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Meakin Armstrong: Orson Welles, Rightful King of All-Media

March 1, 2010


meakin_armstrong-small.jpgIf there ever was “a king of all-media,” it’s never been Howard Stern, but Orson Welles.

YouTubers mock Orson Welles, the fat man who was a pathetic one-hit wonder who came up with Citizen Kane and then ended up cutting commercials for Paul Masson. These people probably don’t know about his earlier theatrical career (he revolutionized theater at the age of 20), nor have they seen his films, The Magnificent Ambersons, Lady from Shanghai, and Touch of Evil. The Trial may well be the greatest film ever made in a found location (an abandoned train station). F is for Fake anticipates the personal documentary and the music video. He also wrote and directed for television. And radio, during its golden age.

Radio: admittedly it’s dead as a dramatic form. People have heard of Welles’ War of the Worlds, though: it panicked the nation with its dramatized an alien invasion. That might be it.

But listen to all surviving shows—including War of the Worlds—on the Web site, The Mercury Theatre on the Air. It’s astounding. Every story is well adapted and deeply sophisticated. Really, the stuff is modern. Search for his political commentary: it’s as progressive as anything said today.

Bow down to this king. And stop it with the YouTube jokes.


Bio: Meakin Armstrong is Guernica’s fiction editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @meakinarmstrong.

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