WELLES, ORSON & KOCH, HOWARD Original typescript draft of Welles Mercury Theatre radio drama The War of the Worlds, here title...
. [New York: circa 30 October 1938]. Complete seventeen page typescript on cream paper, stapled at upper left, paginated in type -16 and with an inserted page numbered 12-A, the draft with numerous misspellings, typed corrections and incomplete sentences suggestive of fast typing. 11 x 8 1/2 inches (28.5 x 22 cm). The first leaf lightly toned, and with some very small losses near the staple, a few rust marks from paper clips to margin of first and verso of final leaf, the final leaf detached, otherwise internally fine and unmarked.
James Jewell (Radio pioneer who in 1938 was a director-producer at WBBM Chicago, see note and station identification on p. 14);
Acquired by O'Gara & Wilson Booksellers, Chicago, from the Estate of James Jewell, 2003;
Acquired by the current owner, 2003.
An excessively rare draft typescript of the most famous radio drama in history, Orson Welles' adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, which aired on CBS radio as a special Halloween broadcast on October 30th, 1938. The fictional radio drama, which chronicled the devastation caused by a Martian invasion of Grover's Mill, New Jersey, caused real mass turmoil as unsuspecting listeners fell prey to innovative devices crafted by Welles that built tension and subtly advanced the plot. The current typescript contains all of the changes forced onto Koch's original script by CBS censors which were intended to avoid the incidental confusion which ensued anyway. These include for instance changing of the name of the New Jersey National Guard at Trenton N.J. to the state militia at Trenton, N.J., Langley Field is here called Langham Field, and McGill University has been changed to MacMillan University but, surprisingly, in the draft version the town's name has been altered to Grover Mills, N.J., while in actuality and the aired broadcast this town is called Grover's Mill - a good example of a last minute change made by Welles that created confusion over the reality of the event. This script also bears a character list at its header which calls for a female voice to play at least two parts, the first being an announcer named Wilma Reynolds who alongside Carl Phillips interviews Dr. Pierson and visits the landing site (in the final broadcast this female character's lines were absorbed by Phillips). The second female character creates the greatest divide between this draft and the final, as the survivor that Dr. Pierson encounters at the drama's finale was intended to be a haggard and crazed woman who delivers a long speech regarding surviving the ordeal by enlisting the help of rats in the sewers (this character was later replaced by the surviving militia man who similarly spouts conspiracy theories and survival tactics). These female parts were most likely written for Agnes Moorehead, one of Welles' favorite Mercury Players and a leading actress in Citizen Kane, who was unable to perform on October 30th due to a scheduling conflict and, while she is sometimes credited as being part of the production, the live broadcast of The War of the Worlds in fact featured no female characters or voices.
It has been reported that in the fracas that followed the broadcast policemen raided the studio and confiscated the actors and producers scripts as evidence; thus, any draft or finished script of the broadcast is extremely rare. The present example is only the fourth known typescript to come to auction and this near-final draft reads wonderfully along with the surviving recording of the broadcast from beginning to end and is worthy of future scholarly research.
Census of known scripts at auction: Writer Howard Koch's copy of the final typescript came to 46 typed pages, and was widely spaced for easier live radio reading (this copy sold Sotheby's New York, 14 December 1988, lot 189, $143,000). Orson Welles' directorial copy of the typescript, also used during the broadcast, came to 45 pages and was similarly widely spaced (this copy sold Christie's East, 2 June 1994, lot 149, $32,300). A 9 page working draft of the typescript, presumably earlier than the present example, contained only a sketch of the plot and was without the opening sequence, Welles' introduction, and many of near-fully developed speeches as offered here (this copy sold Bonham's New York, 24 November 2014, lot 277, $9,735). Lastly, a full 48 page transcript of the recorded drama, issued to press with a cover letter from CBS on the morning following the broadcast was sold earlier this year (Profiles in History, 29 September 2015, $28,800).
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