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The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air

The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air (1946) is a CBS radio drama series produced, directed by and starring Orson Welles. It was a short-lived summer radio series sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon, on Friday evenings at 10 p.m. ET lasting 15 episodes. It harked back to Welles's earlier The Mercury Theatre on the Air (1938) and its successor, The Campbell Playhouse, but was not able to replicate its success. The series offered 30-minute adaptations of classic plays and novels, plus some adaptations of popular motion pictures, whereas the original had offered more depth in its 60-minute running time. Although the Mercury Theatre troupe had disbanded when Welles was fired from RKO studios in 1942 and the Mercury players were dismissed with him, this radio series offered a reunion of many Mercury personnel, including Richard Wilson (who would direct the rehearsals) and composer Bernard Herrmann, as well as familiar actors such as Agnes Moorehead and William Alland.

The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air
Genre Anthology drama
Running time 30 minutes
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
Home station CBS
Hosted by Orson Welles
Starring Various
Written by Orson Welles
Directed by Orson Welles
Produced by Orson Welles
Narrated by Orson Welles
Recording studio New York
Original release June 7, 1946 (1946-06-07) – September 13, 1946 (1946-09-13)
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 15
Audio format Monaural sound


Wider significanceEdit

The first episode is of particular note. At the time, Welles was directing Around the World on Broadway, a critically acclaimed musical based on Around the World in Eighty Days, which was praised by Bertolt Brecht as being the greatest night at the theatre he had ever experienced. Nonetheless, the expensive production flopped, and in a bid to give it publicity, Welles broadcast a half-hour condensation of the musical. The episode was the only recording ever made of any part of the musical or its Cole Porter score.

Welles had created, directed and starred in a string of radio drama series since 1937, and The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air in 1946 ended up being his last. He moved to Europe in the fall of 1947, and his later radio work was made in Britain, most notably The Adventures of Harry Lime (1951–52). By the time Welles moved back to the US in 1956–58, and again more permanently in the 1970s, radio was no longer the dominant force it had been in the 1930s and 1940s.

As with many other Old Time Radio series from the period, the episodes have now lapsed into the public domain.


# Date Program
1 June 7, 1946 "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne, based on the musical Welles was then directing on Broadway.
Music by Cole Porter, lyrics by Noël Coward
Cast: Orson Welles (Fix), Arthur Margetson (Phileas Fogg), Larry Laurence (Passepartout), Mary Healy (Princess Aouda), Julie Warren (Molly Muggins)[1]
2 June 14, 1946 "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas
Cast: Orson Welles (Edmond Dantès), Julie Warren (Mercédès); with Stefan Schnabel, Guy Spaull, Brainerd Duffield[1]
3 June 21, 1946 "The Hitch-Hiker" by Lucille Fletcher
Cast: Orson Welles, Alice Frost[2]
4 June 28, 1946 "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë
Cast: Orson Welles (Rochester), Alice Frost (Jane Eyre), Guy Spaull, Stefan Schnabel, Mary Healy, Abby Lewis[2]
5 July 5, 1946 "A Passenger to Bali" by Ellis St. Joseph[2]
6 July 12, 1946 "The Search for Henri Le Fevre" by Lucille Fletcher
Cast: Orson Welles, Mercedes McCambridge, Julie Warren, Brainerd Duffield[2]
7 July 19, 1946 "Life With Adam" by Hugh Kemp
Host: Orson Welles, presenting a comic radio play originally produced for Stage 46 in Toronto by Andrew Allen.
Cast: Fletcher Markle (Adam Barneycastle), Grace Mathews (Eve), John Drainie (Chester), Betty Garde (Jenkins), Hedley Rainie (Waiter, Producer, others); with Patricia Loudry, Mercedes McCambridge[2]
8 July 26, 1946 "The Moat Farm Murder" by Norman Corwin
Cast: Orson Welles (Dougal), Mercedes McCambridge (Cecile)[2]
9 August 2, 1946 "The Golden Honeymoon" by Ring Lardner
Cast: Julie Warren, Brainerd Duffield, Mercedes McCambridge, Mary Healy, Ted Osborne, Stefan Schnabel, Santos Ortega
Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet read by Orson Welles[2]
10 August 9, 1946 "Hell on Ice" by Edward Ellsberg
Cast: Orson Welles, John Brown, Elliott Reid, Byron Kane, Norman Field, Earle Ross, Lurene Tuttle[2]
11 August 16, 1946 "Abednego the Slave" by Orson Welles and John Tucker Battle
Cast: Orson Welles, Norman Field, Earle Ross, Joe Granby, Barbara Jean Wong, Carl Frank, Byron Kane, John Brown, William Johnstone, Elliott Reid, William Alland[2]
12 August 23, 1946 "I'm a Fool" by Sherwood Anderson and "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe
Cast: Orson Welles, William Alland, Joe Granby, Elliott Reid, Norman Field, Carl Frank, others[2]
13 August 30, 1946 "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville
Cast: Orson Welles (Ahab), William Alland, Byron Kane, John Brown, Earle Ross, Elliott Reid[2]
14 September 6, 1946 "The Apple Tree" by John Galsworthy
Cast: Orson Welles, Norman Field, Mary Lansing, Lurene Tuttle, Jerry Farber, others[2]
15 September 13, 1946 "King Lear" by William Shakespeare
Cast: Orson Welles (King Lear), John Brown (Narrator); with Agnes Moorehead, Edgar Barrier, William Alland, Mary Lansing[1]
"Cynara", a poem by Ernest Dawson, read by Welles to conclude the Mercury Summer Theatre series[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Orson Welles on the Air: The Radio Years. New York: The Museum of Broadcasting, catalogue for exhibition October 28–December 3, 1988, pp. 53–62
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1992 ISBN 0-06-016616-9. Welles career chronology by editor Jonathan Rosenbaum, pp. 345–399

External linksEdit