Lot 1519

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On the evening of October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre on the Air performed a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, converting the 40-year-old novel into fake news bulletins describing a Martian invasion of New Jersey. Some listeners mistook those bulletins for the real thing, and their anxious phone calls to police, newspaper offices, and radio stations convinced many journalists that the show had caused nationwide hysteria. Indeed, there were reports of jammed highways and secondary roads filled with panicked citizens fleeing 'Martians', people shooting at water towers mistaken for Martian 'death machines', and even suicides. Angered listeners threatening to shoot Welles on sight. 'If I'd planned to wreck my career,' he told several people at the time, 'I couldn't have gone about it better.' Offered here is an excessively rare printed radio script draft used in preparing the historic broadcast, 39pp. 4to., [New York, 1938], bearing the title 'WAR OF THE WORLDS' and crediting Welles: 'Orson Welles (Mercury Theater) 1938'. The pages are bound with original period brass split-pins. In the haste to produce the show, the last page of this copy was bound upside-down. The 22 cast members are listed by character name on the cover page, and there is one edit to the text within, though it is unclear if the edit was used in the broadcast. A small doodle appears on page 8, and a ribald drawing captioned 'OUT TO LUNCH - BACK IN 30 MIN' was drawn in pencil on the verso of the same page. The drawing is initialed 'G G[?] B' - these initials do not correspond with those of any of the main performers, so they likely are those of a writer or minor cast member. The first and last pages are slightly frayed at their margins, otherwise very good. Welles' 'War of the Worlds' was one of the world's most historic broadcasts, and its effects still resonate today, with the worldwide use (and accusations of the use) of 'fake news' by politicians, world leaders, business figures, and everyday citizens.

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July 29, 2022 10:00 AM EDT
Chesapeake City, MD, US

Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $499 $20
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 $99,999 $5,000
$100,000 $999,999 $10,000
$1,000,000 $1,999,999 $50,000
$2,000,000 + $100,000