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Orson Welles’ 1937 recording of ‘Les Miserables’ is what radio should be

J-P Mauro - published on 03/08/17

And this clip of Welles and Johnny Carson talking. What great television should be!

Last week, we found this old footage of Orson Welles having a conversation with Johnny Carson. We were surprised that someone would go on a late show without something to advertise, but also by what a great orator Welles was. As soon as the great bear of a man, blessed with Chestertonian girth, walks on set, you can’t take your eyes off him. As he speaks the crowd becomes so mesmerized by his story-weaving that they don’t even react to his tales, not wanting to interrupt him.

Delving a bit deeper we found that the Internet Archive has the complete recording of an Orson Welles radio production of Les Miserables. So please, join us as we sit back and let the captivating baritone voice of Orson Welles guide us through the journey of Jean Valjean as he tries so hard to live a quiet life.

[archiveorg OrsonWelles-LesMiserables1937 width=640 height=140 frameborder=0 webkitallowfullscreen=true mozallowfullscreen=true]

So long as these problems are not solved, so long as ignorance and poverty remain on earth, these words cannot be useless. These words set forth the soul and spirit of one of the world’s great literary masterpieces, Les Miserables. Out of the depths of his pity for suffering mankind, Victor Hugo drew a compelling story, one that will live so long as bewildered humanity shall continue to grope toward the light. Tonight, WOR and the Mutual Network bring you the first of seven broadcasts based on this great novel. Each episode will depict some vital development in the epic of Jean Valjean. Orson Welles — author, director, and actor — has assembled a notable cast and offers an interpretation created specifically for radio presentation. Mr. Welles will play the role of Jean Valjean, and those sections of the book itself which in running narrative bind together the dramatic episodes will also be read by him.

Listening to Welles speak for so long has given me a new found respect for Maurice LeMarche’s impersonation:


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