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Orson Welles

Welles in 1937 (age 21)
photographed by Carl Van Vechten
Born George Orson Welles
May 6, 1915(1915-05-06)
Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died October 10, 1985 (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director, writer, producer, voice actor
Years active 1934–1985
Spouse(s) Virginia Nicholson (1934–1940)
Rita Hayworth (1943–1948)
Paola Mori (1955–1985)
Domestic partner(s) Dolores del Río (1938–1941)
Oja Kodar (1966–1985)

George Orson Welles (May 6, 1915 – October 10, 1985), best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, writer, actor, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television, and radio. Noted for his innovative dramatic productions as well as his distinctive voice and personality, Welles is widely acknowledged as one of the most accomplished dramatic artists of the twentieth century, in spite of the failure of some later film projects after his significant and impressive early work.

Welles first found national and international fame as the director and narrator of a 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds which, performed in the style of a news broadcast, caused widespread panic when listeners thought that an extraterrestrial invasion was occurring and being reported by newscasters. His first two films with RKO, Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), are widely considered two of the greatest films ever made. Several of his other films, particularly Touch of Evil (1958) and Chimes at Midnight (1965), are also considered masterpieces by many.[1][2] In 2002 he was voted the greatest film director of all time in the British Film Institute's poll of Top Ten Directors.[3][4]

Welles was also an accomplished magician, starring in troop variety spectacles in the war years.


Life and work

Youth and early career (1915–1934)

Welles was born May 6, 1915, in Kenosha, Wisconsin and was brought up as a Roman Catholic. He had English ancestry.[citation needed] Despite his parents' affluence, Welles encountered many hardships in childhood. In 1919, his parents separated and moved to Chicago. His father, Richard Welles, who had made a fortune as the inventor of a popular bicycle lamp,[5] became an alcoholic and stopped working. Welles's mother, Beatrice (née Ives), a trained concert pianist, played during lectures by Dr. Dudley Crafts Watson at the Chicago Art Institute to support her son and herself. (The oldest Welles boy, "Dickie" had been institutionalized at an early age because he was, in the terms of the day, "not fully baked.") Beatrice died of jaundice on May 10, 1924, in a Chicago hospital, four days after Welles's ninth birthday.[6] After his mother's death, Welles ceased pursuing his interest in music. He was taken in by Dr. Dudley Crafts Watson, and lived with the family at Dr. Watson's family home, "Trillium Dell", on Marshman Avenue in Highland Park, Illinois. At the age of ten, Orson, along with Dr. Watson's third daughter, Marjorie (of the same age) ran away from home. They were found a week later, singing and dancing for money on a street corner in Milwaukee. His father died when Orson was fifteen – during the summer after Orson's graduation from Todd School for Boys, an independent school in Woodstock, Illinois – whereupon Maurice Bernstein, a physician from Chicago, became his guardian.

At Todd School, Welles came under the positive influence and guidance of Roger Hill, a teacher who later became Todd's headmaster. Hill provided Welles with an ad hoc educational environment that proved invaluable to his creative experience, allowing Welles to concentrate on subjects that interested him. Welles performed and staged his first theatrical experiments and productions there.

After his father's death, Welles traveled to Europe with the aid of a small inheritance. Welles later reported that while on a walking and painting trip through Ireland, he strode into the Gate Theatre in Dublin and claimed he was a Broadway star. The manager of Gate, Hilton Edwards, later said he didn't believe him, but was impressed by his brashness and some impassioned quality in his audition.[citation needed] Welles made his stage debut at the Gate in 1931, appearing in Jew Suss as the Duke. He acted to great acclaim, which reached the United States. He performed smaller supporting roles as well. On returning to the United States he found his fame ephemeral and turned to a writing project at Todd School that would become the immensely successful Everybody's Shakespeare, and subsequently, The Mercury Shakespeare. Welles traveled to North Africa while working on thousands of illustrations for the Everybody's Shakespeare series of educational books, a series that remained in print for decades.

An introduction by Thornton Wilder led Welles to the New York stage. In 1933, he toured in three off-Broadway productions with Katharine Cornell's company, including two roles in Romeo and Juliet.[7] Restless and impatient when the planned Broadway opening of Romeo and Juliet was canceled, Welles staged a drama festival of his own with the Todd School, inviting Micheál MacLíammóir and Hilton Edwards from Dublin's Gate Theatre to appear, along with New York stage luminaries. It was a roaring success. The subsequent revival of Romeo and Juliet brought Welles to the notice of John Houseman, who was casting for an unusual lead actor for the lead role in the Federal Theatre Project.

By 1935 Welles was supplementing his earnings in the theater as a radio actor in Manhattan, working with many of the actors who would later form the core of his Mercury Theatre. He married Chicago actress Virginia Nicholson in 1934; and that same year he shot an eight-minute silent short film, The Hearts of Age with her. The couple had one daughter, Christopher. She made her only film appearance in 1948, taking the role of Macduff’s son in Welles' film Macbeth and later became known as Chris Welles Feder, an author of educational materials for children.

Renown in theater and radio (1936–1940)

In 1936, the Federal Theatre Project (part of Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration) put unemployed theater performers and employees to work. Welles was hired by John Houseman and assigned to direct a play for the Federal Theatre Project's Negro Theater Unit. He offered them Macbeth,[8] in a production that became known as the Voodoo Macbeth, because Welles set it in the Haitian court of King Henri Christophe, with voodoo witch doctors for the three Weird Sisters. Jack Carter played Macbeth. The incidental music was composed by Virgil Thomson. The play was received rapturously and later toured the nation. When the lead actor, Maurice Ellis, fell ill on tour, Welles quickly boarded an airplane to fly to the location, and stepped into the part playing the role in blackface.[9] At the age of twenty, Welles was hailed as a prodigy. A few minutes of the Welles production of Macbeth was recorded on film in a 1937 documentary called We Work Again.[10]

Original poster for Project #981's production of The Cradle Will Rock

The Cradle Will Rock

After the success of Macbeth, Welles mounted the absurd farce Horse Eats Hat. He consolidated his "White Hope" reputation with Dr Faustus which used light as a prime unifying scenic element in a nearly blacked-out stage. In 1937, he rehearsed Marc Blitzstein's highly political operetta, The Cradle Will Rock. Because of severe federal cutbacks in the Works Progress projects, the show's premiere at the Maxine Elliott Theatre was canceled. The theater was locked and guarded to prevent any of the government-purchased materials being used for a commercial production of the work. In a last-minute move Welles announced to waiting ticket-holders that the show was being transferred to the Venice, about twenty blocks away. Some cast, as well as some crew and audience walked the distance on foot. The union musicians refused to perform in a commercial theater for lower non-union government wages. The actors' union stated that the production belonged to the federal theater project and could not be performed outside that context without permission. Lacking the participation of the union members, The Cradle Will Rock began with Blitzstein introducing the show and playing the piano accompaniment on stage, with some cast members performing their parts from the audience. This impromptu performance was well received by its audience. It afterward played at the Venice for two weeks in the same informal circumstances as the first performance.

Mercury Theatre

Resigning from the Federal Theatre, Welles and Houseman formed their own company, the Mercury Theatre, which eventually included actors such as Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Dolores del Río, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Frank Readick, Everett Sloane, Eustace Wyatt, and Erskine Sanford, all of whom would continue to work for Welles for years. The first Mercury Theatre production was a melodramatic and heavily edited version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, set in a contemporary frame of fascist Italy. Cinna the Poet dies at the hands not of a mob, but of a secret police force. According to Norman Lloyd, who played Cinna, "it stopped the show". The applause lasted more than three minutes and the production was widely acclaimed.

In the second year of the Mercury Theater, Welles shifted his interests to radio, as an actor, director, and producer. He played Hamlet for CBS on The Columbia Workshop, while adapting and directing the play. The Mutual Network gave him a seven-week series to adapt Les Misérables, which he did with great success. In late 1937, Mutual chose Welles to play Lamont Cranston The Shadow anonymously, and in the summer of 1938 CBS gave him (and the Mercury Theatre) a weekly hour-long show to broadcast radio plays based on classic literary works. The show was titled The Mercury Theatre on the Air, with original music by Bernard Herrmann, who would continue working with Welles on radio and in films for years.

An electrical transcription disk of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast

War of the Worlds

Their October 30, 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells brought Welles prominence and instant fame on both a national and international level. The combination of the news bulletin format of the performance with the between-breaks dial spinning habits of listeners from the rival and far more popular Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy program, created widespread confusion among listeners who failed to hear the introduction. Panic spread among many listeners who believed the news reports of a Martian invasion. The resulting panic created by the combination was reported around the world and disparagingly mentioned by Adolf Hitler in a public speech a few months later.[11]

Welles's growing fame soon drew Hollywood offers, lures which the independent-minded Welles resisted at first. The Mercury Theatre on the Air, which had been a "sustaining show" (without sponsorship) was picked up by Campbell Soup and renamed The Campbell Playhouse, however.[12]

Welles in Hollywood (1939–1948)

RKO Pictures president George Schaefer eventually offered Welles what generally is considered the greatest contract ever offered to an untried director: complete artistic control. RKO signed Welles in a two-picture deal; including script, cast, crew, and most importantly, final cut, although Welles had a budget limit for his projects. With this contract in hand, Welles (and nearly the entire Mercury Theatre troupe) moved to Hollywood. He commuted weekly to New York to maintain his commitment to The Campbell Playhouse.

Welles toyed with various ideas for his first project for RKO Pictures, settling on an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which he worked on in great detail. He planned to film the action with a subjective camera from the protagonist's point of view. When a budget was drawn up, RKO's enthusiasm cooled, because it was greater than the previously agreed limit. RKO also declined to approve another Welles project, The Smiler with the Knife, ostensibly because they lacked faith in Lucille Ball's ability to carry the leading lady role.

In a sign of things to come, Welles left The Campbell Playhouse in 1940, due to creative differences with the sponsor. The show continued without him, produced by John Houseman. In perhaps another sign of things to come, Welles's first experience on a Hollywood film wound up being as narrator for RKO's 1940 production of The Swiss Family Robinson.

Citizen Kane

Welles in Citizen Kane (1941)

RKO, having rejected Welles' first two movie proposals, finally agreed on the third offer, Citizen Kane, which Welles co-wrote, produced, directed, and performed the lead role.[13]

Welles found a suitable film project in an idea he conceived with screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, (who was then writing radio plays for The Campbell Playhouse). Initially entitled, American, it eventually became Welles's first feature film (also his most famous and honored role), Citizen Kane (1941).

Mankiewicz, Welles's collaborator, based his original notion on an exposé of the life of William Randolph Hearst, whom he knew socially, but now hated, having once been great friends with Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies. Mankiewicz currently was banished from her company because of his perpetual drunkenness. Mankiewicz, a notorious gossip, exacted revenge with his unflattering depiction of Davies in Citizen Kane for which Welles bore most of the criticisms; Welles also had a connection with Davies through his first wife. Kane's megalomaniacal personality also was modeled loosely on Robert McCormick, Howard Hughes, and Joseph Pulitzer, as Welles wanted to create a broad, complex character, intending to show the character in the same scenes from several points of view. The use of multiple narrative perspectives in Conrad's Heart of Darkness influenced the treatment. Supplying Mankiewicz with 300 pages of notes, Welles urged him to write the first draft of a screenplay under the watchful nursing of John Houseman, who was posted to ensure Mankiewicz stayed sober. On Welles's instruction, Houseman wrote the opening narration as a pastiche of The March of Time newsreels. Orson Welles explained to Peter Bogdanovich about the writers' working separately by saying, "I left him on his own finally, because we'd started to waste too much time haggling. So, after mutual agreements on storyline and character, Mank went off with Houseman and did his version, while I stayed in Hollywood and wrote mine."[13] Taking these drafts, Welles drastically condensed and rearranged them, then added scenes of his own. The industry accused Welles of underplaying Mankiewicz's contribution to the script, but Welles counteracted the attacks by saying, "At the end, naturally, I was the one making the picture, after all--who had to make the decisions. I used what I wanted of Mank's and, rightly or wrongly, kept what I liked of my own."

The resulting character of Charles Foster Kane is based loosely on parts of Hearst's life as well. Nonetheless, autobiographical allusions to Welles were worked in, most noticeably in the treatment of Kane's childhood and particularly, regarding his guardianship. Welles then added features from other famous American lives to create a general and mysterious personality rather than the narrow journalistic portrait intended by Mankiewicz, whose first drafts included scandalous claims about the death of the film director Thomas Ince.

Once the script was completed, Welles attracted some of Hollywood's best technicians, including cinematographer Gregg Toland, who walked into Welles's office and announced he wanted to work on the picture. Welles later described Toland as "the fastest cameraman who ever lived."[13] For the cast, Welles primarily used actors from his Mercury Theatre. He invited suggestions from everyone, but only if they were directed through him. Filming Citizen Kane took ten weeks.[13]

Mankiewicz handed a copy of the final shooting script to his friend, Charles Lederer, now husband of Welles's ex-wife, Virginia Nicholson, as well as being the nephew of Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper saw a small ad in a newspaper for a preview screening of Citizen Kane and went. Hopper, realizing immediately that the film was based on features of Hearst's life, reported this back to him and threatened to give "Hollywood, Private Lives" if that was what it wanted. Thus began the struggle over the attempted suppression of Citizen Kane.

Hearst's media outlets boycotted the film. They exerted enormous pressure on the Hollywood film community by threatening to expose fifteen years of suppressed scandals and the fact that most of the studio bosses were Jewish. At one point, the heads of the major studios jointly offered RKO the cost of the film in exchange for the negative and all existing prints, fully intending to burn them. RKO declined, and the film was given a limited release. Meanwhile, Hearst successfully intimidated theater chains by threatening to ban advertising for any of their other films in any of his papers, if they showed Citizen Kane.

While the film was well-received critically, by the time it reached the general public, the positive tide of publicity had waned. It garnered nine Academy Award nominations (Orson nominated as a producer, director, writer, and actor), but won only for Best Original Screenplay, shared by Mankiewicz and Welles. Although it basically was ignored at the Academy Awards, Citizen Kane now is hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. Andrew Sarris called it "the work that influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since The Birth of a Nation."[13] The delay in its release and its uneven distribution contributed to its average result at the box-office, making back its budget and marketing, but RKO lost any chance of a major profit. The fact that Citizen Kane ignored many Hollywood conventions also meant that the film confused and angered the 1940s cinema public. Exhibitor response was scathing; most theater owners complained bitterly about the adverse audience reaction and the many walkouts. Only a few saw fit to acknowledge Welles's artistic technique. RKO shelved the film and did not re-release it until 1956.

During the 1950s, the film came to be seen by young French film critics such as François Truffaut as exemplifying the "auteur theory", in which the director is the "author" of a film. Truffaut, Godard and others inspired by Welles's example, were to make their own films, giving birth to the Nouvelle Vague. In the 1960s Citizen Kane became popular on college campuses, both as a film-study exercise and as an entertainment subject. Its frequent revivals on television, home video, and DVD have enhanced its "classic" status, and ultimately, it recouped its costs. The film still is considered by most film critics and historians to be one of the greatest motion pictures in cinema history.

The Magnificent Ambersons

Welles's second film for RKO was The Magnificent Ambersons, adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Booth Tarkington. George Schaefer hoped to make back the money lost by Citizen Kane. Ambersons already had been adapted for The Campbell Playhouse by Welles for the stage, and he then wrote the screen adaptation. Toland was not available, so Stanley Cortez was named cinematographer. The meticulous Cortez, however, was slow and the film lagged behind schedule and over budget. Prior to productions, Welles' contract was renegotiated, revoking his right to control the final cut.

Joseph Cotten as Eugene Morgan in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

At RKO's request, simultaneously, Welles worked on an adaptation of Eric Ambler's spy thriller, Journey into Fear, which he co-wrote with Joseph Cotten. In addition to acting in the film, Welles also was producer. Direction was credited solely to Norman Foster. Welles later stated that they were in such a rush that the director of each scene was determined by whoever was closest to the camera.

Welles then was offered a new radio series by CBS. Called The Orson Welles Show, it was a half-hour variety show of short stories, comedy skits, poetry, and musical numbers. Joining the original Mercury Theatre cast for the show, was Cliff Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket, "on loan from Walt Disney". The variety format was unpopular with listeners and Welles soon was forced to limit the content of the show simply to telling a one half-hour story for the entirety of each episode.

It's All True

To further complicate matters during the production of Ambersons and Journey into Fear, Welles was approached by Nelson Rockefeller and Jock Whitney to produce a documentary film about South America. This was at the behest of the federal government's Good Neighbor policy, a wartime propaganda effort designed to prevent Latin America from allying with the Axis powers. Welles saw his involvement as a form of national service, since his physical condition excused him from direct military service.

Expected to film the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Welles rushed to finish the editing on Ambersons and his acting scenes in Journey into Fear. Ending his CBS radio show, he lashed together a rough cut of Ambersons with Robert Wise, who had edited Citizen Kane, and left for Brazil. Wise was to join him in Rio to complete the film, but never arrived. A provisional final cut arranged via phone call, telegram, and shortwave radio was previewed without Welles's approval in Pomona in a double bill, to a mostly negative audience response, particularly to the character of Aunt Fanny played by Agnes Moorehead. Whereas Schaefer argued that Welles be allowed to complete his own version of the film, and that an archival copy be kept with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, RKO disagreed. With Welles in South America, there was no practical means of having him edit the film.

Major changes occurred at RKO in 1942. Floyd Odlum took over control of the studio and began changing its direction. Rockefeller, the most significant backer of the Brazil project, left the RKO board of directors. Around the same time, the principal sponsor of Welles at RKO, studio president George Schaefer, resigned. The changes throughout RKO caused reevaluations of many projects. RKO took control of Ambersons, formed a committee which was ordered to edit the film into what the studio considered a commercial format. They removed fifty minutes of Welles's footage, re-shot sequences, rearranged the scene order, and added a happy ending. Koerner released the shortened film on the bottom of a double-bill with the Lupe Vélez comedy, Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost. Ambersons was an expensive flop for RKO, although it received four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Agnes Moorehead.

Welles's South American documentary, entitled It's All True, budgeted at one million dollars with half of its budget coming from the U.S. Government upon completion, grew in ambition and budget while Welles was in South America. While the film originally was to be a documentary on Carnaval, Welles added a new story which recreated the journey of the jangadeiros, four poor fishermen who had made a 1,500-mile (2,400 km) journey on their open raft to petition Brazilian President Vargas about their working conditions. The four had become national folk heroes; Welles first read of their journey in Time. Their leader, Jacare, died during a filming mishap. RKO, in limited contact with Welles, attempted to rein in the production. Most of the crew and budget were withdrawn from the film. In addition, the Mercury staff was removed from the studio in the U.S.

Welles requested resources to finish the film. He was given a limited amount of black-and-white stock and a silent camera. He completed the sequence, but RKO refused to support any further production on the film. Surviving footage was released in 1993, including a rough reconstruction of the "Four Men on a Raft" segment. Meanwhile, RKO asserted in public that Welles had gone to Brazil without a screenplay and that he had squandered a million dollars. Their official company slogan for the next year was, "Showmanship in place of Genius" -- which was taken as a slight against Welles.

Director for hire (1943–1946)

On returning to Hollywood, Welles found no studios interested in hiring him as a film director after the twin disasters of The Magnificent Ambersons and It's All True. Welles next worked on radio. CBS offered him two weekly series, Hello Americans, based on the research he'd done in Brazil, and Ceiling Unlimited, sponsored by Lockheed, a wartime salute to advances in aviation. Both featured several members of his original Mercury Theatre troupe. Within a few months, Hello Americans was canceled and Welles was replaced as host of Ceiling Unlimited by Joseph Cotten. Welles guest-starred on a great variety of shows, notably guest-hosting Jack Benny shows for a month in 1943. He took an increasingly active role in American and international politics and used journalism to communicate his forceful ideas widely.

In 1943, Welles married Rita Hayworth. They had one child, Rebecca Welles, and divorced five years later in 1948. In between, Welles found work as an actor in other directors' films. He starred in the 1944 film adaptation of Jane Eyre, trading credit as associate producer for top billing over Joan Fontaine. He also had a cameo in the 1944 wartime salute Follow the Boys, in which he performed his Mercury Wonder Show magic act and "sawed" Marlene Dietrich in half after Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn refused to allow Hayworth to perform.

In 1944, Welles was offered a new radio show, broadcast only in California, Orson Welles's Almanac. It was another half-hour variety show, with Mobil Oil as sponsor. After the success of his stand-in hosting on The Jack Benny Show, the focus was primarily on comedy. His hosting on the Jack Benny show included several self-deprecating jokes and story lines about his being a "genius" and overriding any ideas advanced by other cast members. The trade papers were not eager to accept Welles as a comedian, and Welles often complained on-air about the poor quality of the scripts. When Welles started his Mercury Wonder Show a few months later, traveling to Armed Forces camps and performing magic tricks and doing comedy, the radio show was broadcast live from the camps and the material took on a decidedly wartime flavor. Of his original Mercury actors, only Agnes Moorehead remained working with him. The series was cancelled by year's end due to poor ratings.

While he found no studio willing to hire him as a film director, Welles's popularity as an actor continued. Pabst Blue Ribbon gave Welles their radio series This Is My Best to direct, but after one month he was fired for creative differences. He started writing a political column for the New York Post, again called Orson Welles's Almanac. While the paper wanted Welles to write about Hollywood gossip, Welles explored serious political issues. His activism for world peace took considerable amounts of his time. The Post column eventually failed in syndication because of contradictory expectations and was dropped by the Post.

Post-war work (1946–1948)

The Stranger

In 1946, International Pictures released Welles's film, The Stranger, starring Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, and Welles. Sam Spiegel produced the film, which follows the hunt for a Nazi war criminal living under an alias in America. While Anthony Veiller was credited with the screenplay, it had been rewritten by Welles and John Huston. Disputes occurred during the editing process between Spiegel and Welles. The film became a box office success and it helped his standing with the studios.

In the summer of 1946, Welles directed a musical stage version of Around the World in Eighty Days, with a comedic and ironic rewriting of the Jules Verne novel by Welles, incidental music and songs by Cole Porter, and production by Mike Todd, who would later produce the successful film version with David Niven. When Todd pulled out from the lavish and expensive production, Welles alone supported the finances. When he ran out of money at one point, he convinced Columbia president Harry Cohn to send him enough to continue the show, and in exchange, Welles promised to write, produce, direct, and star in a film for Cohn for no further fee. The stage show soon failed, due to poor box-office, with Welles unable to claim the losses on his taxes. The complicated financial arrangements concerning the show, its losses, and Welles's arrangement with Cohn, resulted in a tax dispute with the IRS.

At the same time in 1946 he began two new radio series, The Mercury Summer Theatre for CBS and Orson Welles Commentaries for ABC. While Summer Theatre featured half-hour adaptations of some of the classic Mercury radio shows from the 1930s, the first episode was a condensation of his Around the World stage play, and remains the only record of Cole Porter's music for the project. Several original Mercury actors returned for the series, as well as Bernard Herrmann. It only was scheduled for the summer months, and Welles invested his earnings into his failing stage play. Commentaries was a political vehicle for him, continuing the themes from his New York Post column. Again, Welles lacked a clear focus, until the NAACP brought to his attention the case of Isaac Woodard. Welles brought significant attention to Woodard's cause. Soon Welles was being hanged in effigy in the South and theaters refused to show the The Stranger in several southern states.

Welles as Michael O'Hara in The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

The Lady from Shanghai

The film Welles was obliged to make for Cohn helping him complete Around the World in Eighty Days, ended up being The Lady from Shanghai, filmed in 1947 for Columbia Pictures. Intended to be a modest thriller, the budget skyrocketed after Cohn suggested that Welles's then-estranged second wife Rita Hayworth co-star. Cohn disliked Welles's rough-cut, particularly the confusing plot and lack of close-ups, and ordered extensive editing and re-shoots. After heavy editing by the studio, approximately one hour of Welles's first cut had been removed. While expressing displeasure at the cuts, Welles was appalled particularly by the soundtrack, objecting to the musical score. The film was considered a disaster in America at the time of release. Not long after release, Welles and Hayworth finalized their divorce. Although the film was acclaimed in Europe, it was not embraced in the U.S. for several decades. A similar situation occurred when Welles suggested to Charlie Chaplin that he star in a film directed by Welles based on the life of the French serial killer, Henri Désiré Landru. Instead, Chaplin adapted the idea for his own film, Monsieur Verdoux, with Welles officially credited for the idea.


In 1948 Welles convinced Republic Pictures to let him direct a low-budget version of Macbeth, which featured papier-mâché sets, cardboard crowns, and a cast of actors lip-syncing to a prerecorded soundtrack. Republic did not care for the Scottish accents on the soundtrack and held up release for almost a year. Welles left for Europe, while his co-producer and life-long supporter Richard Wilson reworked the soundtrack. Welles ultimately returned and cut twenty minutes from the film at Republic's request and recorded narration to cover the gaps. The film was decried as another disaster. In the late 1970s, a version of Macbeth was released that attempted to follow Welles's original vision.

Welles in Europe (1948–1956)

Welles left Hollywood for Europe in late 1947, enigmatically saying that he had chosen "freedom." In Italy he starred as Cagliostro in the 1948 film Black Magic. His co-star, Akim Tamiroff, impressed Welles so much that Tamiroff would appear in four of Welles' own productions during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Third Man

Joseph Cotten as writer Holly Martins (left) and Welles (right) as Harry Lime in The Third Man (1949)

The following year, Welles starred as Harry Lime in Carol Reed's The Third Man, alongside Joseph Cotten, his good friend and co-star from Citizen Kane, with a script by Graham Greene and a memorable zither score by Anton Karas. The film was an international smash hit, but unfortunately Welles had turned down a percentage of the gross in exchange for a lump-sum advance. A few years later British radio producer Harry Alan Towers would resurrect the Lime character for radio in the series The Lives of Harry Lime. The 1951 series included new recordings by Karas, was very successful, and ran for 52 weeks. Welles claimed to write a handful of episodes – a claim disputed by Towers, who maintains they were written by Ernest Borneman – which later would serve as the basis for the screenplay by Welles, Mr. Arkadin (1955).

Welles also appeared as Cesare Borgia in the 1949 Italian film Prince of Foxes, with Tyrone Power and Mercury Theatre alumnus Everett Sloane, and as the Mongol warrior Bayan in the 1950 film version of the novel The Black Rose (again with Tyrone Power).


During this time, Welles was channeling his money from acting jobs into a self-financed film version of Shakespeare's play Othello. From 1949 to 1951, Welles worked on Othello, filming on location in Europe and Morocco. The film featured Welles' old friends, Micheál MacLíammóir as Iago and Hilton Edwards as Desdemona's father Brabantio. Suzanne Cloutier starred as Desdemona and Campbell Playhouse alumnus Robert Coote appeared as Iago's associate Roderigo.

Filming was suspended several times as Welles ran out of funds and left to find other acting jobs, accounted in detail in MacLiammóir's published memoir Put Money in Thy Purse. When it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival it won the Palme d'Or, but was not given a general release in the United States until 1955 (by which time Welles had re-cut the first reel and re-dubbed most of the film, removing Cloutier's voice entirely), and it played only in New York and Los Angeles. The American release prints had a technically flawed soundtrack, suffering from a complete drop-out of sound at every quiet moment. It was one of these flawed prints that was restored by Welles' daughter, Beatrice Welles-Smith in 1992 for a wide re-release. The restoration included reconstructing Angelo Francesco Lavagnino's original musical score (which was inaudible) and adding ambient stereo sound effects (which weren't in the original film). Although still active in Italy, Lavagnino was not consulted. The subject of great controversy among film scholars, the restoration went on to a successful theatrical run in America. A print of the U.S. version was released on laser-disc in 1995 and soon withdrawn after a legal challenge by Beatrice Welles-Smith. The original Cannes version has survived, but is not available commercially.

In 1952 Welles continued finding work in England, after the success of the Harry Lime radio show. Harry Alan Towers offered Welles another series, The Black Museum, with Welles as host and narrator, and this would also run 52 weeks. Director Herbert Wilcox offered him the part of the murdered victim in Trent's Last Case, based on the novel by E. C. Bentley. In 1953 the BBC hired Welles to read an hour of selections from Walt Whitman's epic poem Song of Myself. Towers hired Welles again, to play Professor Moriarty in the radio series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, starring John Gielgud, and Ralph Richardson.

Late in 1953, Welles returned to America to star in a live CBS Omnibus television presentation of Shakespeare's King Lear. The cast included MacLiammóir and the British actor, Alan Badel. While Welles received good notices, he was guarded by IRS agents, prohibited to leave his hotel room when not at the studio, prevented from making any purchases, and the entire sum (less expenses) he earned went to his tax bill. Welles returned to England after the broadcast.

In 1954, director George More O'Ferrall offered Welles the title role in the 'Lord Mountdrago' segment of Three Cases of Murder, co-starring Badel. Herbert Wilcox cast him as the antagonist in Trouble in Glen opposite Margaret Lockwood, Forrest Tucker, and Victor McLaglen. Old friend John Huston cast him as Father Mapple in his film adaptation of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, starring Gregory Peck.

Mr. Arkadin

Welles' next turn as director was the film Mr. Arkadin (1955), which was produced by his political mentor from the 1940s, Louis Dolivet. It was filmed in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy on a very limited budget. Based loosely on several episodes of the Harry Lime radio show, it stars Welles as a billionaire who hires a man to delve into the secrets of his past. The film stars Robert Arden, who had worked on the Harry Lime series, Welles' third wife, Paola Mori, whose voice was completely dubbed by actress Billie Whitelaw, and guest stars Akim Tamiroff, Michael Redgrave, Katina Paxinou, and Mischa Auer. Frustrated by his slow progress in the editing room, producer Dolivet removed Welles from the project and finished the film without him. Eventually five different versions of the film would be released, two in Spanish and three in English. The version which Dolivet completed was retitled Confidential Report. In 2005 Stefan Droessler of the Munich Filmmuseum oversaw a reconstruction of the surviving film elements. Released on DVD by the Criterion Company, it is considered by Welles scholar and director Peter Bogdanovich to be the best version of Welles' original intentions for the film.

In 1955 Welles also directed two television series for the BBC. The first was The Orson Welles Sketchbook, a series of six 15-minute shows featuring Welles drawing in a sketchbook to illustrate his reminiscences for the camera (including such topics as the filming of It's All True and the Isaac Woodard case), and the second was Around the World with Orson Welles, a series of six travelogues set in different locations around Europe (such as Venice, the Basque Country between France and Spain, and England). Welles served as host and interviewer, his commentary including documentary facts and his own personal observations (a technique he would continue to explore). A seventh episode of this series, based on the Gaston Dominici case, was suppressed at the time by the French government, but was reconstructed after Welles' death and released to video in 1999.

In 1956 Welles completed Portrait of Gina, posthumously aired on German television under the title Viva Italia, a 30-minute personal essay on Gina Lollobrigida and the general subject of Italian sex symbols. Dissatisfied with the results – Welles recalled he had worked on it a lot and the result looked like it – he left the only print behind at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The film cans would remain in a lost and found locker at the hotel for several decades, where they were discovered after Welles' death.

Return to Hollywood (1956–1959)

In 1956, Welles returned to Hollywood, guesting on radio shows (notably as narrator of Tomorrow, a nuclear holocaust drama produced by the Federal Civil Defense Administration). He guest starred on television shows, including I Love Lucy and began filming a projected pilot for Desilu, owned by Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz, who had recently purchased the former RKO studios. The film was The Fountain of Youth, based on a story by John Collier. Originally deemed not viable as a pilot, the film wasn't aired until 1958. It won the Peabody Award for excellence. Welles's next feature film role was in Man in the Shadow for Universal Pictures in 1957, starring Jeff Chandler.

Touch of Evil

Welles stayed on at Universal to direct (and co-star with) Charlton Heston in the 1958 film Touch of Evil, based on Whit Masterson's novel Badge of Evil (Welles, who wrote the screenplay for the film, claimed never to have read the book). Originally only hired as an actor, Welles was promoted to director by Universal Studios at the suggestion (and insistence) of Charlton Heston. Reuniting many actors and technicians with whom he'd worked in Hollywood in the 1940s (including cameraman Russell Metty (The Stranger), make-up artist Maurice Siederman (Citizen Kane), and actors Joseph Cotten, Marlene Dietrich, and Akim Tamiroff), filming proceeded smoothly, with Welles finishing on schedule and on budget, and the studio bosses praising the daily rushes. After the end of production, the studio re-edited the film, re-shot scenes, and shot new exposition scenes to clarify the plot. Welles wrote a 58-page memo outlining suggestions and objections. The studio followed a few of the ideas, but cut another 30 minutes from the film and released it. The film was widely praised across Europe, awarded the top prize at the Brussels World's Fair.

Welles as corrupt police captain Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil (1958)

In 1978, the long preview version of the film was rediscovered and released. In 1998, editor Walter Murch and producer Rick Schmidlin, consulting the original memo, used a workprint version to attempt to create a version of the film as close as possible to that outlined in the memo. This is at best a compromise that should not be mistaken for Welles's original intent. Welles stated in that memo that the film was no longer his version — it was the studio's, but as such, he was still prepared to help them with it.

As Universal reworked Touch of Evil, Welles began filming his adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes' novel Don Quixote in Mexico, starring Mischa Auer as Quixote and Akim Tamiroff as Sancho Panza. While filming would continue in fits and starts for several years, Welles would never complete the project.

Welles continued acting, notably in The Long, Hot Summer (1958) and Compulsion (1959), but soon returned to Europe.

Return to Europe (1959–1970)

He continued shooting Don Quixote in Spain, but replaced Mischa Auer with Francisco Reiguera, and resumed acting jobs. In Italy in 1959, Welles directed his own scenes as King Saul in Richard Pottier's film David and Goliath. In Hong Kong he co-starred with Curd Jürgens in Lewis Gilbert's film Ferry to Hong Kong. In 1960, in Paris he co-starred in Richard Fleischer's film Crack in the Mirror. In Yugoslavia he starred in Richard Thorpe's film The Tartars.

By this time he had ceased filming Quixote. Though he would continue toying with the editing well into the 1970s, he never completed the film. As the process went on, Welles gradually voiced all of the characters himself and provided narration. In 1992, the director Jesús Franco constructed a film out of the portions of Quixote left behind by Welles. Some of the film stock had decayed badly. While the Welles footage was greeted with interest, the post-production by Franco was met with harsh criticism.

In 1961 Welles directed In the Land of Don Quixote, a series of eight half-hour episodes for the Italian television network RAI. Similar to the Around the World with Orson Welles series, they presented travelogues of Spain and included Welles's wife, Paola, and their daughter, Beatrice. Though Welles was fluent in Italian, the network was not interested in him providing Italian narration because of his accent, and the series sat unreleased until 1964, by which time the network had added Italian narration of its own. Ultimately, versions of the episodes were released with the original musical score Welles had approved, but without the narration.

The Trial

In 1962 Welles directed his adaptation of The Trial, based on the novel by Franz Kafka and produced by Alexander Salkind and Michael Salkind. The cast included Anthony Perkins as Josef K, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Paola Mori and Akim Tamiroff. While filming exteriors in Zagreb, Welles was informed that the Salkinds had run out of money, meaning that there could be no set construction. No stranger to shooting on found locations, Welles soon filmed the interiors in the Gare d'Orsay, at that time an abandoned railway station in Paris. Welles thought the location possessed a "Jules Verne modernism" and a melancholy sense of "waiting", both suitable for Kafka. The film failed at the box-office. Peter Bogdanovich would later observe that Welles found the film riotously funny. During the filming, Welles met Oja Kodar, who would later become his muse, star and partner for the last twenty years of his life. Welles also stated in an interview with the BBC that it was his best film.[14]

Welles played a film director in La Ricotta (1963) – Pier Paolo Pasolini's segment of the Ro.Go.Pa.G. movie, although his renowned voice was dubbed by Italian writer Giorgio Bassani.[15] He continued taking what work he could find acting, narrating or hosting other people's work, and began filming Chimes at Midnight, which was completed in 1966. Filmed in Spain, it was a condensation of five Shakespeare plays, telling the story of Falstaff and his relationship with Prince Hal. The cast included Keith Baxter, John Gielgud, Jeanne Moreau, Fernando Rey and Margaret Rutherford, with narration by Ralph Richardson. Music was again by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. Jess Franco served as second unit director.

Chimes at Midnight

Chimes at Midnight was based on Welles's play Five Kings which condensed five of Shakespeare's plays into one show in order to focus on the story of Falstaff. Welles produced the show in New York in 1939 but the opening night, where part 1 was acted, was a disaster and part 2 was never put on. He revamped the show and revisited it in 1960 at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. But again, it was not successful. However, this later production was used as the base for the movie. The script contained text from five history plays: primarily Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2, but also Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Keith Baxter played Prince Hal, and internationally respected Shakespearean interpreter, John Gielgud, played the King, Henry IV. The film's narration, spoken by Ralph Richardson, is taken from the chronicler Raphael Holinshed. According to Jeanne Moreau, Welles delayed filming for two weeks due to stage fright. Welles held this film in high regard and considered it along with The Trial his best work. As he remarked in 1982, "If I wanted to get into heaven on the basis of one movie, that's the one I'd offer up."[16]

In 1966, Welles directed a film for French television, an adaptation of The Immortal Story, by Karen Blixen. Released in 1968, it stars Jeanne Moreau, Roger Coggio and Norman Eshley. The film had a successful run in French theaters. At this time Welles met Kodar again, and gave her a letter he had written to her and had been keeping for four years; they would not be parted again. They immediately began a collaboration both personal and professional. The first of these was an adaptation of Isak Dinesen's The Heroine, meant to be a companion piece to The Immortal Story and starring Kodar. Unfortunately, funding disappeared after one day's shooting. After completing this film, he appeared in a brief cameo as Cardinal Wolsey in Fred Zinnemann's adaptation of A Man for All Seasons – a role for which he won considerable acclaim.

In 1967 Welles began directing The Deep, based on the novel Dead Calm by Charles F. Williams and filmed off the shore of Yugoslavia. The cast included Jeanne Moreau, Laurence Harvey and Kodar. Personally financed by Welles and Kodar, they could not obtain the funds to complete the project, and it was abandoned a few years later after the death of Harvey. The surviving footage was eventually edited and released by the Filmmuseum München. In 1968 Welles began filming a TV special for CBS under the title Orson's Bag, combining travelogue, comedy skits and a condensation of Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice with Welles as Shylock. Funding for the show sent by CBS to Welles in Switzerland was seized by the IRS. Without funding, the show was not completed. The surviving portions were eventually released by the Filmmuseum München.

In 1969, Welles authorised the use of his name for a cinema in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Orson Welles Cinema remained in operation until 1986, with Welles making a personal appearance there in 1977. Also in 1969 he played a supporting role in John Huston's The Kremlin Letter. Drawn by the numerous offers he received to work in television and films, and upset by a tabloid scandal reporting his affair with Kodar, Welles abandoned the editing of Don Quixote and moved back to America in 1970.

Final years (1970–1985)

Welles returned to Hollywood, where he continued to self-finance his own film and television projects. While offers to act, narrate and host continued, Welles also found himself in great demand on talk shows, and made frequent appearances for Dick Cavett, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, and Merv Griffin. Welles's primary focus in this period was filming The Other Side of the Wind, a project that took six years to film but has remained unfinished and unreleased. An early role was portraying Louis XVIII of France in Waterloo (1970). Welles also narrated the beginning and ending scenes of the Bud Yorkin historical comedy Start the Revolution Without Me, which starred Gene Wilder, Donald Sutherland, and Hugh Griffith, among others.

Welles as himself in F is for Fake (1972)

In 1971 Welles directed a short adaptation of Moby-Dick, a one-man performance on a bare stage, reminiscent of his stage production Moby Dick Rehearsed from the 1950s. Never completed, it was eventually released by the Filmmuseum München. He also appeared in La Décade prodigieuse, co-starring with Anthony Perkins and directed by Claude Chabrol, based on a detective novel by Ellery Queen. That same year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him an honorary award "For superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures". Welles pretended to be out of town and sent John Huston to claim the award. Huston criticized the Academy for awarding Welles while they refused to give him any work.

In 1972, Welles acted as on-screen narrator for the film documentary version of Alvin Toffler's 1970 book Future Shock.

The following year, Welles completed F for Fake, a personal essay film about art forger Elmyr de Hory and the biographer Clifford Irving. Based on an existing documentary by François Reichenbach, it included new material with Oja Kodar, Joseph Cotten, Paul Stewart and William Alland. An excerpt of Welles' 1930s War of the Worlds broadcast was recreated for this film, however none of the dialogue heard in the film actually matches what was originally broadcast. Welles filmed a five minute trailer, rejected in the US, that featured several shots of a topless Kodar.

Working again for a British producer, Welles played Long John Silver in director John Hough's Treasure Island (1972), an adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, which had been the second story broadcast by The Mercury Theatre on the Air in 1938. Welles also contributed to the script, his writing credit was attributed to the pseudonym 'O. W. Jeeves'. Welles original recorded dialog was re dubbed by Robert Rietty.

Orson Welles (above) as Long John Silver in the film Treasure Island

In 1975, Welles narrated the documentary Bugs Bunny: Superstar, focusing on Warner Bros. cartoons from the 1940s. Also in 1975, the American Film Institute presented Welles with its third Lifetime Achievement Award (the first two going to director John Ford and actor James Cagney). At the ceremony, Welles screened two scenes from the nearly finished The Other Side of the Wind. Filming had begun in 1972 and by 1976, Welles had almost completed the film. Financed by Iranian backers, ownership of the film fell into a legal quagmire after the Shah of Iran was deposed. Written by Welles, the story told of a destructive old film director looking for funds to complete his final film. It starred John Huston and the cast included Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg, Norman Foster, Edmond O'Brien, Cameron Mitchell, and Dennis Hopper. While there have been several reports of all the legal disputes concerning ownership of the film being settled, enough disputes still exist to prevent its release. The Showtime cable network has promised support for the project should the various entanglements associated with it be resolved.

In 1979 Welles completed his documentary Filming Othello, which featured Michael MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards. Made for West German television, it was also released in theaters. That same year, Welles completed his self-produced pilot for The Orson Welles Show television series, featuring interviews with Burt Reynolds, Jim Henson and Frank Oz and guest-starring The Muppets and Angie Dickinson. Unable to find network interest, the pilot was never broadcast.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Welles participated in a series of famous television commercial advertisements, acting as the on-camera spokesman for the Paul Masson wine company. The sign-off phrase of the commercials — "We will sell no wine before its time" — became a national catchphrase. He was also the voice behind the long-running Carlsberg "Probably the best lager in the world" campaign.[17] The "probably" tag is still in use today. During coverage of these commercials on Ads Infinitum, Victor Lewis-Smith, a critic of Masson wines, fondly remarked that Welles endorsements of the wine were proof he was "a genius, but a lying bastard" and promptly showed an outtake of Welles being impossible to work with in a commercial shoot. In 1979 Welles also appeared in the biopic The Secret Life of Nikola Tesla.

In the BBC comedy series Three of a Kind a sketch cruelly poked fun at him, mentioning him being reduced from great feats like Citizen Kane in 1941 to making Carlsberg TV ads in the 1970s, with the line – "Orson Welles – Advertising Carlsberg, Probably The Only Job He Can Get Nowadays."

In 1981, Welles hosted the documentary The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, about Renaissance-era prophet Nostradamus. In 1982 the BBC broadcast The Orson Welles Story in the Arena series. Interviewed by Leslie Megahey, Welles examined his past in great detail, and several people from his professional past were interviewed as well. It was reissued in 1990 as With Orson Welles: Stories of a Life in Film. Welles provided narration for the track Dark Avenger on Manowar's 1982 album, Battle Hymns. His name was misspelled on the album, as he was credited as "Orson Wells".

During the 1980s, Welles worked on such film projects as The Dreamers, based on two stories by Isak Dinesen and starring Oja Kodar, and The Orson Welles Magic Show, which reused material from his failed TV pilot. Another project he worked on was Filming The Trial, the second in a proposed series of documentaries examining his feature films. While much was shot for these projects, none of them was completed. All of them were eventually released by the Filmmuseum München. Also during this time he recorded narration for the tracks "Dark Avenger" and "Defender" by heavy metal band Manowar.[18]

In 1984, Welles narrated the short-lived television series Scene of the Crime. During the early years of Magnum, P.I., Welles was the voice of the unseen character Robin Masters, a famous writer and playboy. Welles' death forced this minor character to largely be written out of the series. In an oblique homage to Welles, the Magnum, P.I. producers ambiguously concluded that story arc by having one character accuse another of having hired an actor to portray Robin Masters.[19]

The last film roles before Welles's death included voice work in the animated films The Enchanted Journey (1984) and The Transformers: The Movie (1986), in which he played the planet-eating robot Unicron. His last film appearance was in Henry Jaglom's 1987 independent film Someone to Love, released after his death but produced before his voice-over in Transformers: The Movie. His last television appearance was on the television show Moonlighting. He recorded an introduction to an episode entitled "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice", which was partially filmed in black and white. The episode aired five days after his death and was dedicated to his memory.


On October 10, 1985, Welles did his final interview on The Merv Griffin Show. He died just two hours later of a heart attack at his home in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, California, at the age of 70,[20] the same day as Yul Brynner. Welles's ashes were buried on the property of a long time friend, retired bullfighter Antonio Ordóñez, in Ronda, Spain.[21]

Personal life

In 1932, Welles fell in love with the Mexican actress Dolores del Río. They lived a torrid romance between 1938 and 1942, though he was ten years her junior.[22] They collaborated together in the movie Journey into Fear but the affair ended soon afterward.

In 1934, Welles eloped with Chicago-born actress Virginia Nicholson.

Welles married Rita Hayworth in 1943. The couple had been estranged during the making of The Lady from Shanghai. After five years, Rita filed for divorce, her reason to the press being, "I can't take his genius any more."[23] During his last interview and only two hours before his death, Welles answered Merv Griffin's lustful comment "But one of your wives--Oh, I have envied you so many years for Rita Hayworth," by calling her "one of the dearest and sweetest women that ever lived" and saying that he was "lucky enough to have been with her longer than any of the other men in her life."[24]

In 1955 Welles married Italian actress Paola Mori (Countess Paola Di Girfalco). Estranged for decades, the couple were never divorced. Croatian-born actress Oja Kodar became Welles' longtime companion both personally and professionally from 1966 on. They lived together for the last twenty-four years of his life. A year after Orson's death, Paola and Oja finally agreed on the settling of his will. On the way to their meeting to sign the papers, however, Paola was killed in a car accident.

Welles had three daughters: author Christopher Welles, or Chris Welles Feder (born in 1938, with Virginia Nicolson), Rebecca Welles Manning (born in 1944, with Rita Hayworth) and Beatrice Welles (born in 1955, with Paola Mori).

According to a 1941 physical exam taken when he was 26, Welles was 6 feet (180 cm) tall and weighed 218 pounds (98.9 kg). His eyes were brown.[25] Other sources cite that he was 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm) tall. Welles gained a significant amount of weight in his 40s, eventually rendering him morbidly obese, at one point weighing nearly four hundred pounds (181.4 kg). His obesity was severe to the point that it restricted his ability to travel, aggravated other health conditions, including his asthma, and even required him to go on a diet in order to play Sir John Falstaff.[26] Some have attributed his over-eating to depression over his marginalization by the Hollywood system.[27]

In April 1982, Merv Griffin interviewed Welles and asked about his religious beliefs. Welles replied, "I try to be a Christian, I don't pray really, because I don't want to bore God."[28] After the success of his 1941 film Citizen Kane, Welles announced that his next film would be about the life of Jesus Christ, and that he would play the lead role. However, Welles never got around to making the film.[29] He narrated the Christian-documentary The Late, Great Planet Earth as well as the 1961 Biblical film about the life of Christ, King of Kings.

Some of Welles' claimed familial ties have not held up under scrutiny. Despite the persistent urban legend, promoted by Welles himself, he was not the great-grandson of Abraham Lincoln's wartime Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. Perhaps the genesis of the myth dates to a 1970 interview on The Dick Cavett Show during which Welles remarks about his venerable great-grandfather Gideon Welles. Orson Welles’ father was Richard Head Welles, son of his paternal grandfather Richard Jones Welles; Gideon Welles had no son by that name. His sons were Hubert (1833–1862), John Arthur (1845–1883), Thomas G. (1846–1892), and Edgar Thaddeus Welles (1843–1914).[citation needed]


Welles was politically active from the beginning of his career. He remained a man of the left throughout his life, and always defined his political orientation as "progressive." He was a strong supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, and often spoke out on radio in support of progressive politics. In particular, he was an early and outspoken critic of American racism and the practice of segregation. He campaigned heavily for Roosevelt in the 1944 election. For several years, he wrote a newspaper column on political issues and briefly toyed with running for office. In 1970, Welles narrated (but did not write) a satirical political record on the administration of President Richard Nixon entitled The Begatting of the President.

In his 2006 book, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?, writer Joseph McBride made several controversial claims about Welles. Though Welles said otherwise during his lifetime, McBride claimed Welles left America in the late 1940s to escape McCarthyism and the blacklist.[30] McBride also claimed, in spite of the sexual content of Welles' contemporary work (F for Fake and the unfinished Other Side of the Wind), that Welles was extremely puritanical about sex based on his comment to Peter Bogdanovich that The Last Picture Show was "a dirty movie"[31]

Welles once told Cahiers du cinéma about sex in film, "In my opinion, there are two things that can absolutely not be carried to the screen: the realistic presentation of the sexual act and praying to God."[32]

Unfinished projects

Welles's reliance on self-production meant that many of his later projects were filmed piecemeal or were not completed. Welles financed his later projects through his own fundraising activities. He often also took on other work to obtain money to fund his own films.

In the mid-1950s, Welles began work on Don Quixote, initially a commission from CBS television. Welles expanded the film to feature length, developing the screenplay to take Quixote and Sancho Panza into the modern age. Filming stopped with the death of Francisco Reiguera, the actor playing Quixote, in 1969. Orson Welles continued editing the film into the early 1970s. At the time of his death, the film remained largely a collection of footage in various states of editing. The project and more importantly Welles's conception of the project changed radically over time. A version of the film was created from available fragments of the film in 1992 and released to a very negative reception.

In 1970 Welles began shooting The Other Side of the Wind, about the effort of a film director (played by John Huston) to complete his last Hollywood picture, and is largely set at a lavish party. By 1972, the filming was reported by Welles as being "96% complete",[33] but Welles had only edited 40% of the film by 1979. In that year, legal complications over the ownership of the film forced the negative into a Paris vault where it remained until 2004, when Peter Bogdanovich (who also acted in the film) announced his intention to complete the production. As of 2009, legal complications over the Welles estate have kept the film from being finished or released. Some footage is included in the documentary Working with Orson Welles (1993). Other unfinished projects include The Deep, an adaptation of Charles Williams' Dead Calm — abandoned in 1973 due to the death of star Laurence HarveyThe Big Brass Ring, the script of which was adapted and filmed by George Hickenlooper in 1999 — and an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Ada for which Welles flew to Paris to discuss the project personally with the Russian author.

In his later years Welles became a regular fixture at the Hollywood restaurant "Ma Maison" (part owned by chef Wolfgang Puck) where he would try to enlist the aid of financiers, producers and directors to back his various film projects. Although he was unable to obtain any funding, Welles came close with two of them: The Big Brass Ring and The Cradle Will Rock. Producer Arnon Milchan agreed to produce The Big Brass Ring if any one of six actors – Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, or Burt Reynolds – would sign on to star. All six declined for various reasons. Independent funding for The Cradle Will Rock had been obtained and actors had signed on, including Rupert Everett to play the young Orson Welles. Location filming was to be done in New York City with studio work in Italy. While pre-production went smoothly, three weeks before filming was to begin the money fell through. Allegedly Welles approached Steven Spielberg to ask for assistance in rescuing the film, but Spielberg declined. The scripts to both films were published posthumously. After a studio auction, he complained that Spielberg spent $50,000 for the Rosebud sled used in Citizen Kane, but would not give him a dime to make a picture. Welles retaliated by publicly announcing the sled to be a fake, the original having been burned in the film, but later recanted the claim. Director and friend Henry Jaglom said of this period: "These same stars and whiz kid directors wouldn't help him get one of his movies made. Any one of these people could have made Orson's life so much happier these past 10 years just by nodding their heads." The same theme was repeated another Welles friend, singer Eartha Kitt after Welles's death: "The way Hollywood treated him was a form of envy, jealousy. He died a frustrated man. In the eyes of Hollywood he never achieved Citizen Kane again, but ironically Hollywood wouldn't let him achieve another great success like Kane."

The 1995 documentary Orson Welles: One-Man Band, included on the Criterion Collection DVD release of F for Fake, features scenes from several of these unfinished projects, as well as footage from an adaptation of The Merchant of Venice starring Welles that was never aired due to vital footage being allegedly stolen; several short subjects such as the titular One-Man Band, a Monty Python-esque spoof in which Welles plays all but one of the characters (including two characters in drag); footage of Welles reading chapters from Moby-Dick; and a comedy skit taking place in a tailor shop and co-starring Charles Gray. One short, also included in the documentary, is a comedy routine in which Welles (filmed in the 1970s) plays a reporter interviewing a king, also played by Welles, but in footage shot in the 1960s; Welles finished the skit and edited it together years later. The documentary also includes two completed and edited sequences from the unreleased The Other Side of the Wind, and footage from an unbroadcast television pilot for a talk show (he is shown interviewing The Muppets and discussing his rationale for doing the talk show, which was produced in the round). The documentary is built around a college lecture given by Welles not long before his death, in which he displays frustration at being unable to complete so many projects and having spent so much of his career raising money for films rather than doing creative work.

Cultural depictions

The 1996 documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane chronicles the battle between Welles and Hearst. A 1999 HBO docudrama, RKO 281, tells the story of the making of Citizen Kane, starring Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles.

Tim Robbins' 1999 film Cradle Will Rock chronicles the process and events surrounding Welles and John Houseman's production of the 1937 musical by Marc Blitzstein. In it Welles is played by actor Angus MacFadyen.

Playwright and actor Austin Pendleton wrote the play Orson's Shadow about Welles and his collaboration with Laurence Olivier. It deals with the time that Welles directed Laurence Olivier in a production of Eugène Ionesco's play Rhinoceros. According to this play, Welles privately disliked Olivier's adaptations of Shakespeare's films (which were far more successful than Welles'), at one point stating that Olivier's film of Hamlet "looked like a Joan Crawford movie". Welles struggles with getting Olivier to play not merely someone lower-class (as he did in The Entertainer) but getting Olivier to play someone utterly non-descript.

Author Kim Newman has featured Orson Welles as a character in several stories from his Anno Dracula series.

In the Tim Burton-directed biopic Ed Wood, made in 1994, Welles makes a brief cameo appearance, played by Vincent D'Onofrio and dubbed by Maurice LaMarche. In his scene, he gives advice to director Edward D. Wood, Jr., who looks upon Welles as an idol. Inspired by Welles' comments, Wood proceeds to finish his film Plan 9 from Outer Space, sometimes called one of the worst films of all time. Though Ed Wood is inspired by Wood's own life, in reality the scene is entirely fictional: Wood never met Orson Welles.

One of the recurring celebrity characters on the influential Canadian sketch comedy TV show Second City Television (SCTV) was John Candy's impersonation of Welles. ON SCTV, Candy-as-Welles appeared in an embarrassing array of commercials, talk shows, and other low-budget productions. It's unknown whether or not Welles ever saw Candy's impersonation.

Me and Orson Welles, released in November 2009, stars Zac Efron as a teenager who convinces Welles, played by Christian McKay, to cast him in Welles' 1937 production of Julius Caesar, based on Robert Kaplow's novel.




  1. ^ "Touch of Evil :: :: Great Movies". Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  2. ^ "Chimes at Midnight :: :: Great Movies". 2006-06-04. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  3. ^ "Sight & Sound |Top Ten Poll 2002 - The Directors' Top Ten Directors". BFI. 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  4. ^ "Sight & Sound |Top Ten Poll 2002 - The Critics' Top Ten Directors". BFI. 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  5. ^ "TCM biography". TCM. Retrieved 2010-02-19. 
  6. ^ Heyer, Paul (2005). The medium and the magician: Orson Welles, the radio years, 1934-1952. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 3–5. ISBN0742537978. 
  7. ^ Mosel, "Leading Lady: The World and Theatre of Katharine Cornell
  8. ^ "Macbeth(10/06/1999). Library of Congress, American Memory. Retrieved on August 25, 2009
  9. ^ Callow, Simon (1995). Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu. Penguin. p. 145. ISBN 0-670-86722-5. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy"—Hand, Richard J. (2006). Terror on the Air!: Horror Radio in America, 1931-1952. Jefferson, North Carolina: Macfarlane & Company. p. 7. ISBN 0-786-42367-6. 
  12. ^ Learn Out Loud
  13. ^ a b c d e "Orson Welles", Authors and Artists for Young Adults 40 (2001)
  14. ^ Welles BBC interview
  15. ^ This is Orson Welles - Google Books. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  16. ^ Interview with Orson Welles, BBC Arena, 1982.
  17. ^ Orson Welles's other works at IMDB
  18. ^
  19. ^ Magnum, P.I., episode "Paper War", 1986
  20. ^ McBride, Joseph (2006). What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career. University Press of Kentucky. p. 223. ISBN 0-813-12410-7. 
  21. ^ Botham, Noel (2006). The Book of Useless Information: An Official Publication of the Useless Information Society. Perigee. p. 25. ISBN 0-399-53269-2. 
  22. ^ Ramón, David (1997). Dolores del Río. Clío. pp. 56–61,. ISBN 968-6932-35-6. 
  23. ^ Hedda Hopper, "Rita Hayworth Again Leaves Orson Welles," Los Angeles Times, Mar. 13, 1947.
  24. ^ The Merv Griffin Show, 10 October 1985
  25. ^ Simon Callow, Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu
  26. ^ Chris Woodford. "Orson Welles and obesity: A rather fat ghandi: Explain that Stuff!". Explain that Stuff!<!. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  27. ^ "Peter Conrad on Orson Welles | Film | The Guardian".,,1030793,00.html. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  28. ^ Brady, Frank (1989). Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles. Scribner. p. 576. ISBN 0-684-18982-8. 
  29. ^ "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" documentary, 1996, written and produced by Thomas Lennon, Richard Ben Cramer and Michael Epstein.
  30. ^ McBride, Joseph (2006). What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career. University Press of Kentucky. p. 105. ISBN 0-813-12410-7. 
  31. ^ McBride, Joseph (2006). What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career. University Press of Kentucky. p. 145. ISBN 0-813-12410-7. 
  32. ^ "I try to Be a Christian" Christianity Today. Published 5/19/2009.
  33. ^ Brady, Frank (1989). Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles. Scribner. p. 546. ISBN 0-684-18982-8. 
  34. ^ Verswijver, Leo (2003). "Movies Were Always Magical": Interviews with 19 Actors, Directors, and Producers from the Hollywood of the 1930s Through the 1950s. McFarland. p. 89. ISBN 0-786-41129-5. 
  35. ^ Leaming, Barbara (1995). Orson Welles: A Biography. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 511. ISBN 0-879-10199-7. 
  36. ^ "Obituary: Sir Peter Ustinov | Media | The Guardian". The Guardian<!. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  37. ^ "Orson Welles - Films as actor:, Films as narrator:, Films as director:". Retrieved 2009-12-30. 


  • Anderegg, Michael: Orson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999
  • Bazin, Andre: Orson Welles, Harper and Row, 1978
  • Benamou, Catherine L.: It's All True: Orson Welles's Pan-American Odyssey, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007
  • Beja, Morris, ed.: Perspectives on Orson Welles, G. K. Hall, 1995
  • Berg, Chuck and Erskine, Tom, ed.: The Encyclopedia of Orson Welles, Checkmark Books, 2003
  • Bessy, Maurice: Orson Welles: An investigation into his films and philosophy, Crown, 1971
  • Bogdanovich, Peter and Welles, Orson This Is Orson Welles, HarperPerennial 1992, ISBN 0-06-092439-X
  • Brady, Frank: Citizen Welles, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989
  • Callow, Simon: The Road to Xanadu. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995.
  • Callow, Simon: Hello Americans. London: Jonathan Cape, 2006.
  • Carringer, Robert: The Making of Citizen Kane, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985
  • Carringer, Robert: The Magnificent Ambersons: a Reconstruction, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993
  • Ciment, Michel: "Les Enfants Terribles" in American Film, December 1984 (French)
  • Comito, Terry, ed.: Touch of Evil, Rutgers, 1985
  • Conrad, Peter: Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life, London: Faber and Faber, 2003
  • Cowie, Peter: The Cinema of Orson Welles, Da Capo Press, 1973.
  • D'Angela, Toni (ed.), Nelle terre di Orson Welles, Alessandria: Edizioni Falsopiano 2004.
  • Davies, Anthony: Filming Shakespeare's Plays, Cambridge University Press, 1988
  • Drazin, Charles: In Search of the Third Man, Limelight, 2000
  • Estrin, Mark: Orson Welles Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2002
  • Feder, Chris Welles: In My Father's Shadow: a Daughter Remembers Orson Welles, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2009
  • France, Richard, ed.: Orson Welles on Shakespeare, London: Routledge, 2001
  • France, Richard: "The Theatre of Orson Welles", Bucknell University Press, 1977
  • Garis, Robert: "The Films of Orson Welles", Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Gosling, John: "Waging the War of the Worlds", McFarland & Company, Inc, 2009
  • Gottesman, Ronald, ed.: Focus on Citizen Kane, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1971
  • Gottesman, Ronald, ed.: Focus on Orson Welles, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1976
  • Greene, Graham: The Third Man, London: Faber and Faber, 1991
  • Heyer, Paul: The Medium and the Magician: Orson Welles, the Radio Years, Totowa: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005
  • Heylin, Clinton. Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios, Chicago Review Press, 2005
  • Higham, Charles: The Films of Orson Welles, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970
  • Higham, Charles: "Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius", New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985
  • Howard, James: "The Complete Films of Orson Welles", Citadel Press, 1991
  • Ishaghpour, Youssef: Orson Welles, cinéaste, une caméra visible, éditions de la différence, 2001 (French)
  • Jorgens, Jack J.: Shakespeare on Film, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977
  • Leaming, Barbara: Orson Welles, New York: Viking, 1985
  • Lyons, Bridget Gellert, ed.: Chimes at Midnight, Rutgers, 1988
  • Mac Liammóir, Micháel. Put Money in Thy Purse: The Filming of Orson Welles's Othello, Virgin, 1994
  • McBride, Joseph: Orson Welles, Harcourt Brace, 1977
  • McBride, Joseph: Orson Welles, Da Capo Press, 1996.
  • Mulvey, Laura: Citizen Kane, London: BFI, 1992
  • Naremore, James. The Magic World of Orson Welles, Southern Methodist University Press, 1989.
  • Naremore, James, ed.: Orson Welles's Citizen Kane: a Casebook, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Noble, Peter: The Fabulous Orson Welles, London: Hutchinson and Co., 1956
  • Perkins, V. F.: The Magnificent Ambersons, London: BFI, 1999
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan: "Orson Welles's Essay Films and Documentary Fictions", in Placing Movies, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan: "The Battle Over Orson Welles", in Essential Cinema, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan: "Orson Welles as Ideological Challenge" in Movie Wars, A Capella Books, 2000
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan: Discovering Orson Welles, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007
  • Shakespeare Bulletin, Volume 23, Number 1, Spring 2005: Special Welles issue.
  • Simon, William G., ed.: "Special Welles issue", in: Persistence of Vision: the Journal of the Film Faculty of the City University of New York; Number 7, 1988
  • Simonson, Robert. "Orson's Shadow Talkback Series Continues May 4 with Welles's Daughter." 3 May 2005
  • Taylor, John Russell: Orson Welles: a Celebration, Pavilion, 1986
  • Taylor, John Russell: Orson Welles, Pavilion, 1998
  • Walsh, John Evangelist: Walking Shadows: Orson Welles, William Randolph Hearst and Citizen Kane, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004
  • Walters, Ben: Welles, London: Haus Publishing, 2004 ISBN 978-1-904341-80-2
  • Welles, Orson: Les Bravades, Workman, 1996
  • Welles, Orson and Bogdanovich, Peter: This is Orson Welles, Da Capo Press, 1998.
  • Welles, Orson: Mr. Arkadin, London: HarperCollins, 2006
  • Welles, Orson: The Big Brass Ring, Black Spring Press, 1991
  • Welles, Orson: The Cradle Will Rock, Santa Teresa Press, 1994
  • Welles, Orson: "The Other Side of the Wind", in: Cahiers du cinéma/ Festival International du Film de Locarno, 2005
  • White, Rob: The Third Man, London: BFI, 2003
  • Wood, Bret: Orson Welles: a Bio-Bibliography, Greenwood Blue, 1990

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

This theatre is your theatre. You are responsible for its creation and its progress.

Orson Welles (6 May 191510 October 1985) was a writer, actor and film director.

See also pages for Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil



  • This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character, to assure you that The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be; The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying "Boo!". Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night, so we did the next best thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears and utterly destroyed the CBS. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember please for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian, it's Halloween.
    • The on-air apology he gave at the end of his infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, live CBS Radio Network broadcast (30 October 1938)
  • In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed - they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!
  • He [Welles] was an onlooker at the clumsy, poignant suicide of "The Man on the Ledge," which took place in New York in 1938, when a boy perched for fourteen hours on a window-sill of the Gotham Hotel before plunging into the street. "I stood in the crowd outside for a long time," Welles says pensively, "and wanted to make a film of it all. But they tell me that in the Hollywood version of the film they gave the boy a reason for what he did. That's crazy. It's the crowd that needs explaining."
    • Kenneth Tynan, "Orson Welles," from Persona Grata (1953); later printed in Profiles (1990) [ISBN 0-06-096557-6], p.66
  • A long-playing full shot is what always separates the men from the boys. Anybody can make movies with a pair of scissors and a two-inch lens.
  • The ideal American type is perfectly expressed by the Protestant, individualist, anti-conformist, and this is the type that is in the process of disappearing. In reality there are few left.
    • Quoted in an interview from Hollywood Voices, ed. Andrew Sarris (1971)
  • I try to be a Christian...I don't pray really, because I don't want to bore God.
    • Quoted in interview by Merv Griffin, from Frank Brady, Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles, Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, NY (1989), page 576.
  • Even if I’d stayed [in the US to finish ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’] I would’ve had to make compromises on the editing, but these would’ve been mine and not the fruit of confused and often semi-hysterical committees. If I had been there myself I would have found my own solutions and saved the pictures in a form which would have carried the stamp of my own effort.
  • Hollywood is Hollywood. There’s nothing you can say about it that isn’t true, good or bad. And if you get into it, you have no right to be bitter — you’re the one who sat down, and joined the game.
    • Quoted in The Orson Welles Story
  • The people who’ve done well within the [Hollywood] system are the people whose instincts, whose desires [are in natural alignement with those of the producers] — who want to make the kind of movies that producers want to produce. People who don’t succeed — people who’ve had long, bad times; like [Jean] Renoir, for example, who I think was the best director, ever — are the people who didn’t want to make the kind of pictures that producers want to make. Producers didn’t want to make a Renoir picture, even if it was a success.
    • Quoted in The Orson Welles Story
  • It's about two percent movie-making and ninety-eight percent hustling. It's no way to spend a life.
  • I think I made, essentially, a mistake, staying in movies. But it’s a mistake I can’t regret, because it’s like saying, ‘I shouldn’t have stayed married to that woman, but I did because I love her. I would’ve been more successful if I hadn’t been married to her…’ You know?
    • Quoted in Taschen Movie Icons: Orson Welles
  • One should make movies innocently — the way Adam and Eve named the animals, their first day in the garden…Learn from your own interior vision of things, as if there had never been a D.W.Griffith, or a [Sergei] Eisenstein, or a [John] Ford, or a [Jean] Renoir, or anybody.
    • Quoted in The Orson Welles Story
  • ...As for my style, for my vision of the cinema, editing is not simply one aspect; it's the aspect.
    • Mitry, Jean; King, Christopher. The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema (1999). Indiana University Press. [ISBN 0-253-21377-0], p.176
  • Thank you, Donald, for that well-meant but rather pedestrian introduction. Regarding yourself, I quote from the third part of Shakespeare's Henry VI, Act Two, Scene One. Richard speaks, "Were thy heart as hard as steel/ As thou hast shown it flinty by thy deeds/ I come to pierce it, or to give thee mine." To translate into your own idiom, Donald; you're a yo-yo. Now I direct my remarks to Dean Martin, who is being honored here tonight...for reasons that completely elude me. No, I'm not being fair to Dean because - this is true - in his way Dean, and I know him very well, has the soul of a poet. I'm told that in his most famous song Dean authored a lyric which is so romantic, so touching that it will be enjoyed by generations of lovers until the end of time. Let's share it together. [Opens a songsheet for Dean's "That's Amore" and reads in a monotone] "When the moon hits your eye/ Like a big pizza-pie/ That's amore" Now, that's what I call 'touching', Dean. It has all the romanticism of a Ty-D-Bol commercial. "When the world seems to shine/ Like you've had too much wine/ That's amore" What a profound thought. It could be inscribed forever on a cocktail napkin. Hey, there's more. "Tippy-tippy-tay/ Like a gay tarantella" Like a gay tarantella? Apparently, Dean has a 'side Dean' we know nothing about. "When the stars make you drool/ Just like a pasta fazool .... Scuzza me, but you see/ Back in old Napoli/ That's amore" No, Dean; that's infermo, Italian for "sickened". Now, lyrics like that - lyrics like that ought to be issued with a warning: a song like that is hazardous to your health. Ladies and gentlemen...[motions to Dean] you are looking at the end result!
    • Speech given at a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. Viewable [here]

The Findus Foods "Frozen Peas" Session Out-Takes

  • That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with "in" and emphasize it. Get me a jury and show me how you can say "In July" and I'll go down on you. That's just idiotic, if you'll forgive me by saying so. That's just stupid... "In July"; I'd love to know how you emphasize "In" in "In July". Impossible! Meaningless!
  • You don't know what I'm up against. Because it's full of, of, of things that are only correct because they're grammatical, but they're tough on the ear, you see. This is a very wearying one. It's unpleasant to read. Unrewarding. "Because Findus freeze the cod at sea, and then add a crumb-crisp" Ooh, "crumb-crisp coating." Ahh, that's tough, "crumb-crisp coating." I think, no, because of the way it's written, you need to break it up, because it's not, it's not as conversationally written.
  • "We know a little place in the American Far West, where Charlie Briggs chops up the finest prairie-fed beef and tastes..." (pauses, and continues with a note of disgust in his voice) This is a lot of shit, you know that! You want one more? One more on the beef?
  • But you can't emphasize "beef", that's like his wanting me to emphasize "in" before "July"! Come on, fellows, you're losing your heads! I wouldn't direct any living actor like this in Shakespeare! The way you do this, it's impossible!
  • The right reading for this is the one I'm giving.
  • I spend... twenty times more for you people than any other commercial I've ever made. You are such pests! Now what is it you want? In your... depths of your ignorance, what is it you want? Whatever it is you want, I can't deliver, 'cause I just don't see it.
  • It isn't worth it. No money is worth this... [walks out]


  • Orson Welles est une manière de géant au regard enfantin, un abre bourré d’oiseaux et d’ombre, un chien qui a cassé sa chaîne et se couche dans les plates-bandes, un paresseux actif, un fou sage, une solitude entourée de monde, un étudiant qui dort en classe, un stratège qui fait semblant d’être ivre quand il veut qu’on luit foute la paix.
    • Orson Welles is a kind of giant with the look of a child, a tree filled with birds and shadow, a dog that has broken its chain and lies down in the flower beds, an active idler, a wise madman, an island surrounded by people, a pupil asleep in class, a strategist who pretends to be drunk when he wants to be left in peace.**
  • Orson revealed his surprising capacity for collaboration. For all the mass of his own ego, he was able to apprehend other people’s weakness and strength and to make creative use of them: he had a shrewn instinctive sense of when to bully or charm, when to be kind or savage…’
    • John Houseman in Run-Through
  • Those of us who were close to Orson had long been aware of the obsessive part his father used to play in his life. Much of what he had accomplished so precociously had been done out of a furious need to prove himself in the eys of a man who was no longer there to see it. Now that success had come, in quantities and of a kind that his father had never dreamed of, this conflict, far from being assuaged, seemed to grow more intense and consuming.
    • John Houseman in Run-Through
  • To me, Orson is so much like a destitute king. A ‘destitute’ king, not because he was thrown away from the kingdom, but [because] on this earth, the way the world is, there is no kingdom good enough for Orson Welles.
  • Orson’s lifelong attraction to the art that has as its very essence the blurring of the line between reality and illusion was another piece of this same puzzle: Nothing gave him as much consistent pleasure as teasing audiences, and himself, with the many masks of magic.
    • Henry Jaglom
  • The man I got to know so well in no way resembled the mythical mask-wearer that everyone else saw and believed him to be. I discovered an incredibly open, deeply warm, and profoundly human friend, one who was generous to an unbelievable fault, was caring and concerned, and was vulnerable to the point of such fragility that he could be wounded terribly by the unaware, casual, critical statement of almost any outsider. I was always astounded by the way in which so many who did not know him viewed him as an arrogant, terrifying, egocentric ogre. They approached him with so much diffidence and fear as to set him up in such a way that his only possible response would be to satisfy their expectations. The Mask would win again.
    • Henry Jaglom

See also

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

File:Orson Welles
Orson Welles in 1937

George Orson Welles (May 6, 1915October 10, 1985) was an American director of movies and the theatre, as well as an actor, screenwriter, broadcaster and producer.

In 1938, he performed The War of the Worlds (about an attack on Earth by beings from the planet Mars) on the radio. It was a radio drama (fiction), but many people took it as a newscast.

Welles also made the movie Citizen Kane in 1941. Many movie critics think that this film is the best movie ever made.

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