As people who have attended my training courses around the world know, I have one love, and that is the H G Wells story of The War of the Worlds.
Along with story Jeff Wayne long ago created the musical The War of the Worlds, and I can loose myself in masterpiece of music and song wrapped around a fantastic story.
Set in the UK in the late 19th Century, in the area I live in Surrey, H G Wells tells the story of how earth is invaded by Martians. H G Wells weaves his story around his intimate knowledge of the area of Woking and Horsell Common, Leatherhead, Shepperton, Walton, Sheen, and so on.
I get lost in Jeff Wayne‘s two CD musical, with the striking voice of Richard Burton as the voice of the journalist telling the story, mixed in with dramatic song and music.
Durring my many years of listening and reading The War of the Worlds, I had also heard how late one Sunday evening in 1938, mass hysteria swept across America, as a play was acted-out on the then new medium of radio. People fled their homes, telephone switchboards were engulfed with panicked citizens demand to know what they should do to avoid the invasion.
In his book, The Martians Are Coming, Alan Gallop tells the story of the actor Orson Welles had entered into the profession of acting. Orson Welles soon became well known on stage for his voice and acting abilities, for his passion for adapting plays and books into plays that he could produce and often star in.
It was with a theatrical producer, John Housman, that Orson Welles set-up the Mercury Theatre, to stage plays, and this allowed Welles to pursue his acting career, which he did along side his radio work. The pair were approached by a radio company to broadcast a one hour play each week to be heard all over America.
Welles would take a book and adapt it to become a radio play using the actors from the Mercury Theatre On Air group. The programmes were not a roaring success, but they were listened to.
The night before Halloween in October 1938, Orson Welles had decided to broadcast The War of the Worlds, and the now in place writer, Howard Koch, struggled with taking the original work of H G Wells work set in England, and make it relevant to the ears of the American listeners.
It was decided that the scene should be set in the USA, and Koch purchased a map and chose the site of the landing of the first cylinder from Mars to be Wilmuth Farm, Grover’s Mill in New Jersey.
The play was based on the premise that a music program was to be interrupted by news flashes from the scene of the landing, having interviews with professors and politicians, and following the progress of the Martians in their three legged fighting machines through to New York, reeking havoc and death on their way.
Although, an announcement was made at the beginning, at the end and during the play that is was fiction, many listeners tuned-in missing these messages, and those assumed that the USA was being attacked by Martians, and thus spread panic and rumours amongst the population.
Not knowing what was happening outside the CBS radio broadcasting studios, Orson Welles and his fellow actors and musicians continued, reeking more havoc.
This book gives the background and facts to this 1938 happening, showing how human beings can be so influenced, how we can take a little piece of information and this become the truth. How unrelated situations, in this case Hitler and the chance of Germany invading other countries in Europe can be brought in to create panic. (See Cat on the Mat).
It was from here that Steven Spielberg created his film version of The War of the Worlds. NOw, I think a new film version be produced, based truly on the book of H G Wells, in the UK, using the countryside and towns written. For me the original story is far more gripping, and after all, America did not win the war against the Martians.