Because this blog is about the creative possibilities of soundrich radio, our first post tells how the medium impacted the film recognized as America's greatest ever. On this the 70th anniversary of Orson Welles' masterpiece, a Wall Street Journal article reveals how Welles' radio background added an extra dimension to "Citizen Kane."
"The visuals in "Citizen Kane" would be complemented by (and even take cues from) audio techniques carried over from radio. Many of the film's signature devices were motifs developed by Welles and his Mercury Theatre troupe during their years in radio."
"Starting in 1937, Welles and his ensemble, in their 'Mercury Theatre on the Air,' 'Campbell Playhouse' and other broadcasts, had created riveting adaptations of 'famous stories by great authors,' from Charles Dickens to Dashiell Hammett, Joseph Conrad to Agatha Christie. The Mercury's live dramatizations of such works as Bram Stoker's 'Dracula,' John Buchan's 'The Thirty-Nine Steps' and Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca'—with their superb mix of composer-conductor Bernard Herrmann's scoring, Welles's and others' expressive voices, and evocative sound effects—were like marvelous films unfurling inside a listener's mind.
" 'Welles had "a real fascination with sound,' " Mercury member William Alland (who would play the persistent reporter in "Citizen Kane") said in a 1988 documentary. " 'Sound in radio is like lights in a theatre. . . . With sound, you can do so much colorization; it's more than just a background. So that sound became a very creative part.' "
Do your ears a favor. Listen to some original "Mercury Theater" episodes here, as Welles pioneers the use of sound in ways that have reverberated through radio, film and television for three quarters of a century.