Hello Americans (1942–43) is a CBS Radio series produced, directed and hosted by Orson Welles. Created to promote inter-American understanding and friendship during World War II, the series aired Sundays at 8 p.m. ET beginning November 15, 1942. Its last broadcast was January 31, 1943. Sponsored by the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, the drama series featured many of the actors from Welles's Mercury Theatre repertory ensemble.
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Hosted by||Orson Welles|
|Written by||Orson Welles|
John Tucker Battle
|Directed by||Orson Welles|
|Produced by||Orson Welles|
|Original release||November 15, 1942 – January 31, 1943|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||12|
Hello Americans was produced concurrently with Welles's other CBS series, Ceiling Unlimited, a salute to the aviation industry, and his work was considered a significant contribution to the war effort.
Orson Welles produced Hello Americans under the auspices of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in July 1941 "to provide for the development of commercial and cultural relations between the American Republics and thereby increasing the solidarity of this hemisphere and furthering the spirit of cooperation between the Americas in the interest of hemisphere defense."
"The best good-will propaganda is to sell South America to North America," Welles wrote coordinator Nelson Rockefeller. Welles drew upon the research amassed earlier in 1942 for It's All True, the film project he had embarked upon also at the request of Rockefeller, who was a major RKO Pictures stockholder and Welles admirer as well as Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. It was hoped that the dramatizations would counteract German and Italian propaganda and build solidarity among American republics in the hemisphere.
"It belongs to a period when hemispheric unity was a crucial matter and many programs were being devoted to the common heritage of the Americas," broadcasting historian Erik Barnouw wrote of a contemporaneous project Welles created — a radio play called Admiral of the Ocean Sea,:3 broadcast on Cavalcade of America October 12, 1942::373
Many such programs were being translated into Spanish and Portuguese and broadcast to Latin America, to counteract many years of successful Axis propaganda to that area. The Axis, trying to stir Latin America against Anglo-America, had constantly emphasized the differences between the two. It became the job of American radio to emphasize their common experience and essential unity.:3
An entertaining and factual look at the legend of Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea (also known as Columbus Day) begins with the words, "Hello Americans" — the title Welles would choose for his own series five weeks later.:373
"The pan-American cause, with its inclusiveness, its celebration of diversity and its challenge to the values of white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, was something to which Welles felt deeply attracted," explained biographer Simon Callow. "Welles constantly sought the most vivacious method of presentation … interviewing the great dead as if they were alive, evoking the country in question in sounds and atmospheres, dramatising the historical while never forgetting the present reality: conquistadores rub shoulders with civil engineers.
"They were good shows, I thought," Welles told filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich:
All inter-American affairs. I did the A-B-Cs of the Caribbean. And they were very amusing. I didn't really do much of it — the writers were awfully good. And it was a good form. A-B-C: "A" is for "Antilles," "Antigua," and so on. We went through like that and did little things and big things, with music and stories each week. I'm queer for the Caribbean anyway — not as it exists, but as it was in my mind in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Caribbean is just great stuff. All of it. The whole idea of all these empires fighting over tiny little islands, and black independence and Spanish pride and the War of Jenkins' Ear and those great earthquakes.:374
The series finished at the end of January 1943, when its sponsor concluded that the program failed to attract a sufficient audience.
The episodes of Hello Americans are described in an annotated chronology of Welles's career created by Jonathan Rosenbaum for the 1992 book, This is Orson Welles.
|1||November 15, 1942||"Brazil"||The story of samba, including lessons on technique and instrumentation|
Discussion of Brazil's unique ethnic mix, products and natural resources, and the importance of conserving the Amazon jungle
Welles joins Miranda in singing Ary Barroso's samba, "No Tabuleiro da Baiana"
Script by Robert Meltzer, music by Lucien Moraweck:374
Cast: Orson Welles, Carmen Miranda, Lud Gluskin and His Orchestra
"Broadcasting from Brazil … by dramatic license"
|2||November 22, 1942||"The Andes"||Two music compositions by Justin Elie and Antônio Carlos Gomes|
Poetry by Norman Rosten
Cast: Edmond O'Brien (Bolivar), Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins, Elliott Reid, Barbara Jean Wong, Hans Conried, others
|3||November 29, 1942||"The Islands"||The abolition of slavery in Haiti led by Toussaint Louverture and the reign of Henri Christophe|
Cast: Ray Collins, Hans Conried, Elliott Reid, the Haitian Chorus
|4||December 6, 1942||"The Alphabet: A to C"||In part about the Mexican revolutionary Bolivar, referring back to Christophe the early 19th-century Haitian King|
Guest singer: Miguelito Valdés
|5||December 13, 1942||"The Alphabet: C to S"|
|6||December 20, 1942||"The Alphabet: Slavery (Abednego) to End of Alphabet"||Written by Orson Welles and John Tucker Battle|
Cast: Orson Welles (Sir Barnaby Finch), Elliott Reid (Abednego), Norman Field (Toussaint Louverture), Gerald Mohr (Henri Christophe)
|7||December 27, 1942||"The Bad-Will Ambassador"||Written by Richard Brooks|
Cast: Norman Field, Pedro de Cordoba, John Tucker Battle, Hans Conried, Martin Stone, Orson Welles
|8||January 3, 1943||"Ritmos de las Americas"||Music for the people of two continents (Orson Welles unable to appear due to illness)|
Cast: Tito Guízar (host), Dick Joy (announcer), Miguelito Valdés, Sir Lancelot, Lud Gluskin and his Orchestra
|9||January 10, 1943||"Mexico"||Stories of Montezuma and Benito Juárez|
|10||January 17, 1943||"Feed the World"||Written by Milton Geiger|
Cast: Frank Readick (narrator), Eddie Jerome (Gaucho), Orson Welles (Famine), Carl Swenson, Joseph Cheshire (Cotten), Jack Moss, Louis Solomon
|11||January 24, 1943||"Ritmos de las Americas"||Rhythms of the Americas (Orson Welles unable to appear due to illness)|
Cast: Truman Bradley (host), Diana Gayle, Miguelito Valdés, Carlos Ramírez, Lud Gluskin and His Orchestra
|12||January 31, 1943||"Bolivar's Idea"||Inter-American democracy and why it is essential in the war|
Incorporates excerpts of Milton Geiger's poem to human civilization, "I Will Not Go Back" (later the centerpiece of the April 1945 broadcast of This Is My Best dedicated to the late President Franklin Roosevelt)
Cast: Orson Welles, Ray Collins, Lud Gluskin and His Orchestra
All 12 episodes of Hello Americans have survived and are available at the Internet Archive.
"Brazil" is one of four of Welles's wartime radio broadcasts included as supplementary material in the Kino Classics restoration of The Stranger (1946), released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in October 2013.
- Hickerson, Jay, The Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming and Guide to All Circulating Shows. Hamden, Connecticut, second edition December 1992, page 303
- Orson Welles on the Air: The Radio Years. New York: The Museum of Broadcasting, catalogue for exhibition October 28–December 3, 1988, page 64
- Roosevelt, Franklin D., "Executive Order 8840 Establishing the Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs", July 30, 1941. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, University of California, Santa Barbara
- Callow, Simon, Orson Welles: Hello Americans. New York: Viking Penguin 2006 ISBN 0-670-87256-3 page 159
- Brady, Frank, Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989 ISBN 0-385-26759-2 pages 334 and 351
- Barnouw, Erik (ed.), Radio Drama in Action: 25 Plays of a Changing World. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1945. Written by Orson Welles in collaboration with Robert Meltzer and Norris Houghton, the radio play Columbus Day appears on pp. 4–13.
- Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum, This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1992 ISBN 0-06-016616-9.
- Callow, Simon, Orson Welles: Hello Americans, page 159
- Callow, Simon, Orson Welles: Hello Americans, page 160
- Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, This is Orson Welles, Welles's career chronology by editor Jonathan Rosenbaum pp. 374–376, 324
- "Hello Americans — Brazil". The Paley Center for Media. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
- "Hello Americans". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
- "Hello Americans". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
- Hello Americans — "The Andes", Paley Center for Media; retrieved June 11, 2012
- Hello Americans — "The Islands", Paley Center for Media; retrieved June 11, 2012
- "Orson Welles Sent to Bed By Doctor". The Port Arthur News (United Press), January 25, 1943, page 1. "Orson Welles, wonder-boy of the entertainment world, was in bed today for an extended rest on orders of his physician. Welles collapsed early yesterday while writing and rehearsing a network radio show." Welles was back at work January 25 on his penultimate episode of Ceiling Unlimited.
- "The Definitive Mercury Theatre on the Air". The Digital Deli. Archived from the original on 2014-05-20. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
- The Stranger at Kino Lorber, Inc. Retrieved 2013-10-05.