RH Greene's New Orson Welles Radio Documentary AIRBORNE: A LIFE IN RADIO WITH ORSON WELLES
INCARNADINE novelist R. H. Greene has just completed a groundbreaking radio documentary on one of his artistic passions: the late, great Orson Welles. AIRBORNE: A LIFE IN RADIO WITH ORSON WELLES represents the fruit of over a decade of research, and is the first biographical documentary ever to offer a complete overview of Welles' vast American radio career. The extended "director's cut" of AIRBORNE can be heard here. Greene's statement to readers of this blog follows.
I know this blog is dedicated to my "Memoirs of Dracula" project, but over time it has evolved into a sharing space for other activities as well. Chief among these have been my various documentary projects for public radio, including the feature-length VAMPIRA AND ME, first aired last Halloween.
That holiday seems to be a good one for Dracula novelists, because this year I've managed to air another of my dream projects: AIRBORNE: A LIFE IN RADIO WITH ORSON WELLES, the first comprehensive documentary ever created about the fascinating totality of Orson Welles' American radio career.
Many people know of Welles' notorious WAR OF THE WORLDS radio hoax--a sonic masterpiece so potent it's still aired on radio stations all over America each Halloween. Others know Welles played THE SHADOW on radio for a season, and that it made him a national star.
These signature achievements, noteworthy as they are, are the tip of the iceberg. In fact, Welles made over 500 radio broadcasts, frequently using radio the way an artist uses a sketchbook, or a novelist a journal. He gave his all in a variety of unlikely contexts, making serious attempts at careers as a radio comedian, a wartime propagandist and a passionate political commentator. It could even be argued that radio, not film, was Welles' primary career. It was certainly the primary source of his celebrity during the CITIZEN KANE era.
I've been an avid collector of Welles radio programs for well over a decade (my interest in him goes back much further, and could be called lifelong). I brought my entire Welles audio collection with me to Bulgaria the last time I went abroad to work on the "Memoirs of Dracula" project. My downtime was spent listening and relistening to Welles' radio work, so that I could become not just passingly familiar with the well over 300 hours of material in my collection, but also able to make deeper connections between what on the surface can seem like a disjointed and hyperactive broadcast career (which it wasn't).
I also hope the program makes a few unique points, including the heretofore unremarked influence of Bram Stoker and DRACULA on Welles' WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast, and that it shines a light on several important overlooked works.
What hopefully emerges in AIRBORNE is a unique contribution to Welles scholarship, and a new point of entry to Welles as artist, man and public figure. I also hope the piece provides an accessible pathway for the modern listener into the lost and lively world of "golden age" radio.
Many of the broadcasts the documentary excerpts have not been aired in over 60 years, including the controversial and career-ending series of political broadcasts that both ended Welles' American radio work and sent him out as an unsung and profoundly important early champion of the Civil Rights movement.
The web version of AIRBORNE is fully 50 percent longer than the broadcast version, and while I'm pleased with both, I recommend listening online simply because the Welles broadcast materials are so fascinating, and the web version contains more of them.
For those of you who are waiting eagerly for THE CHARNEL HOUSE, I promise it is complete but for the editing, and that I will get back to work on overseeing the final copy edit at the start of the New Year.