Happy Hundredth, Orson!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Happy Hundredth, Orson!

Today is George Orson Welles' centennial birthay!

Orson Welles as 'Falstaff'

With that observance, I see that Welles' legendary version of one of Shakespeare's best-known characters, Sir John Falstaff, appearing as a major presence in no less than three of the Bard's plays: "Henry IV, Part 1," "Henry IV, Part 2" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor," is being afforded a pristine new release on DVD/Blu-ray.

Formally entitled "Chimes at Midnight" but also known as "Falstaff," such a release is long overdue if for no other reason than to put the lie to those who believe that with "Citizen Kane" Welles was a one-shot wonder.

He was a brilliant writer and director, and a singular actor.

And as well-known as he was, he spent the latter part of his life either dashing back and forth between his last wife Paola Mori or mistress Oja Kodar, or ballooning to 275 pounds popping chocolates on the Via Veneto while trying to find financing to finish a number of uncompleted film projects.

Harry Birthday, Maestro.


1. Michael Jacobs said...

Don't forget his brilliant body of work on radio. You can still hear his "The Shadow" episodes from the '30s and '40s on Sirius/XM radio show "Radio Classics." Great stuff.

I have a CD collection and cassette collection of '40s and '50s transcriptions, most voiced by Bret Morrison. They're great companions on lengthy trips.

2. Hampton West said...

I love Welles!

He was brilliant; people also overlook "Touch of Evil" - great flick.

But my favorite after "Citizen Kane" is his role in Carol Reed's "The Third Man." And I love the following line Orson delivers to Joseph Cotton on the Ferris Wheel:

"In Italy for 30 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 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
The other great scene in this movie is when Valli's cat runs out the window and the camera follows it at "cat level" where it stops and does the "cat rub up" to a smirking Orson with the greatest look on his face. Absolutely the best ever. God bless him.
I saw the "restored/re-cut" (per Welles' own voluminous notes) version of "Touch of Evil" at Film Forum in lower NYC 17 years ago... just wonderful!

I originally liked "The Third Man" for the zither score by Anton Karas. You disremember the shot you've described... the cat jogs across the night-time street and rubs against the pants legs of a figure in a darkened doorway. Joseph Cotten's character doesn't know who it is until a suddenly opened door on his side of the street is thrown open and the face of the no-longer late "Harry Lime" is revealed in the light.

That Ferris Wheel scene is one of the most famous in all cinema.

Conincidentally, I went to prep school with his son, the one he never acknowledged.

3. Hampton West said...

Least we forget Halloween 1938 when half the country thought Martians landed in New Jersey.

Over the past 25 years I've become convinced that Martians have landed in New Jersey, but that they've completely taken over Trenton!
– Dean

4. Hampton West said...

Yeah that Chris Christie looks out of this world to me!!!

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