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Nov 2 2018

All’s Well That Ends Welles!

by Scot L

When you think of Orson Welles, what comes to mind? Citizen Kane? The commercials for Paul Masson wine? His final screen performance, as the voice of Unicron in Transformers: The Movie? Although 46 productive years separate his celebrated screen debut in Kane (“Rosebud …”) and his final line (“Destiny … You cannot destroy my destiny …..”) as a cartoon robot, the time between is a dead zone to many. Yet those years were filled with memorable performances and directorial achievements that are all the more impressive for the financial and logistical challenges Welles faced in making them.

Today, Netflix begins streaming a recently completed version of The Other Side of the Wind, a project Welles worked on intermittently throughout the 1970s. Originally intended to be shot quickly, Welles almost immediately encountered a series of delays that would bring any other production to a permanent halt. Josh Karp relates this bizarre and inspiring story in Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind. But what about Welles’s other movies? We’ve put together a list of 10 movies for your next Orson Welles Movie Marathon that will help you connect the dots between Charles Foster Kane and Unicron.

 

Citizen Kane (1941)

Welles’s film debut is perennially touted as the Best Movie Ever, but don’t let that stop you from watching it – it’s a blast. Welles stars as the enormously wealthy and magnificently unhappy Charles Foster Kane, whose dying word (“Rosebud”) prompts a journalist’s search for the meaning behind the word.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Based on Booth Tarkington’s novel, Welles’s second film chronicles the precipitous decline of a wealthy Midwestern family. Subjected to grotesque studio edits after completion, the movie is an example of mutilated greatness – and makes any viewer wonder what Welles’ unspoiled vision of the film would have been.

The Stranger (1946)

In Welles’s third directorial effort, Edgar G. Robinson plays a war crimes investigator on the trail of a fugitive Nazi war criminal (Welles) who has integrated himself into the life of a small New England town.

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Welles wrote, directed, and starred in this twisty tale of murder gone wrong. He plays a lusty sailor who finds himself drawn into the orbit of a disabled attorney and his wife (played by Welles’ then-wife, Rita Hayworth). Agreements to stage a murder are made; confessions are signed; actual murders are committed. The movie’s smashing climax – set in a mirror maze – more than adequately reflects the labyrinthine plot.

Macbeth (1948)

Shot in 23 days, this is Welles’s first cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare.

Othello  (1951)

Welles’s second adaptation of Shakespeare took a little longer – around three years – to complete. Shot in Morocco and Italy, Welles addressed the many logistical and financial problems he faced by pumping his own money into the production. The Criterion edition owned by the library contains the European and US versions of the film.

Mr. Arkadin (1955)

Criterion rewards the Welles fanatic again with its three-disc edition of this film. It’s the story of an American smuggler who is hired by a mysterious billionaire (Welles) who claims he cannot remember his past. The smuggler’s job? To investigate that past. The only problem is, the people he talks to begin ending up dead.

Touch of Evil (1958)

Thrilling, sleazy, and endlessly entertaining,  Welles’s next film opens in a Mexican border town. A bomb is planted on a car; the car drives across the border; the car goes boom. Welles – painfully bloated – stars as the corrupt police captain Hank Quinlan, while Charlton Heston portrays Mexican drug enforcement officer Miguel Vargas. (Chew on that for a bit.)

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Regarded by some as the crowning achievement of Welles’s career, the film was originally released in 1967 and then forgotten about. Long available only in pirated editions, Criterion’s spiffy DVD release of Welles’s third full-length Shakespearean adaptation – it incorporates elements of both Henry IV plays, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor – is marvelous and well worth the wait. Welles stars, in a heartbreaking turn, as Falstaff.

F Is For Fake (1975)

Welles’s last completed film was originally intended to be a documentary about the professional art forger Elmyr de Hory. It is that, and so much more – what that more is, we will leave as a surprise for you.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robbin November 6, 2018 at 1:58 PM

One of my all time favorite movies with Orson Welles is Jane Eyre. I watch it every year around the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. The one with Joan Fontaine & Margaret O’Brien. Love that movie!

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