Heart of Darkness


Broadcast on:
November 6, 1938
Based on:

"Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad (1898)

"Life with Father" by Clarence Day (1935)
Heart of Darkness

"The land seemed to glisten and drip with steam..."

A curious juxtaposition of Conrad's voyage into madness and Day's light, frothy comedy - Conrad's short novel is memorably told as the search for Kurtz leads a boat up the Congo. Welles had always wanted to film Hearts of Darkness and this is as close as he came (apart from another radio broadcast in 1945). Both offer a glimpse into what he might have done with the book on screen, especially with the role of Kurtz.

Life with Father eventually became Broadway's longing running show, and here it is treated with appropriate reverence. Unfortunately this is a less-than-perfect recording of the show - soft, demonic voices inexplicably surface at one point - though it has been improved as much as possible. I'm always looking for better-quality versions, if you know where one might be found please get in touch.


The Novels

Heart of Darkness was based on Conrad's experiences travelling up the Congo as a young man. The novella was not widely-known during Conrad's lifetime but has since become one of the most analysed works of the 20th Century (although technically it was serialised in the 19th century. The film Apocalypse Now was based on the novella, and the documentary of the film used the book's title. It is not a cheerful book, as Conrad himself said, the book is: "a wild story of a journalist who becomes manager of a station in the (African) interior and makes himself worshipped by a tribe of savages. Thus described, the subject seems comic, but it isn't."

Full Cast

"Heart of Darkness"
Orson Welles (Author, Ernest Kurtz), Ray Collins (Marlow), Alfred Shirley (Accountant), George Coulouris (Assistant Manager), Edgar Barrier (Second Manager), William Alland (Agent), Virginia Welles, as Anna Stafford (Kurtz's Intended Bride), Frank Readick (Tchiatosov)
"Life with Father"
Orson Welles (Father), Mildred Natwick (Mother), Mary Wickes (Employment Office Manager), Alice Frost (Margaret), Arthur Anderson (young Clarence Day)

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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