Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Magnificent Orson Welles

Orson Welles at the age of 21
Today marks the 99th anniversary of the birth of Orson WellesHe has been missing from the world stage for over a generation now. The film and stage industries will always owe him immensely for what he brought to them and for the treatment his genius received at the hands of a Hollywood film cartel that resented outsiders.

Welles was a remarkable entertainment talent as an actor, writer, director, producer and more. Before he was thirty, he had terrified the nation with his realistic Halloween night presentation of H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds (1938) and awed film audiences with Citizen Kane (1941). Welles was already a rather contentious artist when he achieved almost instant fame. Both elements helped label him as a difficult, if not reckless, personality and he never endeared himself to the Hollywood in-crowd. The consequence of "all that" was a limited number of noteworthy films and a long list of unfinished projects, and the question, "Whatever happened to Orson Welles?"

For a taste of Welles as writer, director, and co-star, here is the famous "mirror scene" from The Lady of Shanghai (1948). Film critic David Kehr has called the film "the weirdest great movie ever made."

Photo Credit: Library of Congress (Carl Van Vechten, photographer, March 1, 1937)
Kehr Quotation: chicagoreader.com, review of The Lady of Shanghai

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