Welles called the death of radio (it was replaced by television) a great personal loss. He certainly was fluid and flexible in it. He could play any role and any age, without having putty noses to worry about. He also made a tremendous amount of money, as much as $1500 dollars a week, in the thirties, tax free (though the IRS would screw him on his losses from the Around the World stage show a few years later.) How much would 1500 1937 dollars be worth today? Personal loss indeed.
Welles obviously had postmodern tendencies almost from the beginning
What did he say to Peter Bogdanovich about Lady from Shanghai? Peter stated that was being ahead of his time, and Welles replied that was being in trouble.
Have you ever heard the "Theatre of the Imagination" tape which features several of the Mercury players?
That's a great tape. I bought that Voyager collection when they released it on tape in the 80s. I guess it came out on laserdisc after that, though I don't know if they included any extras. That one includes John Houseman's account of how Orson's script for The Man Who Was Thursday ran twenty minutes short, and Houseman had to scramble (during the broadcast) to find things for Welles to read as a "coming attraction" for the next series. Great story, but Thursday was actually 30 minutes too long, and the rehearsal dates from the day prior to broadcast. I wonder if it was a different episode Houseman remembered. A few from the end of the first series are lost, like the Julius Caesar broadcast and Jane Eyre. Maybe it's one of those.
fascinating, in fact, that Mank wrote the radioplay- I wonder what Kael might have turned that into!
Just another case of Welles screwing Mank out of credit, she would have said. (Backwards ran sentences until boggled the mind.)
All of them believe it was a tragedy that Welles and Houseman broke up in 1941, and that Welles had never been as powerful after that.
I think Welles did tremendous things without Houseman. Like Citizen Kane. Houseman's only involvement was as Mank's junior writer and nurse maid. Welles was incompetent at dealing with the money men. He certainly could have used Houseman to keep the studios happy.
a great radio production as good as Treasure Island
Most of the Mercury radio shows were great, while he kept the original New York family together (sounds like mobsters, doesn't it?) They drifted aparted after Charles Koerner kicked the Mercury off the RKO lot while Welles was still doing his job down in Brazil. I keep wondering if Koerner (Coroner) was a Hearst minion. We've talked on other threads about the Hearst machine actively destroying the careers of such as Welles and Dorothy Comingore for years after Kane. I wonder if anyone has found such a link. Welles' radio shows became a bit crap after the family disbanded. Some other fantastic shows they did together were the Les Miserables series, Hell on Ice, The Count of Monte Cristo and many others. After they picked up Campbell's Soup as a sponsor, they switched from doing the classics to doing adaptions of current popular novels and films instead. I'm sure this was Campbell's exerting their editorial influence - stories to appeal to those who eat Campbell's chicken soup. That reminds me of that great story Welles told of conditioning announcer Ernest Chappell to finally say Campbell's rooster soup on air one night. If that broadcast survived I haven't heard it. Anyway, Welles got sick of Campbell's interference and the Campbell Playhouse signed off. And Welles picked up Lady Esther Cosmetics instead! Gods, he was better off with a sustaining show, with no sponsor to wreck his vision.
now we can excavate this generally neglected territory and see how it relates to the films.
There are several radio shows which precursored Welles' work in films and stage. The speech about the "guy with an edge" from Lady from Shanghai first appeared in an episode of Hello Americans from 1942. Mr. Arkadin was based on two shows Welles had written for The Lives of Harry Lime (itself based on the movie The 3rd Man) in 1951, Man of Mystery and Blackmail Is a Nasty Word. The only surviving document of Cole Porter's songs for the 1946 stage production of Around the World were broadcast as a Mercury Summer Theatre show during the play's run. The famous beard Orson arrived in Hollywood wearing was grown for his vaudeville version of The Green Goddess, which he had first done as a Campbell's Playhouse broadcast in 1939. While Welles did a stage version of Moby Dick in the fifties and a film version in the seventies, he first did it as an episode of The Mercury Summer Theatre in 1946. While he filmed Macbeth in 1948, he had first done it on record in 1940, part of The Mercury Shakespeare series. While he filmed The Merchant of Venice in the sixties, he had first done it on record in 1938. He later turned his Harry Lime radioplay The Dead Candidate into the screenplay and novel VIP. When Welles guested on other people's shows in the early forties, they would plug his films, like Kane and Ambersons. Ambersons, of course, was first done on the radio. When Hollywood came calling, they wanted him to film The War of the Worlds. Welles made a running joke out of how great the film Jane Eyre was on his 1944 show Orson Welles Almanac. While Welles didn't direct the film of Jane Eyre, he had done it on radio a few times, and part of Benny Herrmann's musical score for the film was first done for Welles' radio version. Welles worked with a lot of the top stars in Hollywood on the radio, like Katherine Hepburn in the Campbell's broadcast A Farewell to Arms (by his friend Ernest) and Laurence Olivier in Beau Geste. Most everybody in The Mercury Welles had met in radio in New York. Agnes Moorhead costarred as Margot Lane on The Shadow. Benny Herrmann was conducting for The Columbia Workshop. Ray Collins and Joseph Cotten were doing School of the Air of the Americas with Welles in 1934. They all came from radio.
Radio was a proving-ground and literal sounding-board for Welles. A personal loss indeed.