Friday, December 12, 2014

Orson Welles: The Most Interesting Man in the Universe?


In 1955, the BBC invited Orson Welles to create a series of 15 minute monologues for broadcast. He is a fascinating speaker, of course, and his life experience, even at the relatively tender age of 40, was prodigious. The format of the series is very basic, Welles shows sketches he has made over the years and talks about the subjects of the pictures, with many fascinating detours.

Here he is, talking about cue cards, Houdini, how all women hate magic tricks, and telling John Barrymore stories:


Hopefully everyone knows about Welles' famous WAR OF THE WORLDS radio broadcast, which was staged as a series of news reports and which caused a huge panic as people believed an alien invasion was occurring. Here's Welles' (very funny) side of the story, with another appearance by John Barrymore, who literally released the hounds when he heard the broadcast:


Here he tells a very funny story about being detained by the police abroad and offers opinions about the police and their role - and the limits of that role - that could practically be ripped from today's editorial pages. "The free citizen is always more of a nuisance to the policeman than the criminal. He knows what to do about the criminal."


Here he actually uses this sentence: "The only other member of the coven who had any English was a dwarf with gold teeth by the name of Jazzbo." He also tells of a disastrous performance of HENRY V, in which his archers accidentally fired into the audience, scoring a direct hit on a feared critic. He also talks about his legendary all-black cast production of MACBETH, and the death (by magic?) of a racially intolerant critic:

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