Although Radio Girl is fiction, Orson Welles (who plays a role in Cece’s story) is, or was, altogether real. In the summer of 1938 he was just married, a new father, and a rising star in the entertainment industry, both in live theater and on the radio. At age 23.
While he spent his days and nights rushing from broadcast studio to broadcast studio to the Mercury playhouse to his apartment in New York, to dinners out and meetings and more, the public’s awareness of him grew. In ’38, he took on the role of The Shadow for the Mutual Broadcasting System, one of their most popular characters. He was offered his own program that summer, a Sunday night series of classic literature pieces adapted for radio, with him, his awesome deep voice, both narrating and playing one or more of the major roles. Originally to be called “First Person Singular” it was changed to “The Mercury Theater on the Air” at the very last minute.
Many of these Mercury programs were recorded (although they were always broadcast live) so it’s not hard to find them online and hear Mr. Welles for yourself. Here’s the Mercury Theater’s “Dracula”, broadcast on July 11 , 1938.
Readers of Radio Girl will remember this production (moved to an autumn date in the novel) which Cece watches through the plate glass window.
Carol Brendler is the author of the young adult novel RADIO GIRL (Holiday House) September 5, 2013.
Coming 2014: A picture book, NOT VERY SCARY, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, from FSG.
Also by Carol Brendler: WINNIE FINN, WORM FARMER (FSG, 2009) a picture book illustrated by Ard Hoyt.