Sunday, October 30, 2011

1939 "War Of the Worlds" Article

Astounding Outcome Of The "Martian Scare"!

This is an article from the February 1939 issue of Radio Mirror about the effects of Orson Welles' phenomenal WOTW broadcast!

I love the way they use a photo of actor Bill Johnstone as The Shadow here...

Don't you all remember how you used to sneak spoonfuls of tasty, delicious Fletcher's Castoria castor oil when mom and dad weren't looking? Mmmmm...

Although mostly fluff (and surpisingly devoid of anger), the ending of the article does mention the "radio censorship ghost", a new awareness for this country to prepare against war, a change in news broadcasts, and radio's exodus from Hollywood. Interesting and insightful points, given that this story was probably written only about two months after the WOTW broadcast!

Maybe THIS picture should have been in the article (the REAL Orson Welles as the Shadow!) -

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Little TOTM'ers

SO - after months of no posts (sorry!)...

My previous post was regarding some work we did at a local middle school, getting some of the youths a bit acquainted with a nearly-extinct artform: "Old Time Radio".

During the summer, we did another OTR class/demonstration for students who were lucky enough to be taking summer classes - and again, as before, almost none of youths knew what on earth Old Time Radio was. Well, as it turned out, there actually WAS one kid there who knew about OTR, and was a pretty big fan. But as for the rest of the class...absolutely no idea. Well, we fixed that! Now they know a Radio Orphan Annie decoder from a hole in the ground (which is where you can find ROA decoders, if you dig in the right places!).

Well, long story longer, I'd carted my equipment (microphones and scripts and sound effects and decoders and so on) home, and didn't quite get to putting it all away immediately. And one Friday night, when my nieces and nephew dropped over to the house for a sleep-over, that "pile of stuff" got some interested looks...

Talk about different art projects to keep the kids busy!

They enjoyed digging through the mountain of sound effects objects (trying all of them along the way, of course), and picking out the ones that would be used in the goofy horror show we'd picked out - "The Strange Doctor Weird - The Voice Of Death!". After I did a little coaching about using different voices, turning pages quietly, and microphone technique, we picked out roles, highlighted the scripts, did a single read-through, and then recorded this (which includes editing and added music and extra pre-recorded sound effects):

WOW! I actually got the kids to read! And act! And learn a handful of new vocabulary words! And have fun! And they even helped me put away my sound effects stuff, too! What a bunch of good kids.

There's no reason for OTR to ever die. It just needs to keep being introduced.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

OTR In School

At the end of January this year , I had the pleasure of giving an Old Time Radio presentation to the students at Fremont Middle School.

Of course, the picture above is not a picture of them, it just sits well on a blog about OTR. If you guys send me a picture of your classes, I'll be glad to put it up here.

Their teacher, Mrs Begg, wanted something to "get the students excited about Old Time Radio", as she was planning on using OTR in the classroom. OTR can, of course, encompass history, science, speech, acting, music, literature, even shop (hey, somebody's got to build those prop doors and stuff, right?).

So I brought a huge assortment of our sound effects equipment (which is always a crowd-pleaser), a giant 16" transcription disc, an old Zenith table radio, and a few pictures of TOTM and Orson Welles...what do you mean, that doesn't sound exciting?!?

We went over the War Of The Worlds broadcast, which almost none of them had heard of. War Of The Worlds equals Tom Cruise, these days (argh!). I think that maybe they thought I was putting them on - that so many people believed the show was real, but once I pointed out that there were very few avenues for 1938 listeners to do any fact-checking, it seemed a bit more likely.

*sigh* Even the rotary-dial telephone on the sound effects prop table seemed like a device from another planet to some of them.

I also brought a set of scripts for a TOTM comedy ad, "Fancy That! Home Hair Waving System By LyeCo", all pre-highlighted for the kids to do a (dreaded) "COLD READ". They weren't the least bit phased by a cold (totally unprepared) read, as evidenced by this recording:

Some of them are ready to go pro right now!

I did leave them with a bit of mystery too, discussing the famous Lights Out show "The Dark", in which is heard the horrific sound of BODIES BEING TURNED INSIDE OUT. I mentioned how, when I started in the hobby, I had heard of the show and the awful sound effect. And when I went to a Chicago nostalgia store to purchase the tape, the saleslady lit up, "Oh, yes, this is the famous one with the bodies turned inside out. Did you know that they used ______________________ to get that sound effect?"...which, of course, had ruined it for me - every time I heard the show, I didn't hear bodies being turned inside out, I heard the actual sound effect, which was a pretty goofy thing if you knew what it was. "What was it?" "Yeah, how did they do that effect?"..."Come on, if I told you, then I'd ruin the show for you, too. I don't want to do that." I heard a few kids talking to one another after the class, saying they had to find that "Inside Out" show. Cool.

This was great fun for me - I think that the kids really enjoyed learning about this nearly-lost artform. Mrs Begg says she'd like another presentation for her summer school classes in would be our pleasure!