The New Yorker:

A baby-faced Orson Welles, backstage.

By A. J. Liebling
December 4, 1937 

Moiling through the Sunday paper last weekend, we came upon a notice of a radio program scheduled for 5:30 by WOR: “The Shadow, with Orson Welles.” “Orson Welles!” we murmured, astonished. “The same Orson Welles whose modern-dress production of ‘Julius Caesar’ is now playing to packed houses?” Deciding that it must indeed be he, we tuned in on WOR at 5:30. What we heard was a fiendish laugh, the words “The Shadow knows,” in a quavery, gloating voice, then more fiendish laughter. Followed a chilling half-hour (sponsored by a product called Blue Coal) in which a masked maniac named Anton Spivak, who was plotting to blow up people with dynamite, was frustrated by The Shadow. And this Shadow, played to the hilt by Mr. Welles, was a rich playboy named La Monte Cranston who, by night, became invisible and foiled evildoers. You can believe us or not.

The next evening we went backstage at the Mercury Theatre, after the final curtain, to interview Mr. Welles and find out how La Monte Cranston jibed with Brutus. “Did you have to listen to that?” said Mr. Welles. He had just come from the stage and was still in costume, a blue serge business suit. Offstage, he’s still a tall, moon-faced youngster with a baby’s complexion and a mop of brown hair. The only new characteristic we discovered was a sudden giggle. If you read the dramatic pages, you already know that, at the surprising age of twenty-two, he had created history with his productions of “Macbeth” and “Doctor Faustus” even before “Julius Caesar.” Probably you also know the story of how, when sixteen, he left his native Kenosha—“a nasty little Middle Western city,” he calls it—to go to Ireland and paint. Running out of money, he introduced himself at the Gate Theatre as a Guild star on vacation and was immediately presented by the trusting Dubliners with a series of leading rôles. He even made guest appearances at the Abbey Theatre. “I don’t want to sound jaded,” he told us, “but this success here, grateful though I am for it, isn’t a patch on my Dublin success.”

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