William S. Paley was born September 28, 1901.

His fate became entangled with the broadcast medium when his father, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, purchased a struggling Philadelphia-based radio network of 16 stations (called the Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System). The radio network, and the Paley family cigar business, blossomed and within a decade (under young William’s guidance) the network had expanded into 114 stations!

His major radio network (now known as the Columbia Broadcasting System) was the home for Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater on the Air program – a show dedicated to producing 1 hour dramatizations of famous plays and books.

By the time The War of the Worlds was about to be aired, Paley was planning on canceling The Mercury Theater radio program due to a lack of audience interest and dwindling advertiser revenue. He had placed CBS station manager Davidson Taylor in charge of overseeing Welles’ troupe, just in case the flamboyant Welles were to plan any “surprises”. When Paley, and his affiliates, saw the reaction to the War of the Worlds broadcast, they realized that they had a goldmine on their hands. The Campbell Soup company quickly stepped up to the plate as a corporate sponsor, and the Campbell Playhouse was born!

Having being married twice (his first wife being Dorothy Hart Hearst – former wife of the third son to William Randolph Hearst), Paley was notorious for his blatant passion for “other women”. His most famous mistress was actress Louise Brooks – for whom he maintained a considerable stipend that allowed her to live in comfort all of her life.

Paley died of kidney failure on October 26, 1990. He was 89 years old.

To learn more about William S. Paley, visit the Wikipedia Page dedicated to him.

~ by Peter Overstreet on May 30, 2008.

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