American Experience (1988– )
7 user 2 critic

War of the Worlds 

An account of Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama broadcast that inadvertently started a mass panic.


Cathleen O'Connell


Michelle Ferrari (story), Michelle Ferrari (telescript) | 1 more credit »




Episode credited cast:
Charissa Allen Charissa Allen
Julian Arahanga
Edgar Bergen ... Himself / Charlie McCarthy (archive sound)
Peter Bogdanovich ... Himself - Film Director
Brenda Isaacs Booth ... Bertha Boughton (as Brenda Isaacs-Booth)
Brady Coleman
Ray Collins Ray Collins ... Mr. Wilmuth (archive sound)
Buster Crabbe ... Flash Gordon (archive footage)
Robert Crossley Robert Crossley ... Himself - Writer
Sonny Davis Sonny Davis
Kenny Delmar Kenny Delmar ... Captain Lansing / Franklin D. Roosevelt / Policeman (archive sound)
Lucien Douglas Lucien Douglas
Susan Douglas Susan Douglas ... Herself - Historian
Chris Wells Feder Chris Wells Feder ... Herself - Daughter of Orson Wells
Bart Fletcher Bart Fletcher


An account of Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama broadcast that inadvertently started a mass panic.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Release Date:

29 October 2013 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

WGBH See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?


References A Christmas Carol (1938) See more »

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User Reviews

This "American Experience" episode-"The War of the Worlds"-puts things in perspective surrounding the events of that infamous radio broadcast
31 October 2013 | by tavmSee all my reviews

Exactly 75 years and a day ago, Orson Welles managed to cause a public panic over the radio airwaves when he presented his version of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" as a series of interrupting news bulletins for most of an hour without commercial interruption or a disclaimer informing the fictional nature of the program except at the beginning or near the end. Much of the listeners may have come in late since it was opposite the very popular program, "The Chase and Sanborn Hour" starring Edgar Bergen and his dummy, Charlie McCarthy. But when Nelson Eddy started singing, many switched dials and heard about invading Martians. It was during this period in time that much of those listeners were used to news about Hitler possibly invading the U.S. based on his doing so to other countries. Also, the previous year, there was the Hindenburg disaster that was harrowingly reported live as it happened. This "American Experience" program discussed those details and also had actors play actual citizens who commented on what happened to them as the program went on the air. Many were not amused though some were relieved when learning it was just a play. I especially liked the woman who laughed while getting drunk when the bartender told her it wasn't true. Seeing Welles in the press conference expressing regret was fascinating to watch especially as his daughter reveals he seemed to enjoy the attention that resulted afterwards. Quite fascinating, the way the thing was put together with what I just mentioned as well as scenes from a later live TV special called "The Night America Trembled" about the events surrounding that infamous program and which I reviewed several years ago on this site. So on that note, I highly recommend "The American Experience: The War of the Worlds".

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