Orson Welles

06.05.1915, Kenosha, USA - 10.10.1985, Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA

 

Director
Orson Welles was an American theatre, film and radio director, actor, screenwriter and producer. He was born in a well-off family to a father who was an inventor and a mother who was a pianist and a suffragette. Already as a young child he encountered music and works by Shakespeare. After his mother’s death when he was nine he spent several years travelling around the world with his father. Upon his return to the US, he enrolled to the Todd School in Woodstock, where he became active in the student theatre and radio. From an early age he was interested in literature and theater demonstrating his passion and talent. At the age of fifteen his father also died and after graduating from school he travelled around Europe thanks to his modest inheritance. First he went to Ireland and gained acting experience in several theatres in Dublin. At the age of nineteen, he made his debut with a smaller role in a production of Romeo and Juliette on Broadway. He was then noticed by John Houseman who hired him for his Federal Theatre Project. Welles also tried directing in theatre and in late 1930’s Houseman and Welles founded the successful theatre group Mercury Theatre. In 1935, Welles started to work on the radio where he was joined also by the Mercury group. He caused an utter sensation when his radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds (broadcasted on October 30, 1938) disturbed thousands of listeners who thought that the alien invasion was real. Two years later, Welles and his colleagues from the Mercury went to Hollywood and signed a contract with the RKO film studio.
In 1941, even though he had no real previous film experience, he directed his debut feature film Citizen Kane. He used many innovative film techniques and it remained his most famous films that is often regarded as one of the best films of all time. In 1941, this film won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, but nevertheless it was commercially unsuccessful. One of the reasons for it was the boycott of the film in all the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst whom Welles used as a model for his protagonist in the film. In 1942, he directed his next film The Magnificent Ambersons, which was a film adaptation of the novel with the same title, and experienced many production and financial difficulties that endangered the management of the studio that hired him. Consequently, the relationship between Welles and RKO Studios worsened. Faced with financial losses, the studio took over control of the film and reedited it without the director’s consent. That resulted in a flawed film and Mercury group was dismissed from the RKO Studios and word got around that Welles does not respect the shooting schedule and budgets. Afterwards, Welles had no luck with producers and his career never quite recovered and he never had complete control of his films. Many of his films were shortened and reedited, such as The Lady From Shanghai (1947), Macbeth (1948), Mr. Arkadin (1955), Touch of Evil (1958). Thanks to their later critical reevaluation some of those films were restored and brought back to the director’s original version. He was somewhat luckier with European producers thanks to which he directed two adaptations of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952) and Campanadas a medianoche (1965) as well as the adaptation of Kafka’s novel Proces (Le procès, 1962) that was partly filmed in Zagreb. As a director he completed a fairly small number of films, but his debut film secured him a special place in the history of film. As an actor he appeared many roles, both in his own as well as films by other directors. He mainly took on acting jobs to earn enough money for his own productions. One of his most important roles was in the film The Third Man (1949) by the director Carol Reed. As an actor, Orson Welles was a star of a specific sort and status. In addition, he was a narrator in several films and appeared on television and in commercials. In 1975, he won the life-time achievement award from the American Film Institute and ten years later he received the D.W. Griffith award, the highest honor of the American directors’ guild.

Filmography

Filming 'Othello' (1978) (documentary)
F for Fake (1973) (documentary)
Histoire immortelle (1968) (TV)
Campanadas a medianoche (1965)
Nella terra di Don Chisciotte (1964) (documentary TV series filmed in 1961.)
Le procès (1962)
Touch of Evil (1958)
Mr. Arkadin (1955)
The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952)
Black Magic (1949) (codirector, uncredited)
Macbeth (1948)
The Lady from Shanghai (1947) (uncredited)
The Stranger (1946)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Too Much Johnson (1938)
The Hearts of Age (1934) (codirector, short film)


Films by this director

Touch of Evil

(USA, 1958)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: Russell Metty
Synopsis:

In a little town, Los Robles, on the American and Mexican border, a member of the local establishment dies in a car explosion. Local police chief Quinlan takes over the case, but he doesn’t really care about the legal procedures. Even though on his honeymoon, an honest Mexican policeman, Mike Vargas, joins the investigation. But, soon there is a small war between the two of them, and Quinlan takes the side of the local gangster boss, Uncle Joe Grandi. And he will do anything to get rid of Varg...

b/w, 95'

The Lady From Shanghai

(USA, 1947)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: Charles Lawton Jr.
Synopsis:

Irish soldier Michael O'Hara saves a beautiful lady Elsa Bannister in Centarl Park from a thief. Afterwards, he joins her and her handicapped husband Arthur on the family yacht. Soon, he gets mixed up in a murder…

b/w, 87'

Confidential Report

(France, Spain, Švicarska, 1955)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jean Bourgoin
Synopsis:

Guy Van Stratten, American smuggler, leaves an Italian prison with a secret about a mysterious rich Arkadin, which was confined to him by a dying prisoner. However, Van Stratten is more interested in the rich man’s daughter Raina, the father’s pet. In order to get rid of the unwanted snoop, Arkadin proclaims amnesia on everything that happened before 1927 and sends Van Stratten to research his unknown past…. In this film, Orson Welles used a similar structure as in Citizen Kane to research t...

b/w, 93'

Citizen Kane

(USA, drama, 1941)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: Gregg Toland
Synopsis:

Vijest da je u svom raskošnom dvorcu Xanadu na Floridi umro glasoviti tajkun Charles Foster Kane izuzetno uzburka američku javnost i medije. Doznavši da je pokojnik umro osamljen te da su mu posljednje riječi bile ´ružin pupoljak´, gospodin Rawlston, urednik jednih njujorških novina, na mjesto događaja smjesta pošalje skupinu svojih novinara sa zadatkom da doznaju što više pikantnih detalja o Kaneovu životu. Među tim novinarima je i poduzetni...

b/w, 119'

Macbeth

(USA, 1948)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: John L. Russell
Synopsis:

Škotska tijekom prve polovine 11. stoljeća. Među brojnim vojnicima i ponosnim podanicima kralja Duncana je i mladi plemić Macbeth, čovjek oženjen lijepom ali prijetvornom i vrlo ambicioznom Lady Macbeth. Kad jedne noći u pratnji svog kolege i prijatelja Banquoa naleti na tri vještice, Macbeth od njih čuje proročanstvo da će jednog dana postati kraljem, te da velika budućnost čeka i Banquove sinove. Iako ih vještičje riječi izuzetno uznemire, Macbeth i Banquo u svemu odluče r...

b/w, 92'

The Stranger

(USA, 1946)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: Russell Metty
Synopsis:

Sredovječni gospodin Wilson istražitelj je Komisije Ujedinjenih naroda za ratne zločine, čovjek koji neposredno nakon Drugog svjetskog rata diljem svijeta pronalazi i raskrinkava nacističke ratne zločince. Ovog puta njegova je meta Franz Kindler, osoba koja je navodno izmislila koncentracijske logore i koncipirala njihovo djelovanje. Wilson ne uspijeva pronaći dokaze o Kindlerovim zločinačkim aktivnostima, a da bi to ostvario prisiljen je surađivati s njegovom suprugom, Amerikankom Mary Longstre...

b/w, 95'

Othello

(USA, Italy, 1951)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: G.R. Aldo, Anchise Brizzi, George Fanto, Alberto Fusi, Oberdan Troiani
Synopsis:

Maurski vojskovođa u mletačkoj službi Otelo proslavljeni je vojskovođa venecijanske vojske kojem će nakon vojne pobjede biti povjerena uprava nad Ciprom. Nakon što se u tajnosti odluči vjenčati voljenom Desdemonom, Venecijankom koja je unatoč nezadovoljstvu njezina oca Brabancija zaljubljena u njega, Otelo će pod utjecajem svoj prijetvornog pobočnika Jaga ubrzo početi sumnjati u njezinu vjernost. Kad mu Jago natukne da ga je Desdemona prevarila s njegovim poručnikom Cassiom, Otelo će post...

b/w, 90'

The Magnificent Ambersons

(USA, 1942)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: Stanley Cortez
Synopsis:

Priča o obitelji Anderson, uglednoj i bogatoj porodici iz tada malog grada Indianapolisa na američkom srednjem zapadu, započinje 1873. godine, u vrijeme kad je život bio neusporedivo sporiji i kad se imalo vremena za sve. Bilo je to u osvit industrijske revolucije, doba u kojem će materijalizam zavladati zemljom a vrijeme postati novac. Stekavši bogatstvo baveći se trgovinom i izgradnjom, stari bojnik Amberson, pater familias čitave obitelji, je na samom rubu grada izgradio najveću i najl...

b/w, 88'

Chimes at Midnight

(Švicarska, Spain, 1965)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: Edmond Richard
Synopsis:

Engleska početkom 15. stoljeća. Mladi kraljević Hal nasljednik je kralja Henrika IV, dobrodušan i veseo mladić koji vrijeme ponajviše provodi u druženju s alkoholu sklonim, lažljivim i obijesnim, ali i zabave uvijek željnim Sir Johnom Falstaffom. Oni su stalni gosti u krčmi Ljubavnice Quickly, gdje se zabavljaju uz potoke alkohola i društvo privlačnih djevojaka. Kralj Henrik IV sve odluke donosi unutar zidina svog dvorca, gdje nakon gušenja pobune 1408. godine zaključ...

b/w, 115'

The Trial

(France, Italy, West Germany, 1962)

Directed by: Orson Welles
PHOTOGRAPHY: Edmond Richard
Synopsis:

Mora da je netko oklevetao Josefa K., plahog i povučenog bankovnog službenika kojeg su jednog jutra probudila dvojica grubih policajaca koji su mu upali u stan. Rekavši mu samo da je uhićen, ali ne i pod kojom optužbom, policajci su priveli prestrašenog i osjećajem krivnje mučenog Josefa. Sve se dodatno pogoršalo kad mu je kao branitelj dodijeljen grubi i cinični odvjetnik Albert Hastler, čovjek koji Josefu nije ulijevao nimalo nade u mogućnost pozitivnog rješenja nje...

b/w, 119'
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