Classic Radio Broadcast
by Dave

Couple Listening to on old radio show on their date
You're original, right? So why not plan a more creative date than dinner and a movie - like dinner and an old radio show! Enjoy a nice meal with your date and then drive somewhere with a view of outer space and flip on The War of the Worlds. Or go to a dark, secluded spot, lay down a blanket, and get creeped-out listening to Dracula on a shared iPod. Or how about sitting in front of the fire with a drink while you listen to Alexander Dumas' tale of revenge with the Count of Monte Cristo? Or maybe you're in the mood for something lighter, try parking out in the open, turn up the volume, climb onto the hood, and listen to classic Superman under the stars!

Way back in 1938, Orson Welles and John Houseman put together a string of weekly broadcasts for the Mercury Theater on the Air program. These were top-notch adaptations of classic literary works with excellent acting and writing. Nowadays people tend to think "radio...boooring" but this was the entertainment medium of the day and attracted the most creative artists. Give one or two of the shows a try, I guarantee you'll be entertained. While you're at it, add a little atmosphere to the date. Radio is more enjoyable in a dark room, so dim the lights, set out a few candles, put your feet up, and experience something unique together!

Mercury Theater on the Air broadcasts can be downloaded for free as mp3 or real audio files, but the quality of these is not always the best. I’ve selected the more entertaining shows with a level of quality that, while not always perfect, is not distracting. Downloaded mp3 files can be burned to CD, copied to an iPod or mp3 player, or listened to on a laptop. The iPod option is always nice because you have to get close to each other for it to work.

  • Dracula (July 11, 1938)

    This retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula is an extremely faithful remake of the original story. The tale follows Dracula's voyage to London, where he preys on helpless victims, and his subsequent flight back to his crumbling castle in Transylvania. Orson Welles stars as Count Dracula and the narrator, Dr. Seward. (1 hour)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (August 29, 1938)

    Alexander Dumas’ tale of betrayal and revenge comes alive in this story of the wrongful imprisonment of Edmond Dantes and his journey to redemption. Orson Welles plays Edmond Dantes/Count of Monte Cristo. (1 hour)
  • The War of the Worlds (October 30, 1938)

    This adaptation of H.G. Wells' story is the radio broadcast that made Orson Welles famous and spawned a long line of remakes over the years. It was originally broadcast on Halloween, with the first half taking the form of newscasts, as if the events were really happening. This story about a Martian invasion of Earth was groundbreaking at the time and is still very entertaining today. (1 hour)
  • Superman (1940-1951)

    There were 2000 Superman radio shows produced over the course of a decade, mostly 15-minute serials but also some 1/2 hour episodes. Broadcasts were daily and storylines usually ran at least a few weeks. For a fun introduction to the shows, try the 3-episode "The Pillar of Fire at Graves End" or the 2-epidsode "The Meteor of Kryptonite". The first has a spooky atmosphere while the other is more similar to the comic books. (15 minute episodes)
  • Sherlock Holmes (1989-1998)

    The Mercury performance of Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be excellent, but I haven’t been able to locate a copy with decent quality. Because I think Sherlock Holmes is so enjoyable as a radio broadcast, I'm substituting a contemporary series produced by the BBC that I've listened to a few times and really enjoyed. To be honest, I prefer the radio shows to any movie or TV adaptation I've seen, the medium just seems right for the time period. Try "The Hound of the Baskervilles" or "The Sign of the Four" for longer stories (45 minutes to an hour), and "The Speckled Band", "The Red-Headed League", or "Scandal in Bohemia" for shorter ones (15-30 minutes). These are not available to download but the series was popular enough that it can be found at many libraries. If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan, you might want to consider purchasing this one!

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While you can find some great radio shows online, your library might have a good selection too and make things easier.


$0 (maybe $10 for a headphone splitter cable)


Mercury Theater on the Air
More old radio shows
Superman - Pillar of Fire at Graves End

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