May 6, 2006

I run a couple of newspapers. What do you do?

Orson Welles, to whom I was first (poorly) introduced in Martin Ritt's steamy 1958 drama The Long Hot Summer, would have been 96 today. The worldly Wisconsinite's incredible vision and ability, both on and offscreen, has become more and more evident as I've ventured to watch such films as the groundbreaking Citizen Kane - most definitely an essential facet of his varied career - as well as The Third Man and the brilliant A Touch of Evil. Here's a bit of inside scoop:

George Orson Welles, an only child, was born in Kenosha, WI, in 1915, and suffered the losses of both parents by the time he was a teenager.

The number of children he fathered is disputed, as his marriage to first wife Virginia Nicholson is not well-documented, but the biographies I referenced list three daughters, one with each of his wives: Christopher (b. 1938) with Nicholson, Rebecca (b. 1944) with Rita Hayworth, and Beatrice (b. 1955), with Paola Mori.

While rushing from live broadcast to live broadcast at various New York City radio stations in the late 1930's, Welles was often late due to the heavy traffic - so he utilized a loophole in city code that allowed for those who were not sick to hail ambulances. For the remainder of his obligations in New York, he rode from studio to studio in a wailing ambulance, and his punctuality was rarely an issue.

The controversial and landmark Citizen Kane was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Writing/Original Screenplay (which it won), Best Picture, and Best Actor and Best Director (both Welles).

Welles has assumed the responsibilities of actor, writer, director, producer, editor, production designer, art director, and cinematographer throughout his career, in addition to his extensive radio work.

Welles died of a heart attack in 1985.

Whether he was behind the camera, before it, or nowhere near it - whether he was outraged pappy Will Vahnuh or boyishly charming young Charles Foster Kane - when he was inciting mass panic with a sizzling reading of H.G. Wells' sci-fi drama -Orson Welles was an extraordinary talent that should be remembered, for both the contributions he made to film and media, and for the paths he paved for great minds that came after him.

For more Orsonian indulgences:

Here you can locate and listen to several of Welles' radio programs, including the infamous
War of the Worlds broadcast from 1938.

Turner Classic Movies hosts an afternoon of Welles' films on Monday, May 16, inlcuding Citizen Kane, Journey Into Fear, and A Touch of Evil. Follow the link for showtimes and details, or click here to see a monthlong schedule of his films on television.

Visit's extensive list of Orson Welles books, DVDs and videos to add to your collection.

Labels: , ,