Orson Welles Impersonates a Journalist

No this isn’t about “Citizen Kane.” It’s about one of the famous actor’s returns to radio in the 1950s. (Before his first film, he was famous on radio — for everything from “The Shadow” to that Mercury Theater “War of the Worlds” broadcast.)

Having started listening to Orson Welles “The Lives of Harry Lime” to find scripts that were later recycled into a journalist series, I was surprised to find a 1951 episode — not recycled later, as far as I know — in which Lime impersonates a journalist.

The Bohemian Star is not a newspaper, but “a diamond as big as a duck’s egg,” and Lime pretends to be a well-known Associated Press reporter so that he can offer to switch places with another reporter who has a last-minute assignment that will get him close to the jewel. (The reporter wants the day off to take his fiancee to a Betty Grable movie.)

“A pretty poor newspaperman who won’t help a colleague when the opportunity turns up.” — Harry Lime

The theme of one journalist “covering” for another is not uncommon in fiction about the newspaper business,  “Front Page Woman” being one example; there is even a scene along those lines in “Citizen Kane.” The theme of a crook impersonating a journalist to get  information probably shows up now and then in the movies, too, but I can’t think of an example right this minute.

In this radio episode, Lime — crook posing as reporter — makes a passable interviewer, interrogating his Argentine jewel-expert subject on the procedures involved in getting access to appraise the stone, and asking lots of questions about its guards, staff and more. In the process he accidentally learns that the jewel expert was actually planning to steal the diamond himself. Being Harry Lime, he survives, even after the crooks conk him on the head and find out who he is.

In the end, the real journalist shows up and proves to not exactly have been a dummy. Meanwhile, our anti-hero Lime pulls off a bit of good-guy/bad-guy bait and switch worthy of “The Green Hornet” — radio’s blackmail and sting specialist who, as old-time radio fans know, had his own journalism connection as newspaper publisher Britt Reid.

More blog posts being added here about crossover “Europe Confidential” and “Lives of Harry Lime” stories:

The Internet Archive collection of 52 The Lives of Harry Lime episodes, most of which (alas) do not include journalist characters.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1950s, adventure, crime, Drama, reporters. Bookmark the permalink.

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