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Overview for Orson Welles
Orson Welles

Orson Welles


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Also Known As: Died: October 9, 1985
Born: May 6, 1915 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA Profession: Cast ...


Born with anomalies of the spine which caused Welles pain throughout his life
Moved to Chicago as a child
First stage appearance, a walk-on bit in the Chicago Opera's production of "Samson and Delilah" at age five; then played "Madame Butterfly"'s child "Trouble"
Parents separated when Welles was six; traveled after divorce
Became ward of Chicago doctor, Maurice Bernstein, at age 12 (date approximate)
Began tour of Ireland
First leading stage role at Dublin's Gate Theater in "Jew Suss"
Returned to USA
Broadway acting debut (as Tybalt) in "Romeo and Juliet"
Co-directed and acted in short film, "The Hearts of Age"
Radio acting debut
First major stage success as director, "Macbeth" (for Federal Theater Project, Harlem); featured an all-black cast which later went to Broadway and toured the country; often referred to as the "voodoo Macbeth" due to the Haitian setting and African-influenced witchcraft theme
Formed Mercury Theater with John Houseman
During one Broadway season, helmed four major successes for the Mercury Theatre, beginning with a modern-dress "Julius Caesar"; generally hailed as one of the great stage talents of the day
Made national headlines with CBS radio broadcast (for "Mercury Theatre of the Air") of H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" (the night of October 30)
First short film as solo director, "Too Much Johnson" (also co-producer; writer); was to be incorporated into play of same name which never made it to Broadway; sole extant print allegedly lost in fire in 1970
Signed by RKO; given carte blanche; originally planned several other films, including an adaptation of "Heart of Darkness," before settling on the less ambitious "Citizen Kane"
Was voice-over narrator of RKO's "Swiss Family Robinson"
Feature film directing, producing, acting and co-writing (with Herman Mankiewicz) debut, "Citizen Kane"
Just before completion of shooting of second film, "The Magnificent Ambersons," was sent by RKO (through a Nelson Rockefeller-run government office) as cultural ambassador to South America to keep positive relations with USA; shot footage for omnibus film "It's All True"; due to wartime flying restrictions unable to directly supervise editing of "Ambersons" from Brazil; film subsequently taken out of his hands and edited by Robert Wise with new footage added; after new ownership at RKO, Welles' contract ended
With romantic leading role as Rochester in "Jane Eyre" began acting in films directed by others
Rejected by draft board (due to asthma and flat feet); during remaining war years had various radio shows and worked as a journalist, often praising his friend, President Roosevelt
Directed and starred in (for producer Sam Spiegel/Sam S Eagle) only commercially successful directorial effort, "The Stranger"
Self-imposed exile in Europe; had trouble with back taxes
TV acting debut in Peter Brook's "King Lear"
Hosted BBC series, "The Orson Welles Sketchbook" (date approximate)
Wrote and starred in the stage play "Moby Dick--Rehearsed"; performed in London
Returned to USA for starring role on Broadway in own production of "King Lear"; hired first as actor, then director, of Charlton Heston screen vehicle "Touch of Evil"
Moved back to Europe
Returned to USA in 1970s
Regularly seen in TV commercials for Paul Masson wines in 1980s
Reconstruction of substantial parts of "It's All True" publicly premiered at New York Film Festival
Restored version of "Touch of Evil" using Welles' 17-page memo as guideline premiered

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