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Orson Welles lights up Musical Fiesta

Orson Welles lights up Musical Fiesta

Actor-producer Orson Welles, who startled the world with his 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast, pretends to pull a switch unleashing a fireworks show at the Coliseum. Welles posed for a Los Angeles Times photographer to promote the Southern California Musical Fiesta held June 1, 1940.

This photo accompanied a story in the May 26, 1940, Los Angeles Times:

Interplanetary warfare, a fantastic presentation of a skirmish among the stars by the space men of the future, will provide the brilliant finale for Southern California’s first Musical Fiesta next Saturday in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The entire east end of the massive oval will be used for “Battle of the Planets,” largest single-theme pyrotechnical demonstration ever conceived.

Adding a reminiscent note of reality to the spectacle, Orson Welles, actor-producer of radio and screen, will appear to officially jerk the switch which electrically ignites the fireworks.

It was Welles, who in October, 1938, startled America with his broadcast of “The War of the Worlds,” a dramatization of the H. G. Wells novel describing the invasion of earth by Martians.

So convincing was the radio portrayal that residents of New Jersey, scene of the fictional invasion, fled their homes in terror. …

The pyrotechnics will climax a series of entertainment high spots of the fiesta, including a 2500-piece massed band, a 1000-voice massed male chorus, a 1500-piece combined accordion band, costume dancing by 700, captivating antics of 300 glamorous majorettes, riding and drill clubs, drum and bugle corps, radio and screen personalities, novelties and fun. …

The Southern California Musical Fiesta, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, raised money for the Parent-Teacher Assn. Milk Fund.

June 1, 1940: Actors Leo Carrillo and Orson Welles at Southern California Musical Fiesta held at the Memorial Coliseum. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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