Was that H.G. or He?

“Forry always said H.G. Wells had a high-pitched voice,” writes Bill Warren. “I never would have dreamed it was this high-pitched.”

Bill had just watched two British Pathé video newsreels, “H G Wells Offers His Solution For Economic Crisis”, and Wells’ press conference on America entering WWII.

“He sounds as though he’s speaking with a lungful of helium,” says Bill. “Imagine him reading his books aloud.”

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5 thoughts on “Was that H.G. or He?

  1. Doubleday’s voice also sounds rather helium-ish, though not as Munchkin-like as Wells’s. I suspect the ridiculousness of Wells’s voice in this clip is an artifact of the technologies involved.

  2. Bill’s interest in the newsreels comes from Forry’s remarking how high Wells’ voice was after hearing him speak in person in LA. So I think that it was high is not in doubt, though it’s fair to ask whether the sound system is contributing to the cartoonish tone (be it the original newsreel recording, or the conversion to something we can listen to via the internet).

    I suppose one could figure out a way of comparing the sound fidelity of the British Pathe online newsreels with ordinary film soundtracks from the 1930s to get a sense whether the effect is due to distortion, if we were already familiar from film with some voices of that era. Whose would I recognize… Hitler? (“Ein volk…!”) Lou Gehrig? (“Today I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth…”) FDR? (“December 7….”) Of those, Hitler’s voice was highest I think.

  3. There’s a recording of HG Wells and Orson Welles at http://www.mercurytheatre.info/. It’s towards the bottom. His voice doesn’t sound nearly as high, though the dulcet tones of Mr. Welles may be adding to that!

    I transcribed part of it for the latest Exhibition Hall.

  4. Well, big correction, but anyway.

    “H2” came to mind for the headline so I went to check the reference. I mused about the Wikipedia’s article on helium just long enough to be concerned that people would think I was referencing Harlan Ellison instead of the element and forget why I was researching in the first place….

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