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Thunder in the Mountains

J. Hoberman: Orson Welles

6 September 2007
Orson WellesHello Americans 
by Simon Callow.
Vintage, 507 pp., £8.99, May 2007, 978 0 09 946261 3
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What Ever Happened to Orson​ Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career 
by Joseph McBride.
Kentucky, 344 pp., $29.95, October 2006, 0 8131 2410 7
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... Like Dead Elvis and Dead Marilyn, Dead Orson is very much with us. He lives on, not only in the restored ‘director’s cuts’ of his re-released movies, the posthumously completed projects and newly adapted screenplays of never-made films ...

Magnifico

David Bromwich: This was Orson Welles

3 June 2004
Orson WellesThe Stories of His Life 
by Peter Conrad.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 571 20978 5
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... At 8 o’clock on the night of 30 October 1938, listeners to OrsonWelles’s Mercury Theater on the Air might have noticed a short announcement: the show that evening was going to be an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. A lead-in paragraph followed: ‘We ...

Pamela

Alan Brien

5 December 1985
Orson​ Welles 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 562 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 297 78476 5
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The Making of ‘Citizen Kane’ 
by Robert Carringer.
Murray, 180 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 7195 4248 0
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Spike Milligan 
by Pauline Scudamore.
Granada, 318 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 246 12275 7
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Nancy Mitford 
by Selina Hastings.
Hamish Hamilton, 274 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 241 11684 8
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Rebel: The Short Life of Esmond Romilly 
by Kevin Ingram.
Weidenfeld, 252 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 297 78707 1
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The Mitford Family Album 
by Sophia Murphy.
Sidgwick, 160 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 283 99115 1
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... towards the Evening Standard offices, then around the corner in Shoe Lane. I tagged along as he explained, between puffs, that there had been an unfortunate misprint in a piece he had written about OrsonWelles. Luckily, he had spotted this in the first edition and now was on his way to ensure it was corrected for the rest of the day’s run. While he was inside, I bought the paper and read his ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Touch of Evil’

29 July 2015
Touch of Evil 
directed by Orson Welles.
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... In​ a memo about Touch of Evil, OrsonWelles asked Universal Studios to pay attention to the ‘brief visual pattern’ he had drawn, suggesting improvements for the film. This was probably the last sort of help they needed. They wanted a beefy ...
3 October 1996
Orson WellesThe Road to Xanadu 
by Simon Callow.
Cape, 640 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 224 03852 4
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Rosebud: The Story of Orson​ Welles 
by David Thomson.
Little, Brown, 460 pp., £20, September 1996, 0 316 91437 1
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... By the end of his life OrsonWelles weighed 350 pounds. His appetite, though, was not a late development. In Simon Callow’s biography the composer Virgil Thomson reports the 22-year-old actor-director devouring ‘oysters and ...

Sabotage

Gavin Millar

13 September 1990
Citizen WellesA Biography of Orson​ Welles 
by Frank Brady.
Hodder, 655 pp., £18.95, January 1990, 0 340 51389 6
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If this was happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 312 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79630 5
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Norma Shearer 
by Gavin Lambert.
Hodder, 381 pp., £17.95, August 1990, 0 340 52947 4
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Ava’s Men: The Private Life of Ava Gardner 
by Jane Ellen Wayne.
Robson, 268 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 86051 636 9
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Goldwyn: A Biography 
by Scott Berg.
Hamish Hamilton, 579 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 241 12832 3
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The Genius of the System: Hollywood Film-Making in the Studio Era 
by Thomas Schatz.
Simon and Schuster, 514 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 671 69708 0
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... Extravagance and self-indulgence were among the kinder accusations levelled at OrsonWelles by industry chiefs. For the most part the charges were unjust. Not only was Welles possibly the most distinguished film artist to be abused and all but broken by the system, and by leading individuals within it (including politicians, newspaper magnates, journalists, gossip ...

Diary

Christopher Harvie: Cars and Cuckoo Clocks

26 January 1995
... Cuckoo clocks,’ said the President. OrsonWelles on the Prater Wheel slipped in and out of my mind. ‘Cuckoo clocks: the one area where the Swiss haven’t run us out of business.’ Last year I was made cochair of a government-university ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: Save the Round Reading-Room!

20 February 1986
... her when she is there. But she writes to Brezhnev and gets invited to Russia. An easy, gentle, sentimental film – of a sort that does no harm. Of the great film artists who have recently died, OrsonWelles, I suppose, led the field for a long time; Citizen Kane had no rival. It sounded as if it were really true, and perhaps it was. I was once asked to share a film with Welles. I wisely refused ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

30 November 2017
Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... as if it might involve a death on the Nile. Hercule Poirot has been escaping from print into plays and films almost since he was born in The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. Charles Laughton, OrsonWelles, José Ferrer, Tony Randall and many others have brought him to some sort of audio or audio-visual life, but the relatively recent personifications by Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov and David ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘An Autumn Afternoon’

21 May 2014
An Autumn Afternoon 
directed by Yasujirō Ozu.
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... goes to her room to make sure she is all right. She says yes, but turns away as she says it. Ozu’s films are famous for their empty corridors and low angles – the shots look like quotations from OrsonWelles deprived of all their drama – and characters often appear as almost incidental figures in these decors, ghosts in their own lives. But An Autumn Afternoon, while faithful to this tone and ...

At the Towner Gallery

Brian Dillon: Carey Young, Palais de Justice

4 April 2019
... completed, he was put in mind of an Assyrian palace as drawn by Gustave Doré. Later visitors have hardly got past the bristling columns at the main entrance before thinking of Kafka: this is where OrsonWelles hoped to film his adaptation of The Trial. W.G. Sebald’s Jacques Austerlitz goes wandering in the depths of the Palais looking for Masonic symbols, and finds corridors piled high with ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’

25 April 2018
... notions of tarnish or fear or goodness are irrelevant to any sort of life one might want to live. We look up to him, not morally but physically, because of the low-angle shots Leone has borrowed from OrsonWelles, and there is a faint flicker of a vulnerable past in his one good deed. He liberates the captive woman and her husband and child – now we see what those frightened and crying figures were ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The films of Carol Reed

19 October 2006
Odd Man Out 
directed by Carol Reed.
September 2006
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... work of the argument for charity appears in a surprising place: in reverse, in the character and language of Harry Lime in The Third Man (1949). In the great scene on the Big Wheel in Vienna, where OrsonWelles as Harry Lime clearly contemplates killing his old schoolfriend and says as much, the small movements of Welles’s face tell a very complicated story. Smiling, charming, easy, he makes ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Synecdoche, New York’

11 June 2009
Synecdoche, New York 
directed by Charlie Kaufman.
April 2009
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... No, not a table. Dozens of tables stacked tightly together, hundreds of notes, stretching out as far as the screen can see. It’s the sort of Bergman frame that might also have been devised by OrsonWelles. And when the cleverness and the desolation work together the results are magnificent. Cotard goes to Germany to see his daughter, who left England with her mother for a couple of weeks when ...
15 May 1980
Cinema: A Critical Dictionary: The Major Film-Makers 
edited by Richard Roud.
Secker, 1120 pp., £25, February 1980, 9780436428302
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The Dream that Kicks: The Prehistory and Early Years of Cinema in Britain 
by Michael Chanan.
Routledge, 356 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7100 0319 6
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... masters like Dreyer, Renoir, Bresson, Olmi or Satyajit Ray. Others include less major talents – Vigo, Cocteau, Antonioni, Straub. But how does Lubitsch qualify? Or Sternberg, Hitchcock, Hawks and OrsonWelles? Their inclusion seems to me like bracketing Conrad with Edna Ferber or Dashiell Hammett – worthy enough artificers, but not engaged in mature art of the kind which deepens our lives ...

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