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 Posted:   Mar 31, 2012 - 10:52 PM   
 By:   JSWalsh   (Member)

I thought there was a general Orson Welles thread once, but I guess not. So, here it is. For the usual suspects, here are a couple of interesting threads on other aspects of Welles, including interviews:

http://filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=70383&forumID=7&archive=0

http://filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=21275&forumID=7&archive=1

I'm reading HELLO AMERICANS, the second volume of Simon Callow's three-volume Welles biography (#3 still to come). I've now read dozens of Welles books and yet this one is completely absorbing.

One of the things I am glad Callow is focusing many pages on is Welles's genuine interest in such things as minority treatment in the US in the 40's. Unlike so many of our current PC Hollywood types, Welles put on radio programs and theatrical events addressing these issues, wrote columns and really WORKED to bring justice to blacks in America. It was something he invested his own thought in, as opposed to folks who get faxes from their political group the morning before they make an appearance, telling them what to say. (The less said about his faith in the "free people" of the Soviet Union, though, the better.)

At the same time, Welles displayed shameful behavior when it came ot his personal responsibilities, such as with his daughter Christopher, and credit-hogging on his films, and such behavior as ignoring rationing imposed on others during the war. We're all human and one reason I find celebrity worship so nauseating is that it's based on seeing only those aspects a person allows others to see, or that the media choose to let us see. While Callow habitually excuses Welles's political flaws with variations on "Everyone else thought the same thing!" he is unafraid of exposing all of Welles's human flaws in this expansive portrait of the WHOLE person (as best as research allows).

My point isn't political though the subject is, it's about how one's artistic integrity can function as part of one's integrity on the whole, and how the artist is, finally, just another person.

I've just finished reading the AMBERSONS section, and have just seen AMBERSONS again. The information here is more detailed than in books by Brady and others, but it all comes down to Welles either being naive or just stretched too thin while in South America. I'm not convinced AMBERSONS is or could be another KANE; I think Callow's being an actor brings a level of knowledge about acting to his work here, and he really put his finger on why the casting of AMBERSONS is not what it could have been. Tim Holt, who I like in the movie, just doesn't capture the stiffness the character requires, and Callow says that Holt and Cotton (who's obviously too old) might have swapped roles--I thought that was a brilliant observation. Agnes Moorehead's Fanny is so good that her power seriously unbalances the movie--I'd never thought of it this way, but I think Callow is correct. And Delores Costello isn't the girlish character of the book, either.

AMBERSONS is a fine movie, but it's interesting how in all the prevailing wisdom about fidelity to the book when it comes to adaptations, the awful 'happy ending' is actually closer to the book's resolution than Welles's bummer ending.

It's also interesting to see that Bernard Herrmann was the one person whose artistic integrity led him to remove his name from the movie. I had no idea the amount of Roy Webb music there was in AMBERSONS until now.

Anyway, just thought Welles deserved his own catch-all thread. Maybe next time I can resurrect it when OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND is released. big grin

 
 Posted:   Apr 1, 2012 - 1:13 AM   
 By:   Sigerson Holmes   (Member)

I guess my opinion of "Ambersons" has always been colored by its place in Welles' filmography as the inevitably disappointing movie that came after his most well-regarded one. Robert Wise has always maintained that Welles' final cut wouldn't really have been THAT different, so in a way, the whole notion that the film was somehow "taken away" from Welles, however much that may have been his own fault, has always seemed to me more of a PR strategy on Welles' part than anything else. If there was anything genuinely disappointing about the picture, Welles had his all-purpose excuse, and since he never was permitted to finish it "his way," well, who can prove him wrong? Any shortcomings, whatever they were, weren't his fault anyway, see?

I thought it was neat that Welles staged one of the early all-African-American Shakespeare productions, and experimented with modern-dress Shakespeare, but I've never gotten the impression that the nobility or "greatness" evident in one's career accomplishments are necessarily present in the person who accomplishes them. After all, to succeed in a field as particularly cutthroat as entertainment, one might need to possess some more-than-unpleasant character traits, just to compete. And the long list of discarded women, and the obvious self-loathing that showed in his ballooning weight might have been merely the "tip of the iceberg" as far as Welles' personal flaws. Still, I always get a kick out of seeing old interview footage and films he acted in or directed, and am a faithful fan of the Welles legend, as he perpetuated it.

I was very impressed with Callow recently on a Charlie Rose episode in which he expounded upon the works of Dickens, and always meant to check out his Welles books, but never got around to it. I hope to give them a try soon.

 
 Posted:   Apr 1, 2012 - 3:08 AM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

THE TRIAL is my favorite picture by Orson Welles.

Welles' American works from the 1940s never much appealed to me, and I'm much more interested in his European wanderings, like his appearance in Claude Chabrol's TEN DAYS WONDER.

How well does this publication cover Welles during the 1950s through the 1970s?

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 1, 2012 - 4:21 AM   
 By:   JSWalsh   (Member)

Tone Row,

It only covers Welles's life until the end of the forties. Presumably, the next volume will cover the rest of his life, unless the writer decides to break those years up into multiple volumes.

I find the post-1940's period fascinating, but for me, the last 20 years of Welles's life, including his move back to America, are even more intriguing.

You might enjoy THIS IS ORSON WELLES, a book of interviews/conversations with Welles by Peter Bogdanovich. I've re-read it several times and it covers the years you're most interested in.

I too love THE TRIAL and I name it as my favorite of his movies. It is fascinating on so many levels, and the discussion of it in THIS IS... describes Welles's original conception for the sets and how that had to change when the money dried up.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 1, 2012 - 4:27 AM   
 By:   JSWalsh   (Member)

but I've never gotten the impression that the nobility or "greatness" evident in one's career accomplishments are necessarily present in the person who accomplishes them. After all, to succeed in a field as particularly cutthroat as entertainment, one might need to possess some more-than-unpleasant character traits, just to compete.

Sigerson Holmes,

One of the reasons I find Shakespeare's plays so worthy of study is his depiction of human goodness, something Welles and Harold Bloom, for two, have mentioned. We too often hear about how the bad guys are the interesting characters in stories, yet Shakespeare was capable of writing good and decent characters, flawed they might be. (Welles called Falstaff the greatest fictional character who is also GOOD.)

Similarly, I have always been interested in people who do great public good while neglecting or doing evil to those closest to them. I've seen this up close in life, so naturally I am interested in this aspect of someone whose work I admire.

I don't think Welles used the demolition of AMBERSONS as an excuse for its flaws. Seeing how his initial cut was just about one full hour longer than the release version, I don't think there's much question that the final movie is unable to show us what his vision actually was. (Although as I wrote, I don't think it's in KANE's ballpark, and to me it's a curiosity more than anything.)

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 2, 2012 - 12:40 AM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

Pasadena Public Radio's "Off Ramp" program (KPCC 89.3 FM) ran a great documentary this weekend about Welles's radio career -- including his social crusading outlined above. You can listen to it online at the station's website.

***

Simon Callow seemed to be attacking Welles every chance he got in the first volume, The Road to Xanadu. In Volume Two he seems to have mellowed and become much more forgiving of his subject.

***

KANE and AMBERSONS are apple and orange. AMBERSONS doesn't try to be another KANE.
To me, it's an exquisitely poignant, heart-breaking (and funny) film right through to the end of the ballroom sequence. And then I can only watch a little more before I have to shut it off because of all the missing scenes and other interference.

***

There is a 4-audio cassette version of Welles and Bogdanovich's THIS IS ORSON WELLES. These conversations were the source of the book.

 
 Posted:   Apr 3, 2012 - 11:46 AM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

Pasadena Public Radio's "Off Ramp" program (KPCC 89.3 FM) ran a great documentary this weekend about Welles's radio career -- including his social crusading outlined above. You can listen to it online at the station's website.



Thank you for the heads-up, PNJ. I love Welles' radio/audio work and so will check this out.

EDIT: http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2011/10/29/21159/airborne-new-orson-welles-documentary

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 7, 2012 - 2:44 AM   
 By:   JSWalsh   (Member)


Simon Callow seemed to be attacking Welles every chance he got in the first volume, The Road to Xanadu. In Volume Two he seems to have mellowed and become much more forgiving of his subject.



Preston Neal Jones,

I haven't read volume one because I'm less interested in that part of the Welles story and feel I know it well enough, so reading that surprises me. Callow seems pretty even-handed to me, and backs up his assertions, as opposed to some folks who've written about Welles. He also gives a lot more weight to IT'S ALL TRUE and Welles's stage version of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS than any other book on Welles, and he explains WHY he gives those projects so much space--he thinks they were hugely influential on Welles's thinking and motives in years that followed.

One thing that I found a little bothersome was how Callow seems to give THE STRANGER very little space. Even if it's considered bottom-rung Welles (I enjoyed it), it was significant if only as a for-hire job after KANE/AMBERSONS, and I wanted to know more.

Callow also has tons of praise for Bernard Herrmann throughout. I almost wish I didn't know Herrmann almost scored MACBETH but had to bail due to scheduling issues.

 
 Posted:   Apr 16, 2012 - 11:26 AM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

Pasadena Public Radio's "Off Ramp" program (KPCC 89.3 FM) ran a great documentary this weekend about Welles's radio career -- including his social crusading outlined above. You can listen to it online at the station's website.



Thank you for the heads-up, PNJ. I love Welles' radio/audio work and so will check this out.

EDIT: http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2011/10/29/21159/airborne-new-orson-welles-documentary


I gave this a listen. I wasn't entirely impressed by the way they interpreted their material.

 
 Posted:   Feb 14, 2015 - 12:28 PM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

Robert Wise has always maintained that Welles' final cut wouldn't really have been THAT different, so in a way, the whole notion that the film was somehow "taken away" from Welles, however much that may have been his own fault, has always seemed to me more of a PR strategy on Welles' part than anything else.
.


According to Leaming's bio, the cut was quite, quite a dark story, in a time when a dark treatment of a story was not common, and not the way RKO thought they could make money.

Anyway, how it all happened is more complicated than I can finish typing now. And it's bringing up in my mind very interesting issues about what film is in this country, and how different it is from other industries.

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2015 - 6:54 PM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

Orson Welles being very funny, alongside a performer I never would have imagined him working with:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tb7uKhI7uqU

 
 Posted:   Feb 21, 2015 - 5:22 PM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V421bF698sA

Welles makes an INTERESTING point about modern audiences.

 
 Posted:   Feb 21, 2015 - 9:14 PM   
 By:   'Lenny Bruce' Marshall   (Member)

Robert Wise has always maintained that Welles' final cut wouldn't really have been THAT different, so in a way, the whole notion that the film was somehow "taken away" from Welles, however much that may have been his own fault, has always seemed to me more of a PR strategy on Welles' part than anything else.
.


According to Leaming's bio, the cut was quite, quite a dark story, in a time when a dark treatment of a story was not common, and not the way RKO thought they could make money.

Anyway, how it all happened is more complicated than I can finish typing now. And it's bringing up in my mind very interesting issues about what film is in this country, and how different it is from other industries.


Leaming was my film theory instructor on college.
Wise is correct.
The source material was the problem, specifically the crazy son who wouldn't let his mother find love.
Welles would have had to rewrite an otherwise excellent book . Technically it is a phenomenal achievement but that damn novel...

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 22, 2015 - 10:38 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

I hate to contradict Robert Wise, especially as he happens to be the hero of my newest book, and I haven't read Tarkington, so I'll just take your word about the source material, but I can't go along with the notion that the lost AMBERSONS wasn't that different from the one we've got. Read the book about the making of the film, listen on CD to the Herrmann score for scenes no longer in the film, read interviews with Welles and people who knew Welles who recall that he couldn't bear to watch AMBERSONS on TV because it broke his heart… Well, you get the picture. (So to speak.)

 
 Posted:   Feb 23, 2015 - 2:15 PM   
 By:   'Lenny Bruce' Marshall   (Member)

I hate to contradict Robert Wise, especially as he happens to be the hero of my newest book, and I haven't read Tarkington, so I'll just take your word about the source material, but I can't go along with the notion that the lost AMBERSONS wasn't that different from the one we've got. Read the book about the making of the film, listen on CD to the Herrmann score for scenes no longer in the film, read interviews with Welles and people who knew Welles who recall that he couldn't bear to watch AMBERSONS on TV because it broke his heart… Well, you get the picture. (So to speak.)

Maybe.
The previews turned off the audience because of the story elements i mentioned.
So, there was no way to 'save' the movie.
As it stands , its an amazing film. I am content to enjoy what exists
bruce

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 23, 2015 - 3:10 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

I never claimed that Welles' original version would have succeeded, I'm just disputing the claim that it probably wouldn't have been that different from the release version.

I'm a glass is half full, count your blessings kind of guy, so I, too, am grateful for the AMBERSONS that has survived. But, as I mentioned in an earlier post, there's a certain point in the film where for me the glass starts draining, and by the final reel it's empty.

 
 Posted:   Feb 23, 2015 - 3:37 PM   
 By:   Essankay   (Member)

I hate to contradict Robert Wise, especially as he happens to be the hero of my newest book, and I haven't read Tarkington, so I'll just take your word about the source material, but I can't go along with the notion that the lost AMBERSONS wasn't that different from the one we've got.


I always take Robert Wise's statements about AMBERSONS with a grain of salt. He had a vested interest in not looking like the "bad guy" who mutilated Welles' "masterpiece" and, while I don't think he was a liar, I wouldn't put it past him to have shaded things so as to come out in the best possible light. And he wasn't a bad guy, just a guy who at the time knew which side his bread was buttered on. Almost everything said about the film after the fact by everyone who was involved with it (Welles included) was damage control and self-justification.

It's a complicated story (the making of the film, that is) and since no Welles version of AMBERSONS exists we can never know for sure how good (or bad) it might have been.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 23, 2015 - 5:56 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

I think you're exactly right about Robert Wise in this instance. I think that every time I see his TCM remarks about AMBERSONS.

And of course, there's no disputing -- alas -- that we can never know for sure what we would have thought of "the one that got away."

 
 Posted:   Feb 23, 2015 - 6:28 PM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)

I'm really going to have to read a bio of Joseph Cotten to see if that corroborates the story Welles tells of him, being a sort-of "Judas" and helping push for changes in AMBERSONS.

 
 Posted:   Feb 23, 2015 - 6:33 PM   
 By:   DavidinBerkeley   (Member)


The source material was the problem, specifically the crazy son who wouldn't let his mother find love.
Welles would have had to rewrite an otherwise excellent book . Technically it is a phenomenal achievement but that damn novel...


Problem? The book won a Pulitzer in 1918.

I'd say the 1942 MOVIE audience was the "problem", being entirely unwilling to accept a movie that wasn't happy in the end.

Or the way the studio ultimately did NOT want to release a film of that type of novel. Couldn't they have said something BEFORE an entire film was shot, especially considering the book was extant?.

 
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