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This Is Orson Welles

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ISBN-10: 030680834X

ISBN-13: 9780306808340

Edition: 1998 (Reprint)

Authors: Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Jonathan Rosenbaum

List price: $24.00
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This collection of conversations between Welles and Peter Bogdanovich includes insights into Welles' radio, theatre, film and television work, and Hollywood producers, directors and stars.
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Book details

List price: $24.00
Copyright year: 1998
Publisher: Da Capo Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 3/22/1998
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 592
Size: 5.75" wide x 8.25" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 1.386
Language: English

Welles, who cowrote, produced, directed, and starred in the acclaimed movie "Citizen Kane," was only 26 years old when the film was released in May 1941. When he arrived in Hollywood just two years earlier, he was already an international celebrity, having been active in New York theater and radio for almost a decade as an actor, director, and writer. He started the Mercury Theatre with John Houseman in 1937, and the critical acclaim that followed their productions of "Julius Caesar" (1937) and "Housebreak House" (1938) led to a contract with CBS radio. From 1938 to 1940, Welles wrote, directed, and acted in the Mercury Theatre of the Air, and as part of its programming, he broadcast H. G. Wells's "War of the Worlds" on the eve of Halloween 1938. The uproar that ensued made Welles famous worldwide and prompted Hollywood to take notice. Of the studios competing for him, RKO offered Welles the most appealing contract, a six-picture deal that gave him control over every aspect, except budget, of the films he made. This creative freedom, unprecedented in the film industry, together with the talent that Welles gathered around him, resulted in the production of "Citizen Kane." The film was years ahead of its time. Its narrative structure was very sophisticated, incorporating parodic newsreel footage and a series of flashbacks depicting various characters' memories of Charles Foster Kane, introducing subtle questions about representation, truth, objectivity, memory, and media. The film's style was very innovative, combining dramatic chiaroscuro lighting; extraordinary depth of field and almost "universal focus" cinematography; long takes, composition in depth, and complicated camera movements; expressionistic sets; and striking new uses of sound, such as the lightning mix, which some said made it the first modern sound film. Citizen Kane had a profound impact on the way in which films were made in Hollywood and abroad, influencing American film noir, the French New Wave, and Bazinian "realism," the aesthetic articulated by auteur theorist Andre Bazin. Although critics realized the value of the film when it was released (it won an unprecedented four Oscar nominations), it did very poorly at the box office because of adverse publicity by the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who was clearly the model for Kane. Welles was never again to enjoy the freedom and resources he had while making Citizen Kane. His second feature for RKO, "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942), is considered by many critics to be a lost masterpiece: The studio cut Welles's version from 132 to 88 minutes and shot a new ending for the film. It lost money, as did "The Lady from Shanghai" (1948), another Welles film that is now highly regarded. After a 10-year exile from directing films in Hollywood, Welles returned to make "Touch of Evil" (1958), a tour de force that nearly rivals Citizen Kane in its technical mastery and thematic sophistication. Although it won the Grand Prix at Cannes, it did not do well financially. "Chimes at Midnight" (1966), Welles's last completed feature, was made in Europe and has been highly acclaimed. Welles continued to act even after directing became his primary interest, often in his own films but also in other films and even television commercials. He made his last film appearance in Henry Jaglom's bittersweet comedy, "Someone to Love" (1987). Welles received a Special Oscar in April 1971 for "superlative artistry and versatility" and a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1975.