The Enduring Orson Welles

February 4, 2017

When I posted this shot of Orson Welles (best guess: from the set of Chimes at Midnight) on Facebook last week, I got a ton of likes, loves and wows.

 

 

What is it about Orson that endures? Is it because he wrote and directed Citizen Kane? It’s been lauded as the best movie of all time… but a lot of people (especially those of the Netflix generation) have never even seen it. Is it his hilarious outtakes for food and drink commercials?

 

peas, please

 

 

what wine?

 

 

I recently watched the documentary about him, called Magician: The Astonishing Life of Orson Welles (the documentary, quite frankly, was not astonishing). I’ve always been a fan, for some reason… not many little kids are Orson Welles fans, but I remember my mom telling me stories about him as I was growing up so it seemed almost like I knew him.

 

Mom’s memoir, Legends and Lipstick: My Scandalous Stories of Hollywood’s Golden Era (by Nancy Bacon) is going to be released via paperback and pixels this month. She met Welles in Italy, and tells a pretty amusing story. Here’s just the first part:

 

Perhaps my favorite expatriate (and certainly the most colorful) is Orson Welles. I will never forget the first time I saw him.

 

Jim and I had flown to Rome as he was trying to get some screenwriting assignments and knew several producers who lived there. We checked into a marvelous old hotel at the top of The Spanish Stairs, about a block behind the Via Veneto. Roberto (Jim’s producer friend) had sent over a gleaming black limousine and chauffeur which would be at our disposal twenty-four hours a day during our stay in Rome. We stepped inside and were whisked toward the outskirts of the town where Jim had an appointment at Cinecittà Studio.

 

The Tartars, a sword and sandal epic starring Victor Mature and Orson Welles, was shooting there. Jim disappeared someplace and I sat down to watch the action. All of a sudden, this apparition appeared striding briskly down the dusty path. It was Orson Welles, a plush velvet cape swirling about his rotund figure, black sunglasses hiding his eyes, a foot-long cigar clenched between his teeth, and a harried cluster of secretaries, valets, flunkies, groupies and go-fers scurrying frantically about him as they tried to stay apace….

 

I haven’t seen The Tartars, but now I am intrigued! Still, I have been itching to watch my DVD of The Third Man (again!). What’s YOUR favorite Orson Welles movie?

 

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