As movie stars and celebrities go Orson Wells has to be considered one of the more familiar visitors to Tacoma during the 1940’s and 50’s.
Rebecca Wells, the daughter of Orson and the glamorous Rita Hayworth went to college and UPS and then lived most of her life here. She became a colorful and loved character at Magoo’s Annex in the North End, spinning stories about her Hollywood royalty parents and her own counterculture life story.
Orson Wells was a house guest more than once at Ray Gamble’s home on 30th, where the two prestidigitation enthusiasts shared their magic tricks, cigars and brandy and love of interesting dinner guests. Wells was also a friend of ragtime jazz musician Joe Jordan who wrote the music for his production of Macbeth for the Federal Theatre Project in the late 30’s.
In 1948, Wells played one of his best remembered characters in the film version of Graham Green’s dark post war story, The Third Man. The cynical, shadowy anti-hero of the film, set in the war torn ruins of noirish Vienna, is a scoundrel named Harry Lime, played by Wells. Two years later in 1951, Wells revived the character in a radio program called The Lives of Harry Lime. As he did in 1938 with his cultural landmark program The War of the Worlds, Wells created an immersive reality filled with people trying to put their lives and the world back together after World War Two. Uncertainty, a sense of hidden evil and unsettled endings marked every episode.
As I write this in April 2020, during the isolated, enclosed days of the COVID 19 virus, the life and times of Harry Lime seem strangely in tune with the world around us. So here is one of the best episodes from the radio series, Harry Joins the Circus. Enjoy…