Orson Welles


Actor, Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Orson Welles

About

Also Known As
George Orson Welles
Birth Place
Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA
Born
May 06, 1915
Died
October 09, 1985
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

An undeniable pioneer in both radio and film, actor-director Orson Welles used his bona fide genius to change the face of both mediums with imagination, ambition, and technically daring. Having started off as a performer on stage, most notably with John Houseman, with whom he formed the famed Mercury Theatre, Welles used his distinctive baritone voice to create innovative radio dramas. H...

Photos & Videos

Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report) - Lobby Cards
A Man for All Seasons - Movie Posters
Journey into Fear - Lobby Cards

Family & Companions

Virginia Nicholson
Wife
Actor. Married on November 14, 1934 in secret ceremony; remarried formally in West Orange New Jersey; formally spearated in December 1939; divorced decree granted in Reno on February 1, 1940; born in 1916; met at Todd School summer festival that Welles coordinated in 1934 while she was student at Miss Hare's University for girls; married screenwriter Charles Lederer (nephew of Marion Davies) c. 1940 after divorce from Welles.
Dolores Del Rio
Companion
Actor. Married to Cedric Gibbons at time of relationship c. 1939-42; older than Welles; popular Hollywood film star of the 1920s and 30s who returned to her native Mexico in the mid-40s and enjoyed considerable success onstage and in film there; acted in "Journey Into Fear" (1942), set up by and also starring Welles.
Rita Hayworth
Wife
Actor, dancer. Married in 1943; divorced in 1947; popular film star of the 1940s and 50s in such films as "You Were Never Lovelier" (1942), "Gilda" (1952) and "Miss Sadie Thompson" (1953); worked once with Welles, on "The Lady from Shanghai" (1948).
Paola Mori
Wife
Actor. Met c. 1954; married on May 8, 1955; divorced; born c. 1931; died in a car crash in August 1986; Welles starred her as his daughter in "Mr. Arkadin" (1955); mother of Beatrice Welles.

Bibliography

"Orson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture"
Michael A. Anderegg, Columbia University Press (1999)
"Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles"
David Thomson, Alfred A. Knopf (1996)
"Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu"
Simon Callow, Viking (1995)
"The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction"
Robert L. Carringer, University of California Press (1993)

Notes

There was a special issue of the film journal Persistence of Vision dedicated to Welles.

Biography

An undeniable pioneer in both radio and film, actor-director Orson Welles used his bona fide genius to change the face of both mediums with imagination, ambition, and technically daring. Having started off as a performer on stage, most notably with John Houseman, with whom he formed the famed Mercury Theatre, Welles used his distinctive baritone voice to create innovative radio dramas. He became famous - notorious, even - following his 1938 broadcast of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds," which he presented as a real time news event, sparking panic among listeners who thought Martians really were invading New Jersey. The fame he achieved in the wake of the broadcast attracted RKO Pictures, where he made the most stunning directorial debut in the history of cinema with "Citizen Kane" (1941), long considered to be the greatest film ever made. Using innovative narrative and technological techniques, Welles singlehandedly changed the face of cinema, earning the nickname the Boy Wonder. He went on to direct "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942), though both films were financial failures that prompted his exit from RKO. After marrying Love Goddess Rita Hayworth and directing "The Stranger" (1946) and "Macbeth" (1948), Welles began a 10-year self-imposed Hollywood exile that saw him appear onscreen in movies like "The Third Man" (1949) while directing well-received films overseas like "Othello" (1952) and "Mr. Arkadin" (1955). He returned to Hollywood to helm "Touch of Evil" (1958), a classic film noir, while suffering a commercial drubbing with his adaptation of Franz Kafka's "The Trial" (1962). His take on Shakespeare's famed character, Falstaff, in "Chimes at Midnight" (1966) again earned international acclaim despite being largely ignored in the United States. Though he fell on hard times in the 1970s, Welles nonetheless remained busy with numerous projects in various stages of completion while appearing onscreen in a number of performances and using his distinctive voice in a variety of narrator roles. When he died in 1985, Welles left behind a legacy as a consummate artist and true auteur whose influence was profoundly felt by several generations of filmmakers.

Born on May 6, 1915 in Kenosha, WI, Welles was initially raised by his father, Richard, an inventor and businessman who made a fortune by inventing a popular carbide lamp for bicycles, only to descend into alcoholism after selling his business once an electrical one came to market. Meanwhile, his mother, Beatrice, was a concert pianist who utilized her talents to support the family after separating from his father in 1919. Just a few days after his ninth birthday, Welles' mother died from jaundice, which left him in the care of one Dudley Watson until he was 15. Following his father's death, he came under the official guardianship of Maurice Bernstein, a doctor who recognized the young boy's artistic gifs well before either parent had passed. He attended the independent Todd School in Woodstock, IL, which provided Welles with an environment to nurture and develop his artistic skills by allowing him to set his own curriculum. It was at Todd that Welles first began taking a serious interest in theater, where the young man both performed and staged his own productions.

After leaving Todd, Welles traveled to Europe on his small inheritance and found himself in Dublin, Ireland, where he boldly strode into the experimental Gate Theatre and declared himself a Broadway star. Impressed by the young man's brazenness, the theatre manager allowed him to appear in a production of "Jew Suss," in which Welles acted to great acclaim. At 19, he made his Broadway debut as Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet," while that same year he made his debut as a director and onscreen actor in the short film "The Hearts of Age" (1934). Meanwhile, his performance in "Romeo and Juliet" attracted the attention of famed director John Houseman, who later tapped him to perform in the Federal Theatre Project. By this time, Welles was performing in a number of radio shows and married sometime actress Virginia Nicholson. In 1936, he directed an all-black cast in a Haitian-themed version of "Macbeth," which became known as "Voodoo Macbeth" because of its use of voodoo instead of witchcraft. Highly regarded by critics and audiences, the production went on to tour the United States, with Welles even filling in the title role in blackface after his lead actor fell ill.

Hailed a prodigy at just 21, Welles formed his own repertory company with Houseman called the Mercury Theatre, which culled actors from the various radio shows he work on at the time. In 1937, Welles reworked Shakespeare's Julius Caesar into a contemporary take on Fascist Italy, a roaring success that prompted critics to hail him as one of the great stage talents of the day. Turning more to radio as his chosen medium, Welles adapted and starred in a production of "Hamlet" for CBS on the "Columbia Workshop." He next voiced "The Shadow" before receiving his own weekly radio program, "The Mercury Theatre on the Air" (CBS, 1938-40; 1946), which set the stage for one of his most famous performances. On Oct. 30, 1938, Welles adapted the H.G. Wells novel, War of the Worlds, for his radio broadcast. Though the broadcast clearly started as an adaptation of the novel, with Welles himself reading an introduction, many listeners tuning in late heard breathless news reports of an alien invasion from Mars that had landed at Grover's Mill, NJ. The concocted news reports and eye witness accounts were so authentic, that many panicked and thought that an actual invasion was underway - no doubt fueled by growing unease caused by the looming war in Europe.

Though CBS had a considerably smaller audience than its competitor, NBC, "War of the Worlds" reached a sizeable population and sparked outrage by those who believed the reports they heard. Numerous newspaper articles were published detailing the extent of the panic caused by the broadcast, though later analysts determined that many exaggerated the extent of the frenzied reaction, particularly reports of mobs being controlled by police. Still, Welles was propelled into instant stardom that bordered on notoriety. Seeking to capitalize on his newfound fame, RKO brought him to Hollywood to write, direct, produce and act in two films for $225,000 plus enjoy total creative freedom and a percentage of the profits. It was the most generous offer a Hollywood studio had ever made to an untested filmmaker. After several aborted projects, including an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the 26-year-old Welles made what was and continues to be described as the most stunning debut in the history of film with "Citizen Kane" (1941). Initially called "American," Welles' first film was a bold, brash and inspired tour-de-force that told its story from several different perspectives, recounting the rise of an idealistic newspaper man, Charles Foster Kane (Welles) - distinctly modeled after real-life publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst - who accumulates enormous wealth and power, which corrupts his soul and ultimately disconnects him from his own humanity. Meanwhile, an intrepid magazine reporter (William Alland) is tasked with interviewing Kane's few close associates in an effort to discern the meaning of his cryptic last word, "Rosebud," uttered just before dying.

With the brashness of a Hollywood newcomer, Welles pushed existing filmmaking techniques as far as they would go, creating a new and distinctive film aesthetic that influenced generations of filmmakers to come. Among the innovative elements of Welles' style exhibited in "Citizen Kane" were the use of deep focus cinematography, which kept in sharp clarity all objects on the screen no matter how far they were in the background. He also used complex "mise-en-scene," in which the frame overflowed with action and detail; low-angle shots that revealed ceilings and made characters - especially Kane - seem simultaneously dominant and trapped, while also giving the impression that the audience was watching a play; long takes interspersed with flashing newsreel footage; a fractured narrative that featured flashbacks and numerous points-of-view; a fluid, moving camera that expanded the action beyond the frame and increased the importance of offscreen space; and the creative use of sound as a transition device. Written with Herman Mankiewicz, with whom he shared an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Welles infused a number of genres - historical epic, Shakespearean tragedy, gothic romance, film noir and melodrama - seamlessly into one film. Although well received by critics, "Citizen Kane" faced distribution and exhibition problems exacerbated by Hearst's powerful and negative campaign to suppress it - he banned any mention of the movie in his many newspapers and magazines - and it fared poorly at the box office. Only when the French New Wave took a renewed appreciation following the war did the film find new life. Decades later, "Citizen Kane" stood atop most lists as being the greatest movie ever made.

Welles went on to direct his second film for RKO, an adaptation of Booth Tarkington's "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942), a more conventional, less flamboyant film that utilized many of the same techniques developed for "Kane" to evoke a richly textured recollection of turn-of-the-century America. Starring Joseph Cotten, Anne Baxter and Agnes Moorehead, the film focused on a wealthy small-town family that finds its fortunes fading after the onset of technological progress. At the time he was making "Ambersons," Welles began simultaneous work as both an actor and director on "Journey into Fear" (1943), but was forced to abandon his behind-the-camera work due to other commitments. Further complicating his efforts were his travels to Brazil to shoot the documentary "It's All True" as part of the U.S. government's Good Neighbor policy during World War II. Welles rushed to edit "Ambersons" before flying off to South America, leading RKO to eventually take control of the picture. Though he gave detailed notes on how to re-edit the film, Welles was largely ignored by the studio, which deleted 43 minutes from his film. Even in its truncated form, "Ambersons" remained a dark, compelling look at the nature of wealth, class and progress in America that unfortunately proved a commercial failure - a blow from which Welles' reputation would never recover despite generations of critics calling the film one of his best.

Because of the financial failure of "The Magnificent Ambersons," Welles and his Mercury Players were dismissed from RKO, which subsequently refused to continue its support for "It's All True." That film remained unreleased until footage was found and cobbled together decades later. Meanwhile, Welles became a director no studio wanted to work with, which led to a brief return to radio that failed to pan out. In 1943, many were left scratching their heads when the decidedly less-than-photogenic Welles married the world's most desired woman, sex symbol Rita Hayworth, after she abruptly ended her engagement to Hollywood hunk Victor Mature. The new coupling seemed to work, with Hayworth clearly adoring of her genius husband. The newly-coined "Love Goddess" even performed in Welles' staged magic shows. In 1944, the relationship seemingly solidified when she gave birth to their daughter, Rebecca Welles. Professionally, he augmented his career by turning more to acting, playing Edward Rochester opposite Joan Fontaine as the titular "Jane Eyre" (1944). He returned to the director's chair for "The Stranger" (1946), a film noir from independent producer Sam Spiegel, which starred Welles as a Nazi war criminal hiding out in a small town as a college professor, only to find his cover blown by an unassuming antiques dealer (Edward G. Robison). Though well received by critics and his only box office success upon release, "The Stranger" was devoid of his characteristic touch and was regarded as his most traditional Hollywood fare. He reinvigorated his filmmaking flair with "The Lady from Shanghai" (1948), a stunning film noir in which Welles starred opposite his now estranged wife. His rumored infidelities over the years with such lovers as Marlene Dietrich had caused fissures in the relationship, which only exacerbated Hayworth's already crippling insecurities. A confident man, Welles simply could not understand nor comfort Hayworth - let alone face his part in adding to her insecurities in the first place. The couple had already separated before the collaboration began, with the actress filing for divorce once filming was completed. The couple divorced in 1947. As for the picture itself, the disjointed film noir divided critics at the time and ignited the ire of producer and Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn, who hated the movie mainly because Welles had the audacity to chop off and bleach his biggest star's most famous asset: Hayworth's flowing red hair. The film's standing improved over time, with its famed hall-of-mirrors finale marking a superb example of Welles' gift for audacious visual images.

Welles moved on to direct an informal and impressive Shakespeare trilogy, which was started by an eccentric, atmospheric version of "Macbeth" (1948), in which he played the title role and encouraged his actors to speak with thick Scottish burrs. Its centerpiece - a sequence that began with Macbeth's decision to kill the king, followed by the murder and ending with the discovery of the crime by Macduff (Dan O'Herlihy) - was captured in a single 10-minute take. The film, however, proved unsuccessful and was dismissed at the Venice Film Festival. After the film's failure, Welles began a self-imposed, 10-year exile from Hollywood. Four years later, he tried to answer critics with a striking version of "Othello" (1952), which won the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, though again his film was largely ignored in the United States. In between those films, Welles appeared onscreen in a number of movies, most notably "The Third Man" (1949), a Cold War film noir in which he played the enigmatic Harry Lime, who fakes his death to hide criminal activities which are uncovered by his unsuspecting, longtime friend (Joseph Cotten). Hailed as a masterpiece in film noir, "The Third Man" offered one of Welles most remembered performances outside of his own work. Meanwhile, Welles followed up "Othello" with "Mr. Arkadin " (1955), an acerbic profile of a powerful man (Welles) that showed signs of the brilliance that marked "Citizen Kane," but was hindered by an episodic narrative and spotty acting.

Welles returned to Hollywood to direct and act in "Touch of Evil" (1958), a film noir masterpiece that starred Charlton Heston as a Mexican police officer getting framed for a border murder by his American counterpart (Welles). From its stunning long-take opening of a car bombing to its tragic denouement, "Touch of Evil" reiterated the director's overarching vision of the world as an exacting moral network where each human act has endless and unforeseen moral consequences. One of the last made in the classic film noir period, the film stood the test of time as one of the genre's very best. After a supporting role in John Huston's adventure drama "The Roots of Heaven" (1958) and a leading performance in "Compulsion" (1959), which was based on the famed Leopold and Loeb murder, Welles adapted Franz Kafka's novel, "The Trial" (1962), a nightmarish extension of the author's vision of a society completely devoid of a moral sense. But once again, his film floundered upon release, only this time critics remained polarized on its merits even decades later when his most dismissed work was seen in more sympathetic light. Meanwhile, he directed the final film in his unofficial Shakespeare trilogy, "Chimes at Midnight/Falstaff" (1966), which Welles - who by this time was of proper girth to play Falstaff - fashioned together from five of Shakespeare's historical plays: Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry V and Richard II. Hailed internationally and even held in the highest regard by the filmmaker himself, "The Trial" ranked among Welles' finest achievements.

While he continued to appear onscreen in a variety of roles - playing Cardinal Wolsey in "A Man for All Seasons" (1966), criminal mastermind Le Chiffre in the farcical "Casino Royale" (1967), and the blind prophet Tiresias in "Oedipus the King" (1968) - Welles struggled to make his own films, leaving a trail of projects in various unfinished stages behind. He turned to French television for his next directing effort, "The Immortal Story" (1968) a satisfying minor work that was an adaptation of an Isak Dinesen story. His final completed film, "F for Fake" (1973), was a diverting collage of documentary and staged footage that investigated the line separating reality and illusion. Originally blasted by critics for being self-indulgent, "Fake" gained prominence over time as one of his most celebrated works, thanks in part to a key endorsement from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich. In fact, Welles - who was once interviewed by Bogdanovich for the American Film Institute - took the young director of "The Last Picture Show" (1971) under his wing and served as his mentor. In return, Bogdanovich let Welles stay in his mansion when the older director was down on hard times.

While struggling with numerous health ailments brought on by his obesity - at times he topped 400 pounds - Welles continued and often aborted film projects, though he did manage to finish "Filming Othello" (1979), a documentary he made about making his 1952 film. Turning to television commercials in the late 1970s, Welles famously served as the spokesman for Paul Masson wine, whose catchphrase "We will sell no wine before its time" captured the public's imagination in a variety of TV and print ads. Following a supporting turn as J.P. Morgan in the biopic "The Secret of Nikola Tesla" (1979), he narrated the Nostradamus documentary "The Man Who Saw Tomorrow" (1981) before briefly serving as the voice of the unseen Robin Masters on Tom Selleck's hit series "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88) and appearing as himself in a special film noir-inspired episode of the offbeat series, "Moonlighting" (ABC, 1985-98). On Oct. 10, 1985, Welles appeared on "The Merv Griffin Show" (NBC/CBS/syndicated, 1962-1986) to conduct what turned out to be his final interview. Welles was upbeat, jovial and uncharacteristically forthcoming with Griffin, who had interviewed him many times previously, though he remained fairly tightlipped concerning his many alleged conquests with women. Two hours after filming the interview, Welles suffered a heart attack in his Los Angeles home. He was 70. At the time of his death, "The Other Side of the Wind," a project he had begun filming in the 1970s, remained unfinished. Obviously autobiographical, it was the story of a famous filmmaker (John Huston) struggling to find financing for his film, just as Welles was forced to do many times. As an unseen fragment, it was a sad and ironic end for a filmmaking maverick who was, in the words of Martin Scorsese, "responsible for inspiring more people to be film directors than anyone else in history of the cinema."

By Shawn Dwyer

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
Director
Orson Welles' Don Quixote (1992)
Director
Filming "Othello" (1987)
Director
Fake? (1974)
Director
F for Fake (1973)
Director
The Immortal Story (1969)
Director
Chimes at Midnight (1965)
Director
The Trial (1963)
Director
Touch of Evil (1958)
Director
Mr. Arkadin (1955)
Director
Mr. Arkadin (Comprehensive Version) (1955)
Director
Mr. Arkadin (Corinth Version) (1955)
Director
Othello (1952)
Director
Othello (1952)
Director
The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
Director
Macbeth (1948)
Director
The Stranger (1946)
Director
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Director
Citizen Kane (1941)
Director
Too Much Johnson (1938)
Director
The Hearts of Age (1934)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (2014)
Himself
Searching for Orson (2006)
Split Screen: Season Three (1998)
Himself
The Last Sailors (1995)
Presenter
Gold Lust (1995)
Narration
The Last Sailors (1995)
Narration
Orson Welles: The One-Man Band (1995)
Himself
Gold Lust (1995)
Presenter
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)
Himself
It's All True: Based on an Unfinished Film by Orson Welles (1993)
Himself
Orson Welles' Don Quixote (1992)
Narration
Orson Welles' Don Quixote (1992)
American Director
Hollywood Mavericks (1990)
Himself
With Orson Welles: Stories From A Life (1989)
Hot Money (1989)
Filming "Othello" (1987)
Himself
Transformers - The Movie (1986)
Voice
Almonds and Raisins (1985)
Narration
Slapstick Of Another Kind (1984)
Voice
Where Is Parsifal? (1984)
Klingsor
In Our Hands (1983)
Himself
Orson Welles a la Cinematheque (1982)
Himself
Butterfly (1981)
Judge Ranch
The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (1981)
Narrator
Genocide (1981)
Narration
History of the World Part I (1981)
Narrator
The Muppet Movie (1979)
The Late Great Planet Earth (1978)
Narration
It Happened One Christmas (1977)
Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1977)
Narration
The Challenge (1976)
Narrator
Voyage Of The Damned (1976)
Ten Little Indians (1975)
Voice
F for Fake (1973)
Himself
Necromancy (1972)
Mr. Cato
Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972)
Mr. Delasandro
Malpertuis: Histoire d'une maison Maudite (1972)
Cassavius
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1972)
Treasure Island (1972)
Directed by John Ford (1971)
Narrator
The Battle of Neretva (1971)
[Chetnik] Senator
Waterloo (1971)
[King] Louis XVIII
Catch-22 (1970)
General Dreedle
The Kremlin Letter (1970)
Bresnavitch
Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)
Narrator
The Immortal Story (1969)
Mr. Clay/narrator
House of Cards (1969)
Charles Leschenhaut
The Southern Star (1969)
Plankett
I'll Never Forget What's 'Is Name (1968)
Jonathan Lute
Oedipus the King (1968)
Tiresias
The Sailor From Gibraltar (1967)
Louis of Mozambique
A King's Story (1967)
Narrator
Casino Royale (1967)
Le Chiffre
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Cardinal Wolsey
Marco the Magnificent (1966)
Ackermann
Is Paris Burning? (1966)
Consul Raoul Nordling
Chimes at Midnight (1965)
Sir John [Jack] Falstaff
The Finest Hours (1964)
Narrator
The V.I.P.s (1963)
Max Buda
The Trial (1963)
Hastler
Lafayette (1963)
Benjamin Franklin
Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963)
Director ("La Ricotta")
The Tartars (1962)
Burandai
King of Kings (1961)
Narrator
David and Goliath (1961)
King Saul
Ferry to Hong Kong (1961)
Capt. Cecil Hart
Crack in the Mirror (1960)
Hagolin/Lamorciere
Austerlitz (1960)
Compulsion (1959)
Jonathan Wilk
Touch of Evil (1958)
Hank Quinlan
The Roots of Heaven (1958)
Cy Sedgewick
The Vikings (1958)
Narrator
South Seas Adventure (1958)
[Narration] Told by
The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
Will Varner
Man in the Shadow (1957)
Virgil Renchler
Moby Dick (1956)
Father Mapple
Mr. Arkadin (1955)
Gregory Arkadin
Three Cases of Murder (1955)
Lord Mountdrago
Mr. Arkadin (Comprehensive Version) (1955)
Gregory Arkadin
Napoleon (1955)
Mr. Arkadin (Corinth Version) (1955)
Trouble in the Glen (1954)
Sanin Cejadory Mengues
Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954)
Benjamin Franklin
Trent's Last Case (1953)
Sigsbee Manderson
Othello (1952)
Othello
Othello (1952)
Othello
The Black Rose (1950)
Bayan
Prince of Foxes (1949)
Cesare Borgia
Black Magic (1949)
[Count] Cagliostro [also known as Joseph Balsamo]
The Third Man (1949)
Harry Lime
The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
Michael O'Hara
Macbeth (1948)
Macbeth
Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)
John Andrew MacDonald, later known as Erich Kessler
The Stranger (1946)
Franz Kindler, also known as Professor Charles Rankin
Jane Eyre (1944)
Edward Rochester
Follow the Boys (1944)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Narrator
Journey into Fear (1942)
Colonel Haki
Citizen Kane (1941)
[Charles Foster] Kane
Swiss Family Robinson (1940)
Narrator
The Hearts of Age (1934)

Writer (Feature Film)

The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
Screenplay
The Big Brass Ring (1999)
From Story
Orson Welles' Don Quixote (1992)
Screenplay (Original Shoot)
F for Fake (1973)
Screenplay
Treasure Island (1972)
Screenplay
The Immortal Story (1969)
Screenwriter
Chimes at Midnight (1965)
Screenwriter
Touch of Evil (1958)
Screenwriter
Mr. Arkadin (1955)
Screenwriter
Mr. Arkadin (Comprehensive Version) (1955)
Writer
Mr. Arkadin (Corinth Version) (1955)
Writer
Othello (1952)
Writer (Adaptation)
Othello (1952)
Screenplay
The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
Screenwriter
Macbeth (1948)
Adaptation
Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
Based on an idea by
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Screenwriter
Journey into Fear (1942)
Screenwriter
Citizen Kane (1941)
Original Screenplay
Too Much Johnson (1938)
Writer

Producer (Feature Film)

Othello (1952)
Producer
Othello (1952)
Producer
Macbeth (1948)
Producer
The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
Producer
Jane Eyre (1944)
Associate Producer
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Producer
Journey into Fear (1942)
Producer
Citizen Kane (1941)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
Editor

Art Director (Feature Film)

Mr. Arkadin (1955)
Art Director

Costume-Wardrobe (Feature Film)

Chimes at Midnight (1965)
Costume Design
Mr. Arkadin (1955)
Costumes

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

F for Fake (1973)
Photography

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Citizen Kane (1941)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)
Other
Spaced Invaders (1990)
Other
Hollywood Mavericks (1990)
Other
Filming "Othello" (1987)
Other
Marlene (1984)
Other
In Our Hands (1983)
Other
F for Fake (1973)
Other

Director (Special)

Fountain of Youth (1958)
Director

Cast (Special)

This Is Orson Welles (2015)
Himself
The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996)
Orson Welles: What Went Wrong? (1992)
King Penguin: Stranded Beyond the Falklands (1986)
Narration
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1984)
Guest
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1984)
Guest
The American Film Institute Salute to John Huston (1983)
Performer
Dom DeLuise and Friends (1983)
Baryshnikov in Hollywood (1982)
Magic With the Stars (1982)
Doug Henning's World of Magic (1982)
Guest
Dean Martin's Comedy Classics (1981)
Sinatra: The First 40 Years (1980)
The First 50 Years (1976)
Narration
The American Film Institute Salute to Orson Welles (1975)
Directed By John Ford (1971)
Narrator
Fountain of Youth (1958)
Narration
Fountain of Youth (1958)
Dr Humphrey Baxter
Twentieth Century (1956)
Oscar Jaffe

Writer (Special)

The First 50 Years (1976)
Writer
Fountain of Youth (1958)
Writer

Producer (Special)

Magic With the Stars (1982)
Segment Producer
Fountain of Youth (1958)
Producer

Music (Special)

Fountain of Youth (1958)
Music Director

Special Thanks (Special)

The First 50 Years (1976)
Writer
Fountain of Youth (1958)
Writer

Cast (Short)

Return to Glennascaul (1953)
Himself

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Shogun (1980)
Narrator
A Woman Called Moses (1978)
Narrator
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (1975)
Narrator
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (1975)
Voice

Writer (TV Mini-Series)

The Magnificent Ambersons (2002)
Screenplay
The Magnificent Ambersons (2002)
From Story
The Magnificent Ambersons (2002)
Story By

Life Events

1927

Became ward of Chicago doctor, Maurice Bernstein, at age 12 (date approximate)

1931

Began tour of Ireland

1931

First leading stage role at Dublin's Gate Theater in "Jew Suss"

1932

Returned to USA

1934

Radio acting debut

1934

Broadway acting debut (as Tybalt) in "Romeo and Juliet"

1934

Co-directed and acted in short film, "The Hearts of Age"

1936

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

1937

Formed Mercury Theater with John Houseman

1937

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

1938

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

1938

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)

1940

Was voice-over narrator of RKO's "Swiss Family Robinson"

1941

Feature film directing, producing, acting and co-writing (with Herman Mankiewicz) debut, "Citizen Kane"

1942

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

1943

With romantic leading role as Rochester in "Jane Eyre" began acting in films directed by others

1946

Directed and starred in (for producer Sam Spiegel/Sam S Eagle) only commercially successful directorial effort, "The Stranger"

1953

TV acting debut in Peter Brook's "King Lear"

1954

Hosted BBC series, "The Orson Welles Sketchbook" (date approximate)

1955

Wrote and starred in the stage play "Moby Dick--Rehearsed"; performed in London

1993

Reconstruction of substantial parts of "It's All True" publicly premiered at New York Film Festival

1998

Restored version of "Touch of Evil" using Welles' 17-page memo as guideline premiered

Photo Collections

Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report) - Lobby Cards
Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report) - Lobby Cards
A Man for All Seasons - Movie Posters
A Man for All Seasons - Movie Posters
Journey into Fear - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Journey into Fear (1942). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Third Man - Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for The Third Man (1949). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
Citizen Kane - Make-Up Photos
These are photos covering some of the production of the make-up effects, principally Orson Welles, for Citizen Kane (1941).
Macbeth (1948) - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Orson Welles' Macbeth (1948). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Lady from Shanghai - Lobby Card Set
Here are several Lobby Cards from The Lady from Shanghai (1948). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Lady from Shanghai - Publicity Stills
The Lady from Shanghai - Publicity Stills
Mr. Arkadin - Movie Poster
Mr. Arkadin - Movie Poster
Othello (1952) - Movie Posters
Othello (1952) - Movie Posters
Chimes at Midnight - Movie Poster
Chimes at Midnight - Movie Poster
Citizen Kane - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941).
Orson Welles - 'Kane' Premiere Press Photo
Here is a wire-service photo of Orson Welles arriving for the New York premiere of Citizen Kane on May 1, 1941.
Citizen Kane - Orson Welles Publicity Stills
Here are several photos taken of Orson Welles to publicize RKO's Citizen Kane (1941). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Lady from Shanghai - Movie Posters
The Lady from Shanghai - Movie Posters
The Lady from Shanghai - Scene Stills
The Lady from Shanghai - Scene Stills
The Lady from Shanghai - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
The Lady from Shanghai - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
F for Fake - Movie Poster
F for Fake - Movie Poster
The Third Man - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from The Third Man (1949). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Stranger - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from The Stranger (1946), starring Orson Welles, Loretta Young, and Edward G. Robinson. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Magnificent Ambersons - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during pre-production and shooting of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).
Touch of Evil - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Touch of Evil (1958), starring Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, and Janet Leigh. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Tomorrow is Forever - Lobby Cards
Here are a few lobby cards from RKO's Tomorrow is Forever (1946), starring Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Citizen Kane - Movie Posters
The following are publicity poster materials from the film Citizen Kane (1941).
Journey into Fear - Publicity Stills
Here are some Publicity Stills from Journey into Fear (1943). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Peter Bogdanovich On Orson Welles -- (TCM Original) TCM Classic Film Festival Director and author Peter Bogdanovich on The Magnificent Ambersons, 1942, and his long friendship with Orson Welles, from Saturday's screening at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
Journey Into Fear (1943) - Dearest Stephanie Star Joseph Cotten narrates from a letter to his wife (Ruth Warrick) from the screenplay he co-wrote with co-star Orson Welles from an Eric Ambler novel, meeting local arms rep Kopeikin (Everett Sloane) in WWII Istanbul, and singer Josette (Dolores del Rio), in Journey Into Fear, 1943.
Journey Into Fear (1943) - A Crazy Man Just Shot At Me From the climax on the ledge of a Black Sea hotel, Graham (Joseph Cotten) chased by an assassin and spy (Jack Moss, Eustace Wyatt), his wife (Ruth Warrick) downstairs, Turkish officer Haki (Orson Welles, in a scene he never quite took credit for directing) rescuing, in Journey Into Fear, 1943.
Journey Into Fear (1943) - I Like The Turks Hustled onto a steamer out of Istanbul by officials who insist he’s in danger, American engineer Graham (Joseph Cotten), narrating from a letter to his wife, with acquaintances on board, singer Josette (Dolores del Rio), Kuvetli (Edgar Barrier) and Haller (Eustace Wyatt), in Journey Into Fear, 1943.
Journey Into Fear (1943) - C'est Mon Couer Opening features Banat (Jack Moss), whom we will learn is a freelance assassin in WWII Istanbul, and an an unattributed recording of an old French song, in Journey Into Fear, 1943, screenplay by star Joseph Cotten and supporting player Orson Welles, from an Eric Ambler novel.
Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report) (1962) - You Know The Type Van Stratten (Robert Arden) at the Masquerade at the Monte Carlo villa, finally meets the notorious owner (writer-director Orson Welles) and his angered daughter (Paolo Mori), in Mr. Arkadin, 1962, (a.k.a. Confidential Report).
Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report) (1962) - Last Christmas Morning The director, writer and co-star narrates the improbable opening, quick credits, then partial introduction of Van Stratten (Robert Arden) and Zouk (Akim Tamiroff), in Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin, 1962, (a.k.a. Confidential Report).
Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report) (1962) - Quite A Looker Zouk (Akim Tamiroff) listening as Van Stratten (Robert Arden) continues to reconstruct his story, leading to the Riviera, where he meets the daughter (Paola Mori) of the title character, played by the writer-director Orson Welles, in Mr. Arkadin, 1962, (a.k.a. Confidential Report).
Stranger, The (1946) - There Is No Franz Kindler! Director and star Orson Welles opens introducing Edward G. Robinson as Nazi hunter Wilson, in Vienna, demanding the release of low-value prisoner Meinke (Konstantin Shayne), in hopes he’ll lead him to a major fugitive, quickly to South America where Lillian Molieri assists, John Brown the photographer, in The Stranger, 1946, also starring Loretta Young.
Stranger, The (1946) - God's Will Be Done Impressive single take by director and star Orson Welles, as incognito Nazi fugitive Kindler, posing as a Vermont teacher, in the woods to meet his old flunkie Meinke (Konstantin Shayne), who claims he's converted to Christianity, and who has been followed, in The Stranger, 1946.
Stranger, The (1946) - Marx Was A Jew Under-cover Nazi hunter Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), dining with Mary (Loretta Young) and her brothers (Philip Merivale, Richard Long), is just about convinced that her professor husband (writer-director Orson Welles) is no war criminal, in The Stranger, 1946.
Stranger, The (1946) - Foreign Accents Storekeeper Potter (Billy House) with incognito Nazi hunter Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), who uses the suitcase left by Meinke as a pretext to question Mary (Loretta Young), who arrives with her suspect husband "Rankin" (writer-director Orson Welles), in The Stranger, 1946.

Trailer

Someone To Love - (Original Trailer) Director Henry Jaglom assembles his friends, including Orson Welles in his last screen appearance, to look at love in Someone To Love (1987).
Citizen Kane -- (Original Trailer) The investigation of a publishing tycoon's dying words reveals conflicting stories about his life in this famous trailer for Citizen Kane (1941).
Compulsion - (Original Trailer) Two wealthy law-school students go on trial for murder in Compulsion (1959) based on the true story of the Leopold-Loeb case.
Start the Revolution Without Me - (Original Trailer) Orson Welles introduces the trailer for the Gene Wilder - Donald Sutherland historical farce Start the Revolution Without Me (1970).
Vikings, The - (Original Trailer) Two Vikings (Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis) fight over a throne and a beautiful captive (Janet Leigh) in the epic adventure The Viking (1958).
Magnificent Ambersons, The - (Original Trailer) A possessive son's efforts to keep his mother from remarrying threaten to destroy his family in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).
Casino Royale (1967) - (Pan-and-scan Trailer) The first movie version of the first James Bond novel Casino Royale (1967) was this wild 60's farce with 16 stars and 6 directors.
Tartars, The - (Original Trailer) A barbarian army attacks Viking settlements along the Russian steppes in The Tartars (1962) starring Victor Mature and Orson Welles.
V.I.P.s, The - (Original Trailer) Wealthy passengers fogged in at London's Heathrow Airport experience a series of personal trials in The V.I.P.s (1963) starring Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton.
Jane Eyre (1944) - (Original Trailer) A governess (Joan Fontaine) at a remote estate falls in love with her brooding employer (Orson Welles) in Jane Eyre (1944).
Stranger, The -- (Original Trailer) A small-town schoolteacher suspects her new husband may be an escaped Nazi war criminal in The Stranger (1946) starring Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young.
Trial, The (1963) - (Original Trailer) A man in a nameless county stands trial for an unnamed crime in Orson Welles' film version of the Franz Kafka novel, The Trial (1963).

Promo

Family

Richard Head Welles
Father
Manufacturer, inventor, hotel owner. Born in Missouri in 1872; died on December 28, 1930 in Chicago of heart and kidney failure at age 58; made money as manufacturer of bicycle and auto lamps in Kinosha Wisconsin; sold business so as not to have to change from the popular carbide lamp he had invented to electrical model; invented glider attached to steam-driven engine.
Beatrice Welles
Mother
Amateur concert pianist, composer. Born in Springfield, Ohio c. 1879, died on May 10, 1924 of acute yellow atrophy of the liver at age 43.
Maurice Bernstein
Guardian
Doctor. Discovered Orson Welles to be a prodigy at 18 months of age; gave Welles artistic gifts; named Welles' legal guardian after father's death in 1930; nicknamed "Dadda" by Welles.
Richard Ives Welles
Brother
Ten years Orson's senior; expelled from Todd School; institutionalized in mental homes during the early 1930s.
Christopher Feder
Daughter
Born 1937; mother Virginia Nicholson; appeared as MacDuff's son in "Chimes at Midnight".
Rebecca Welles
Daughter
Born in 1944; mother, Rita Hayworth.
Beatrice Welles-Smith
Daughter
Cosmetics company owner. Born in November 1955; mother, Paola Mori; named after Welles' mother; played a page in father's movie "Chimes at Midnight" (1966); owns Beatrice Welles, a cosmetics company; married to Christoper Smith (a supplier of in-room movies to Las Vegas hotels); lives in Welles' Las Vegas home.

Companions

Virginia Nicholson
Wife
Actor. Married on November 14, 1934 in secret ceremony; remarried formally in West Orange New Jersey; formally spearated in December 1939; divorced decree granted in Reno on February 1, 1940; born in 1916; met at Todd School summer festival that Welles coordinated in 1934 while she was student at Miss Hare's University for girls; married screenwriter Charles Lederer (nephew of Marion Davies) c. 1940 after divorce from Welles.
Dolores Del Rio
Companion
Actor. Married to Cedric Gibbons at time of relationship c. 1939-42; older than Welles; popular Hollywood film star of the 1920s and 30s who returned to her native Mexico in the mid-40s and enjoyed considerable success onstage and in film there; acted in "Journey Into Fear" (1942), set up by and also starring Welles.
Rita Hayworth
Wife
Actor, dancer. Married in 1943; divorced in 1947; popular film star of the 1940s and 50s in such films as "You Were Never Lovelier" (1942), "Gilda" (1952) and "Miss Sadie Thompson" (1953); worked once with Welles, on "The Lady from Shanghai" (1948).
Paola Mori
Wife
Actor. Met c. 1954; married on May 8, 1955; divorced; born c. 1931; died in a car crash in August 1986; Welles starred her as his daughter in "Mr. Arkadin" (1955); mother of Beatrice Welles.
Oja Kodar
Companion
Actor, screenwriter, director. Welles' companion in his later years; survived him.

Bibliography

"Orson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture"
Michael A. Anderegg, Columbia University Press (1999)
"Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles"
David Thomson, Alfred A. Knopf (1996)
"Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu"
Simon Callow, Viking (1995)
"The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction"
Robert L. Carringer, University of California Press (1993)
"This Is Orson Welles"
Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich; Jonathan Rosenbaum (editor), HarperCollins (1992)
"The Complete Films of Orson Welles"
James Howard, Carol Publishing Group (1991)
"Orson Welles: A Bio-Bibliography"
Bret Wood, Greenwood Press (1990)
"Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles"
Frank Brady, Scribner (1989)
"Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius"
Charles Higham (1985)
"The Making of Citizen Kane"
Robert L. Carringer, University of California Press (1985)
"Orson Welles: A Biography"
Barbara Leaming, Viking (1985)
"Orson Welles: A Critical View"
Andre Bazin; Jonathan Rosenbaum (translator), Elm Tree Books (1978)
"American Visions: The Films of Chaplin, Ford, Capra and Welles, 1936-1941"
Charles J. Maland, Arno Press (1977)
"Focus on Orson Welles"
Ronald Gottesman (editor), Prentice-Hall (1976)
"A Ribbon of Dreams: The Cinema of Orson Welles"
Peter Cowie, A.S. Barnes & Co. Inc. (1973)
"Orson Welles"
Joseph McBride, Viking (1972)
"The Films of Orson Welles"
Charles Higham (1970)
"The Panic Broadcast: Portrait of an Event"
Howard Koch, Little, Brown (1970)
"The Cinema of Orson Welles"
Peter Bogdanovich, Film Library of the Museum of Modern Art (1961)
"The Fabulous Orson Welles"
Peter Noble, Hutchinson (1956)

Notes

There was a special issue of the film journal Persistence of Vision dedicated to Welles.