Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wartime Radio: Private versus Government Media

By Carl Savich “The Chetniks” radio play was a poignant and powerful dramatization of the resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia led by Draza Mihailovich and the Chetnik guerrillas. The play starred Mercury Theatre veteran Orson Welles, then at the height of his fame after the success of Citizen Kane (1941), and actor Vincent Price, who had starred in The Return of the Invisible Man (1940), the sequel to the 1933 James Whale classic The Invisible Man. The play was written by Violet Atkins for the Treasury Star Parade radio program in 1942. Vincent Price is the narrator, presenting the background to the events depicted in the play. Orson Welles plays Dushan, an ordinary Yugoslav who is swept up into the war after the German bombing and invasion of Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. His wife is killed in the attack. Dushan then joins the Chetnik guerrillas led by Draza Mihailovich. Violet Atkin’s radio play is effective in focusing attention on the Chetnik resistance movement. The Chetnik guerrillas are relentless and undaunted.
Orson Welles played the character of Dushan in an emotionally overwrought fashion that was suitable for radio. He delivered the lines in a faux Slavic or Serbian accent that was similar to his accent in playing the Russian character Gregory Arkadin in the 1955 film Mr. Arkadin. Welles played the role in an overstated and over-the-top style that relied on histrionics and on emotion or sentiment. His performance was effective and worked well in the context of a melodramatic radio play.

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