A Quick Tip by MNeulander
George Orson Welles was born 6 May 1915, Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA , died 10 October 1985, Hollywood, California, USA (heart attack, two hours after doing an interview for the “Merv Griffith show).
Virginia Nicholson(14 November 1934 - 1 February 1940) (divorced) 1 child, Rita Hayworth(7 September 1943 - 1 December 1948) (divorced) 1 child, Paola Mori(8 May 1955 - 10 October 1985) (his death) 1 child.
His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, and painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was seven) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr. Maurice Bernstein. In 1931 he graduated from the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois; he turned down college offers for a sketching tour of Ireland. He tried unsuccessfully to enter the London and Broadway stages, traveling some more in Morocco and Spain (where he fought in the bullring). Recommendations by Thornton Wilder and Alexander Woollcott got him into Katherine Cornell's road company, with which he made his New York debut as Tybalt in 1934. The same year he married, directed his first short, and appeared on radio for the first time. He began working with John Houseman, who remained a life long friend and formed the Mercury Theatre with him in 1937. On 30 October 1938, he directed the Mercury Theatre On the Air in a dramatization of "War of the Worlds", based on H.G. Wells' novel. Setting the events in then-contemporary locations (The "landing spot" for the Martian invasion, Grover's Mill, New Jersey, was chosen at random with a New Jersey road map) and dramatizing it in the style of a musical program interrupted by news bulletins, complete with eye-witness accounts, it caused a nationwide panic, with many listeners fully convinced that the Earth was being invaded by Mars. The next day, Welles publicly apologized. While many lawsuits were filed against both Welles and the CBS radio network, all were dismissed. The incident is mentioned in textbook accounts of mass hysteria and the delusions of crowds.
His first film to be seen by the public was Citizen Kane (1941), a commercial failure losing RKO $150,000. He directed, starred and co-wrote the screenplay with Herman Mankiewicz, it was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won for Best Screenplay. Still considered by the American Film Institute (AFI) as the greatest movie ever made!!! I do not disagree. His unique eye for cinematography in “Kane” made him forever known for his use of low camera angles, tracking shots, deep focus and elaborate crane shots in his films.
Many of his next films were commercial failures and he exiled himself to Europe in 1948. In 1956 he directed, co-starred (with Charlton Heston and Marlene Dietrich), and wrote scenes for “Touch of Evil” (1958); an American crime drama that failed in the U.S. but won a prize at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair (today it is a critically acclaimed movie).
The third great movie of his life, (one of my all time favorites) and considered by the British Film Institute as the greatest British film ever made (#57 on AFI’s top 100) is “The Third Man” a 1949 British film noir directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotton (another life long friend of Orson’s from his Mercury theatre days, “Citizen Kane”, and “The Magnificent Ambersons”), Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. The screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene, later becoming his novella of the same name. Anton Karas wrote the score, which used only the zither; its title cut topped the international music charts in 1950. Orson plays the villain in this film, he doesn’t even appear until half way through the movie; however, his screen presence is captivating, he steals the show!!! Soon after he is introduced in the movie with one of the all time greatest cinematic scenes cleverly using a chiaroscuro effect reminiscent of Caravaggio’s Renaissance era paintings, Wells delivers one of his greatest film soliloquies that he wrote for his character to deliver in the film. Looking down on the people below from his vantage point of being on a Ferris wheel, Harry Lime (Welles) compares them to dots. Back on the ground, he notes:
"You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
In 1975, in spite of all his box-office failures, he received the American Film Institute's 3rd Lifetime Achievement Award in 1975 from its Chairman Charlton Heston, who said of Welles in his remarks; “The first AFI award went to a director (John Ford), the second to an actor, (James Cagney). In Orson Welles, we honor both crafts.” In 1984 the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award. His reputation as a film maker has climbed steadily ever since.