Another Reason To Love Orson Welles

Written by Joe D on July 14th, 2007

We all know about the 1936 Mercury Theater Production of MacBeth staged by Orson Welles, Welles set MacBeth in Haiti and used an all black cast. Ahead of his time don’t you think. (Around 1978 I met an old woman in a bar on 8th Ave. called Le Coq Au Vin. She was working in the wardrobe department at the Metropolitan Opera, she told me she had done costumes for Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater, including MacBeth!)

But did you know that just after the end of WWII Welles was broadcasting a weekly radio show from Hollywood. He received word from the NAACP about an injustice done to a returned black veteran, Issac Woodard Jr. Mr. Woodard had served with distinction in the South Pacific and earned a battle star. A cop back in his home town in South Carolina had beaten him savagely for no apparent reason other than the color of his skin. Mr. Woodard did not get medical attention in a timely manner for the same racist reason. As a result he was permanently blinded. Orson was outraged and began a one man campaign to bring the racist cop to justice. And after weeks of broadcasting dramatisations and accusatory monolouges “Wash your hands, Officer X!”,”We will give the world your Christian name!”, he succeded. The Dept. of Justice brought charges against the perpetrator who confessed. Ahead of his time as an artist and as a human being.

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