The Count of Monte Cristo


Broadcast on:
August 29, 1938
Based on:
"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
Count of Monte Cristo

"My political opinions? I never had any political opinions. I'm nineteen."

Dumas's novel is a classic of 19th century adventuring in a similar vein to Treasure Island, full of drama and intrigue yet at heart a very human tale. Set just before Napoleon's return from exile on Elba, the novel is intertwined with real historical characters and unreal historical events.

This was the first of two recordings Welles made of the novel, the second coming the following year and starring Agnes Moorehead as part of Campbell Soup's cultural canon. This version is by far the livelier of the two and the action skips lightly through the long book, inevitably cutting great swathes but remaining largely true to the novel's events.


The Novel

I cannot do better than Welles's introduction:

"There is no reasonable explanation of Alexandre Dumas; he was a rich man, we note with interest that he went bankrupt in the theatre. He was a revolutionary. His grandfather was a marquee, his grandmother was a negress. He was born as Napoleon became emperor, he died in poverty as the Germans marched into France. He wrote The Count of Monte Christo as a newspaper serial and shortly after the last instalment a ball and a bullfight were organised for him in Seville and finally in Algiers the custom crews let his baggage through without examination. Such things can't and don't happen today but then neither does Alexandre Dumas, the wildest romance of a man."

Full Cast

Orson Welles, Ray Collins, Eustace Wyatt, George Coulouris, Edgar Barrier, Paul Stewart, Sidney Smith, Richard Wilson, William Alland, Anna Stafford, and announcer Dan Seymour.

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Mercury Theatre

All eighteen surviving broadcasts from the Mercury Theatre on the Air, free to listen to and download.

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Les Miserables

Welles's interpretation of Hugo's epic tale, which inspired CBS to commission the Mercury Theatre.

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Original scripts, other Welles recordings, further reading and lots more besides.

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"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone."

Orson Welles