UB commemorates the 75th anniversary of the radio broadcast ‘The War of the Worlds’
On 30 October 1938, Orson Welles directed the radio play of the novel The War of the Worlds. Thousands of people mixed reality and fiction and thought that an alien invasion was really happening. A lecture, given by Jordi Ojeda, commemorates the 75th anniversary of the radio broadcast at the Aula Magna of the Historic Building of the UB on Wednesday 30 October at 7 p.m. The lecture analyses panic feelings awaken by the radio play. The activity, supported by the Office of the Vice-Rector for Institutional Relations and Culture, includes parts of the radio broadcast and some photographs. In October, Ojeda, lecturer from the Department of Economics and Business Organization and expert on science dissemination through cinema, comic and literature, curated the main exhibition of the International Fantastic Film Sitges Festival, which was devoted to The War of the Worlds.
H. G. Wells published the novel The War of the Worlds in 1898. This year, besides the 75th anniversary of the radio broadcast, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the premiere of the film directed by Byron Haskin and starred by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. The exhibition curated by Jordi Ojeda in Sitges commemorated both anniversaries.
In the case of the radio play, Welles commissioned his scriptwriter Howard Koch (who later wrote the script of Casablanca) to adapt the novel to that moment situation and to an American scene (New Jersey was chosen as the place invaded by chance). The events that happened on the night of 30 October 1938 are part of the history: a fantastic phenomenon burst into American homes, it frightened citizens who create a viral effect. However, its fiction character was never hidden: at the beginning, the programme was presented as an adaptation of Wells’s novel and, at the end, this piece of information was repeated. This is a meaningful example of the influence that media has in modern societies.
The effects produced by the broadcast surprised its organizers. They had to wait for people being calm during some hours in an office as many frightened citizens came to the radio station. In the design of the radio programme, Welles only included six actors —he was one of them—, so they had to play different roles modulating their tone of voice. Music, adapted script and, particularly, sound effects gave birth to a high quality dramatization.
The English writer Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) was recognized as one of the most important intellectuals of his time. He was a prolific author who created the best science fiction works: The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1895) and The Invisible Man (1897) are some of them. His contribution to the fantastic genre has been decisive and some present science fiction approaches are derived directly from his practice.