I’m not sure why this didn’t get a Google Doodle, but Orson Welles would have been 99 today and I think that’s worth noting. I love covering films and I love talking about magick — Welles knew a bit about both.
Welles was a child prodigy who founded the groundbreaking Mercury Theatre company in New York. After creating audacious productions of Julius Caesar and Macbeth — which relocated the play from Scotland to Haiti and featured an all African-American cast — Welles took his company to the airwaves and The War of the Worlds is still considered one of the most famous radio broadcasts of all time. Hearing the siren song of Hollywood, Welles lit for Los Angeles where he would make one of the most important films of all time while also crippling his career and himself so badly that he would never really recover from the wounds.
First things first: Here’s Welles’ earliest film. It was made while he was a 19 year old student at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock Illinois. Here’s the Wiki…
An elderly woman sits on a bell as it rocks back and forth, while a servant in blackface pulls at a rope. A dandified gentleman appears at the top of a stairway and doffs his hat to the lady; he smiles and courts her attention. She does not respond, but the servant hangs himself. The scene changes to an darkened interior: the gentleman sits at a grand piano and plays, but something is wrong. He opens the piano’s lid and finds the woman lying inside, dead. He leafs through a number of tombstone-shaped cards with different inscriptions – “Sleeping”, “At Rest”, “With The Lord” – and finally chooses one that says “The End”.
The film’s action, such as it is, is intercut with random shots of bells, headstones, a church cross and other images, sometimes printed in negative. Many years later Welles acknowledged that the film was an imitation of the early surrealist films of Luis Bunuel and Jean Cocteau. He did not consider it a serious piece of work, and was amused at the idea of being added to his creative canon.
Here is The Hearts of Age…
And here is a PBS American Experience documentary that captures Welles at his greatest and most reckless. “The Battle Over Citizen Cane” is a heavyweight slug-fest between Welles and newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst, whom Welles satirizes in the film. The two men tore into each other personally and professionally and, at the end, both of them were changed forever.
The rest of us got a great film out of the battle, but what did we lose?
Here is The Battle Over Citizen Cane…