Hell on Ice


Broadcast on:
October 9, 1938
Based on:
"Hell on Ice" by Edward Ellsberg
Hell on Ice

"Nearer, nearer crept that mass of shrieking ice..."

The extraordinary journey of the USS Jeannette, which Ellsberg's historical novel recounts, satisfied Welles's thirst for the adventure in the fullest sense. Although one of the lesser-known works the theatre adapted, it is without doubt one of the most extraordinary feats of endurance and determination on record.

Unfortunately this is another recording of variable quality, although the flaws are largely at the opening and the end. The sound effects are extremely effective and it is a shame that they are not really given justice in this recording. As with all of these recordings, if you know of any better-quality version please don't hesitate to get in touch.


The Novel

Hell on Ice was written by (Rear Admiral) Edward Ellsberg and published just months before this adaptation, the most recent of all the works adapted. The novel is still widely-read (though not, I regret, by me) and the story itself is well-known as one of the great adventures in naval history. Ellsberg had been long-retired when this book was written, but re-enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbour at the age of 51. Like my own father, he participated in the Normandy landings and was awarded an O.B.E in recognition of his work.

Full Cast

Orson Welles, Al Swenson, Bud Collyer, Dan Seymour (announcer), Frank Readick, Howard Smith, Joseph Cotten, Ray Collins, Thelma Schnee, William Alland.

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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