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A Quick Tip by MNeulander

  • Aug 29, 2010
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.
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More Orson Welles reviews
review by . August 21, 2010
One of the greatest creative geniuses of film
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).      Marriages   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 …
Quick Tip by . November 03, 2010
His Citizen Kane role is supposed to be the greatest of all time. I have to give it a second look but wasn't so impressed by his search for his Rosebud sled. May have to give it a second look. I remember him most from his "no beer before its time" commercials.
Quick Tip by . October 14, 2010
Welles was perhaps the greatest actor/director/writer/producer who ever worked in Hollywood. Watch his films and you'll learn more than film school can teach.
Quick Tip by . August 26, 2010
I think Orson Welles was the greatest creative genius in film who never really reached his full potential. Having said that, he remains one of the greatest creative figures in American cinema and radio!!! Welles has the unique distinction of acting in the #1 movie on the American Film Institute list, "Citizen Kane" and the British Film institute, #1 film "The Third Man, (#57 on AFI's top 100). He received the American Film Institute's 3rd Lifetime Achievement Award in 1975 …
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Michael Neulander ()
Ranked #44
Recently graduated with a Masters in Humanities degree from Old Dominion University reading in philosophy and history. I graduated from the Univ. of Miami in 1980 with a B.A. in Political Science; specializing … more
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George Orson Welles (May 6, 1915 – October 10, 1985), best known as Orson Welles, was an American filmmaker, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, 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, especially for his significant and influential early work, despite his notoriously contentious relationship with Hollywood. His distinctive directorial style featured layered, nonlinear narrative forms, innovative uses of lighting and chiaroscuro, unique camera angles, sound techniques borrowed from radio, deep focus shots, and long takes. Welles' long career in film is noted for his struggle for artistic control in the face of pressure from studios, which resulted in many of his films being severely edited and others left unreleased. He has thus been praised as a major creative force and as "the ultimate auteur."[1]

Welles first found national and international fame as the director and narrator of a 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells's novel The War of the Worlds performed for the radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was reported to have caused widespread panic when listeners supposedly thought that an extraterrestrial invasion was occurring. Although these reports of panic were mostly false,[2] they ...

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