected Americans were pretending to be scared as they love to do on Halloween. This is how he explained the WotW phenomenon to his country, a pre-war England unfamiliar with the holiday. Listen yourself to the answer. I'm not sure, but it sounds like it turns out this is a correct version of the supposedly genuine panic that gripped the country. If so, isn't that kind of newsworthy?
Orson rules OK!
Was Vincent price in any radio shows with Orson Welles? I don’t think I’ve heard him part of any Mercury Radio shows. I’m not convinced by Orson’s status being increased after the War of the Worlds production either... yes the sponsor came in and the show changed direction away from literary classics to include stories from Hollywood – but Orson was top dog from the start. Just listen to his introduction in Dracula (the first Marcury Theatre production) it is positively gushing! What shows were recorded after Orson left? I would love to hear some without him – to see what they’re like.
The Mercury Theatre troupe included Carl Frank, Joseph Cotten, Martin Gabel, Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins, Hans Conreid, Paul Stewart, Will Geer, George Coulouris, Olive Stanton, and Everett Sloane. Much of the troupe would later appear in Welles’ films at RKO, particularly Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. No where else will you find so many people who made the transition from radio to film. I think too much is made of Orson Welles "jumping out from behind a bush and yelling BOO!". This was a quality series for a discerning audience. Some more of this is here: http://www.archive.org/details/mercurytheaterorsonwelles
All these files were ripped off from the Mercury Theater website at http://www.mercurytheatre.info/ and anyone who makes claim to have "donated" them here isn't fooling anyone. The Mercury Theater website has been around longer than the Internet Archive and we all know what we owe to Kim Scarborough for keeping it up and running for ten years at least.