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Excellent Movie Now Available on DVD!!
There's a lot I can say about this movie and it's all very good. First, it's amazing how erroneous information gets out and is plastered all over the place. Babe Hardy mentions in an earlier post that it was Art Carney who voiced the "Secretary of the Interior" on the broadcast. Carney NEVER was a part of the Mercury Players. The Secretary was voiced by Kenny Delmar, who is remembered by Old Time Radio enthusiasts as the announcer on the Fred Allen Show. He also played the role of the popular Senator Claghorn on Allen's program. Also vandino1 seems to be very down on this movie because it does not show Welles arriving in an ambulance at the CBS studios. He also claims Paul Shenar does not resemble Orson Welles. I completely disagree. Shenar played the Welles role brilliantly. Yes, he was close to 40 playing the role of Welles who would have been about 23 years old, but he does so very convincingly and does resemble him. And Welles did not always arrive at the studio in an ambulance at the last minute!
Having gotten that out of the way, this is a fantastic movie for those who love old-time radio, and are interested in the power that radio once held. The storyline is very factual, showing how Americans believed the broadcast to be real. Those that tuned in late, and had been listening to The Chase and Sanborn Hour, missed the opening of the program introducing the show as the Mercury Theater. Others who first thought it was a play, later began having doubts as the action was very realistic. The nation was jittery, just having passed the Sudeten Crisis the month before. The public had grown accustomed to hearing programs interrupted for bulletins and the threat of war looming. Some people did think it was the Germans invading. Above all else, at that time radio was infallible. If you heard it on the radio it was true! It had to be true!
The pacing of the movie is very good, speeding up as the action starts to take place. The studio where the program scenes were shot was very accurate, and look like the old CBS studios in New York. Observing the action in the studio, the actors working the microphones, the sound effects, and the scenes of production staff in the control room is very good and gives a glimpse of what a radio broadcast during that time period would have looked like. It is a fascinating story and is all very well depicted in this movie, showing the action at the studio interspersed with scenes of the other characters reacting across the country.
The all-star cast is great! John Ritter, Meredith Baxter, Will Geer, Michael Constantine, Eileen Brennan, Vic Morrow, Tom Bosley, and Casey Kasem among them. I remember as a kid watching this movie on the ABC Friday Night Movie on October 31, 1975. Now the best news of all, this movie is available on DVD from Amazon! I have ordered a copy and watched it. It is uncut, original, and great quality. I was fortunate enough to have a recording of it I made from TV many years ago, but now with the DVD, it is available to everyone. There's been a lot of posts over the years on the Internet from fans of this movie anxiously waiting for it to come out on DVD. Now it's here and available! I highly recommend this great movie about a fantastic event that really did happen!
NBC 50th Anniversary (1976)
An Unprecedented Television Special
NBC: The First 50 Years, aired in November of 1976 as a four-and-one-half-hour extravaganza commemorating NBC's 50 years of radio and television broadcasting. An unprecedented television special airing as part of NBC's "Big Event" series, the program garnered the highest ratings of any program to that date. It's record of high ratings was beaten by the final episode of "Roots" the following year.
The program is hosted throughout by Orson Welles, and different segments are hosted by a variety of past and (then) current NBC artists. Although the program features mostly NBC television programs, there is much on old-time radio. Recordings of old programs are heard while on-screen shots of old radios, and radio artists are shown. Also a novel feature is animation that was created by Bill Melendez. Some of this animation is shown during the segments featuring old-time radio.
Some personalities appearing on this program were Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Gregory Peck, George C. Scott, Angie Dickinson, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, and Kukla and Ollie.
The original master tape of this program survives, and in recent years was restored and preserved onto newer tape formats.
The Ford 50th Anniversary Show
This two-hour program is a look back at the history of the United States and the world up to 1953. Presented by Ford Motor Company on the occasion of their 50th Anniversary. Hosted by Edward R. Murrow and Oscar Hammerstein who discuss historic events, trends, and personalities that have changed the world in the past 50 years. Musical numbers by Ethel Merman and Mary Martin, who together sing a great medley of tunes near the program's end. Marian Anderson also appears and sings. Several musical dance numbers. Mary Martin and Oscar Hammerstein appear in an excerpt from Thorton Wilder's play "Our Town". Lowell Thomas appears in a segment about old-time radio. Brief musical appearances by Rudy Vallee, Bing Crosby (on film), Frank Sinatra (on film) and Eddie Fisher. Wally Cox appears in several comedic skits. Kukla and Ollie, Burr Tilstrom's puppets, also appear and introduce segments. Produced by Leland Hayward who introduces the program and appears in the end to introduce Henry Ford II, who closes the program with a hope for peace and prosperity in the future. This live, two-hour program aired on both NBC and CBS at the same time, June 15, 1953, 9-11 PM EDT.