Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on April 30, 2015
Part man, part myth and part mystery. 100 years after his birth, Orson Welles remains a towering figure in cinema history and a difficult character to pin down. Welles’ immeasurable talents, larger than life personality and elusive nature along with the countless unfinished projects he left behind have made him a favorite subject of filmmakers, historians, writers and film enthusiasts who’ve worked tirelessly to keep Hollywood’s enfant terrible in the spotlight since his death in 1985. Throughout the month of May, TCM is taking up the torch and placing Welles in their popular Friday Night Spotlight hosted by film critic David Edelstein. For the next 5 weeks, viewers will be able to see Welles’ most revered and beloved films including CITIZEN KANE (1941), THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942), THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948), THE STRANGER (1946), A TOUCH OF EVIL (1958), MR. ARKADIN (1962), THE TRIAL (1963), OTHELLO (1952) and MACBETH (1948) as well as many films that Welles appeared in such as THE THIRD MAN (1949), JANE EYRE (1944) , THE V.I.P.S. (1963) and A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966). Subscribers will also get to enjoy the debut of the director’s silent comedy, TOO MUCH JOHNSON (1938) and CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1967), which Welles considered to be his finest work.
In celebration of Orson Welles’ Centennial, I thought I would take a look ahead and highlight some of the events that are being planned to honor the man as well as the various new books, DVD and Blu-ray releases that will become available in the coming months. Welles’ fans like myself will be able to indulge in a variable smorgasbord of cinematic treats in 2015 that should satisfy his most ardent admirers and even intrigue the most weary Welles’ skeptics.
Welles hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin is rolling out the red carpet to honor their native son on his 100th birthday with numerous special events. Highlights include a screening of CITIZEN KANE and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS along with the staging of a two-man play titled “Welles & FDR: On the Campaign Trail” featuring campaign speeches made by Welles on behalf of Roosevelt in 1944. They’re also encouraging families and children to join in the fun with puppet sketches and a “Chalk Attack!” that invites the public to color downtown walkways with aliens and monsters in memory of Welles’ historic “War of the Worlds” broadcast that terrified thousands. You can find more information at the Citizen Welles Society of Kenosha website.
Woodstock, Illinois, where Welles once attended the Todd School for Boys, is also holding their own centennial celebration beginning on May 6th. Attendees will be able to see a number of Welles’ films and enjoy special events including a presentation of the one-man play “Rosebud, the Lives of Orson Welles” and “An Evening with Oja Kodar” where Welles one-time collaborator and romantic partner will discuss her life and work with film critic Johnathan Rosenbaum. Further information can be found at the Orson Welles’ Centennial Celebration website.
There’s also many centennial events being held in Europe such as the “Orson Welles Special Exhibition” taking place at Vienna’s Third Man Museum and the prestigious Cannes Film Festival will be honoring Welles’ memory this year by screening restorations of CITIZEN KANE and THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI as well as two new Welles’ documentaries.
If you can’t make it to any events you can still celebrate Orson Welles 100th birthday in the privacy of your own home with a number of new books and Blu-ray releases. Some of these include Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind by Josh Carp, which details the making of Welles’ unreleased and largely unseen film THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND shot between 1970 and 1976. The film starred fellow director and actor John Huston as a 70-year-old filmmaker attempting to make a Hollywood comeback.
Making its debut this week is Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul by F.X. Feeney, which promises to be an introduction to Welles’ with special attention paid to the “political, social, and cultural milieus in which Welles lived and worked.” And in May, Hill & Wang publishers will release Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News by A. Brad Schwartz, which offers a detailed historic account of Welles’ infamous October 30, 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds.
Later in the year, readers can look forward to a new book about Welles’ early years by biographer Patrick McGilligan titled Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane along with the much anticipated third volume in Simon Callow’s ongoing Welles’ biography Orson Welles, Volume 3: One-Man Band.
Next month the new critically acclaimed documentary, MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE & WORK OF ORSON WELLES (2014) will be making its debut on Blu-ray along with a new digitally remastered and fully restored version of Welles’ noir masterpiece, TOUCH OF EVIL from Universal Studios.
And if you own an all-region or PAL Blu-ray player you’ll want to keep an eye out for BFI’s upcoming limited Blu-ray release of AROUND THE WORLD WITH ORSON WELLES, which includes all six episodes of Welles rarely seen travel series made for TV in 1955 as well as a 52-minute documentary. Later in the year, the British DVD company Mr. Bongo will also be releasing a number of Welles films on PAL Blu-ray including a fully restored edition of FALSTAFF aka CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT and the recently rediscovered silent comedy short TOO MUCH JOHNSON.
I hope this post will inspire viewers to tune in to TCM every Friday night in May to celebrate Orson Welles’ Centennial and if you’d like learn more about all the events taking place this year as well as updates on new Welles related books and DVDs, I highly recommend visiting Wellesnet.com, the Orson Welles Web Resource. Wellesnet contains a wealth of information about the director and actor along with a helpful listing of centenary celebrations occurring around the world.
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