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Marina Antunes [Cathode Ray Mission 09.13.13] documentary

On the eve of October 30th, 1938, families all over the United States gathered around the radio for the night when a frightening thing happened: programming was suddenly broken into by a news bulletin informing Americans that they were under attack by Martians.

It wasn't really happening. "The War of the Worlds" was the brainchild of Orson Welles, based on the novel from H.G. Wells. It may not have been real but for many, that broadcast was frightening, and the following day saw headlines all over the country reporting on the hysteria caused by Welles' show.

PBS' "American Experience" is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the broadcast with a documentary of the same name featuring interviews with film historian Peter Bogdanovich, Welles' daughter Chris Welles Feder and other authors and experts. Using the original broadcast as the backbone, the documentary also dramatizes of some of the thousands of letters received by Welles and saved by Mercury Theater member Richard Wilson – letters that have not been seen or read since 1938.

Some day soon we'll reach a time when there's no one left that remembers the hysteria caused by Welles radio play first hand, those individuals are getting harder and harder to find, but the broadcast is a pretty big part of the cultural landscape and one that, hopefully, won't be forgotten any time soon.

"War of the Worlds" will air on "American Experience" Tuesday, October 29th. Full details on the show's website.

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