Radio - The War of the Worlds | Artopia


Orson Welles and H.G. Wells

A Closer Look

Today it’s hard to believe Orson Welles’ broadcast of The War of the Worlds caused a nationwide panic. We are used to media productions that are not what they seem to be. "Reality TV" programs show us people trying to "survive" on desert islands, but we know cameras are watching every move they make. Computer enhancement makes babies, dogs and pigs appear to talk and we find it funny. Can you think of a media production today that could fool the whole country?

About the Media

On Oct. 30, 1938 millions of Americans tuned their radios to the weekly dramatic program "Mercury Theater of the Air" to listen to War of the Worlds a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells about an invasion from Mars. When Orson Welles adapted the story for radio he made it sound like a news broadcast, with actors playing reporters. Many people in the audience thought the "invasion" was real, and the broadcast caused a panic. Some people hid in their cellars, while others loaded guns or wrapped their heads in wet towels to protect themselves from Martian poison gas.

About the Artist

According to Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles was "responsible for inspiring more people to be film directors than anyone else in the history of the cinema." He was an actor, writer, director and producer of film, radio and theater. At 25 he produced, directed, co-wrote and starred in Citizen Kane, based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. It won an Academy Award for Best Writing, and is considered a film classic.

H.G. (Herbert George) Wells is best known today for his science-fiction novels, which are satirical critiques of society. His first was The Time Machine, followed byThe Island Of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, which was written in 1898. Several of his novels, including The First Men On The Moon andThe War In The Air foretold events that were still far in the future


  • Make a list of what you see and hear in the radio production.
  • How does the producer express the message of the radio commercial?
  • What is your opinion of the radio production? How does it make you feel?