Orson Welles at One Hundred

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Further reading:
- The Many Noses of Orson Welles
- Orson Welles’ Irish Ghost Story
- Three Cases of Murder and One Uncredited Director
- Chuck Workman Finds the Magic in Orson Welles
- I Am Not What I Am: Orson Welles’ Othello (1952)
- Too Much Johnson: Becoming Orson Welles
- Jess Franco’s Orson Welles’ Don Quixote

16 Responses Orson Welles at One Hundred
Posted By Robert Monell : April 30, 2015 9:05 pm

Thanks for the excellent round up of Welles Centennial news, Kimberly. I’m especially hoping that both THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, the movie, and a US Blu ray of CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, my favorite Welles movie, both appear this year. I’m planning a detailed look at Jess Franco’s controversial ORSON WELLES’DON QUIXOTE later this year which will present an alternate view of that much misunderstood work.

Posted By Bill : April 30, 2015 9:17 pm

Welles also directed The Stranger – his sole commercial success as a director,in a Hitchcock mode. It’s obvious he weilded a heavy hand behind the scenes of Jane Eyre – it looks and sounds like Kane. Everyone ignores his tv pilot, the very worthy Fountain of Youth.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 30, 2015 9:26 pm

Robert – Thanks! I would love see a restoration of THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT make it to DVD as well and I look forward to your in-depth look at ORSON WELLES’DON QUIXOTE.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 30, 2015 9:29 pm

Bill – I’ve never seen his TV pilot myself so thanks for mentioning it. I’ll have to give it look soon. It’s not playing on TCM this month as far as I know but they will be airing two of his made-for-TV films, THE IMMORTAL STORY and F FOR FAKE.

Posted By Bill : April 30, 2015 9:33 pm

F For Fake was theatrical. He made his tv pilot on Lucille Ball’s money,with whom he wanted to make his first movie, before Kane was settled upon. The pilot didn’t sell, unsurprisingly, but it won the Peabody Award, tv’s highest honor.

Posted By Steve Burrus : April 30, 2015 9:41 pm

Bill wh4en did Welles put out his tv pilot “Fountain of Youth”? Do you know what it was about?

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : April 30, 2015 9:46 pm

F for Fake was apparently originally shot as a television program for the BBC but developed into a theatrical release so TCM is airing it as one of his “Made for TV” movies although their “categorizing” is obviously debatable. And thanks for the tidbits about his pilot. Looking forward to catching up with FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH soon.

Posted By Bill : April 30, 2015 9:47 pm

In ’56, around the time he did I love Lucy. It’s about a young couple split by the title potion. Welles told it with all the cinematic and theatrical tools at his disposal.Entering into and thru the story, rather than merely host.

Posted By Stephen MacLean : April 30, 2015 9:53 pm

I recommend Welles’s ‘Paris Interview’, filmed by a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) crew in the 1960s. It would be wonderful if TCM could get permission from the CBC to air the programme sometime.

Posted By AL : April 30, 2015 10:45 pm

RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL

Posted By Steve Burrus : May 1, 2015 12:35 am

“RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL” Whsat exactly is that pertaining to Orson Welles?

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : May 1, 2015 12:38 am

RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL (aka Orson Welles’ Ghost Story) is a short supernatural film he appeared in & probably had a hand in directing. You can read more about it at the Movie Morlocks here: http://moviemorlocks.com/2011/03/17/orson-welles-irish-ghost-story/

Posted By Michaela : May 1, 2015 4:41 am

Indiana University is currently hosting a symposium on Welles, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go, being a student here. It’s been fantastic. I got to see The Magnificent Ambersons for the first time ever on the big screen and in general, and they surprised the audience afterwards with a rough reconstruction of 21 minutes of cut footage from the film. A man named Roger Riley took stills of the frame enlargements (before the actual enlargements were destroyed) and added the original Bernard Herrmann score and dialogue to it. It was amazing.
Many great scholars have been here, too. Joseph McBride, Jonathan Rosthenbaum, James Naremore (a former IU professor), Patrick Gilligan… I’ve even seen Richard Dyer here, although he’s only here as a spectator. It’s been amazing to see all these different panel discussions and lectures and screenings happening. Today I’ll be able to see Too Much Johnson on the big screen, and I can’t wait. I’m sad I have to miss quite a few screenings, such as Touch of Evil and The Trial, but I’m thrilled to see that TCM plans on showing them this month so I won’t have to totally miss out like I thought I would.

Posted By Michaela : May 1, 2015 4:44 am

Oh, and Chuck Workman was here yesterday to introduce his documentary, Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles. He did a Q&A afterwards as well. Like I said, lots of fun stuff going on at IU.

Posted By kingrat : May 1, 2015 8:46 pm

The print shown of CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT at the TCM film festival looked great. The sound is still out of synch (maybe not fixable), but the intro said that additional work was going to be done before release.

You can really see how Welles learned from Kurosawa in this film. The battle scenes reminded me of SEVEN SAMURAI and the interiors of Mistress Quickly’s brothel owe a great deal to YOJIMBO. CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT is a visual, though not always an aural, treat.

Posted By swac44 : May 6, 2015 1:50 pm

Still crossing my fingers that we’ll be able to see some sort of version of The Other Side of the Wind at some point. That fact that two of my favourite directors were also friends and collaborators (see also: Huston’s Moby Dick, The Kremlin Letter, The Roots of Heaven) delights me to no end.

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