I used what I wanted of Mank's and, rightly or wrongly, kept what I liked of my own. Welles's project attracted some of Hollywood's best technicians, including cinematographer Gregg Toland. Filming Citizen Kane took ten weeks. Hearst's media outlets boycotted the film and exerted enormous pressure on the Hollywood film community by threatening to expose 15 years of suppressed scandals and the fact that most studio bosses were Jewish. At one point, heads of the major studios jointly offered RKO the cost of the film in exchange for the negative and existing prints, fully intending to burn them.
RKO declined. While waiting for the film to be released, Welles directed the original Broadway production of Native Son , a drama written by Paul Green and Richard Wright based on Wright's novel. James Theatre. The Mercury Production was the last time Welles and Houseman worked together. Citizen Kane was given a limited release and the film was well-received critically. Citizen Kane is now hailed as one of the greatest films ever made.
The delay in its release and uneven distribution contributed to mediocre results at the box office; it earned back its budget and marketing, but RKO lost any chance of a major profit. RKO shelved the film and did not re-release it until Truffaut, Godard and others inspired by Welles's example made their own films, giving birth to the Nouvelle Vague.
In the s Citizen Kane became popular on college campuses as a film-study exercise and as an entertainment subject. Its revivals on television, home video and DVD have enhanced its status and ultimately recouped costs. The film is considered by most film critics and historians to be one of, if not the, greatest motion pictures in cinema history.
Toland was not available, so Stanley Cortez was named cinematographer. The meticulous Cortez worked slowly and the film lagged behind schedule and over budget. Prior to production, Welles's contract was renegotiated, revoking his right to control the final cut. Throughout the shooting of the film Welles was also producing a weekly half-hour radio series, The Orson Welles Show.
In addition to acting in the film, Welles was the producer.
Direction was credited to Norman Foster. Welles later said that they were in such a rush that the director of each scene was determined by whoever was closest to the camera. Journey into Fear was in production January 6—March 12, Welles was thoroughly briefed in Washington, D.
Benamou, a specialist in Latin American affairs, finds it "not unlikely" that he was among the goodwill ambassadors who were asked to gather intelligence for the U. She concludes that Welles's acceptance of Whitney's request was "a logical and patently patriotic choice". In addition to working on his ill-fated film project, It's All True , Welles was responsible for radio programs, lectures, interviews and informal talks as part of his OCIAA-sponsored cultural mission, which was regarded as a success.
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Welles's ambassadorial mission was extended to permit his travel to other nations including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. Welles's own expectations for the film were modest. In July , Welles conceived It's All True as an omnibus film mixing documentary and docufiction   in a project that emphasized the dignity of labor and celebrated the cultural and ethnic diversity of North America.
He also decided to do a ripped-from-the-headlines episode about the epic voyage of four poor Brazilian fishermen, the jangadeiros, who had become national heroes. Welles later said this was the most valuable story. Welles left for Brazil on February 4 and began filming in Rio February 8, Benamou wrote, "the ambassadorial appointment would be the first in a series of turning points leading — in 'zigs' and 'zags,' rather than in a straight line — to Welles's loss of complete directorial control over both The Magnificent Ambersons and It's All True , the cancellation of his contract at RKO Radio Studio, the expulsion of his company Mercury Productions from the RKO lot, and, ultimately, the total suspension of It's All True.
In RKO Pictures underwent major changes under new management. Nelson Rockefeller, the primary backer of the Brazil project, left its board of directors, and Welles's principal sponsor at RKO, studio president George Schaefer, resigned. RKO took control of Ambersons and edited the film into what the studio considered a commercial format. Welles's attempts to protect his version ultimately failed. Given a limited amount of black-and-white film stock and a silent camera, he was able to finish shooting the episode about the jangadeiros, but RKO refused to support further production on the film.
I never recovered from that attack. Airing August 29, , on the Blue Network , the program was presented in cooperation with the United States Department of the Treasury , Western Union which wired bond subscriptions free of charge and the American Women's Voluntary Services. On October 12, , Cavalcade of America presented Welles's radio play, Admiral of the Ocean Sea , an entertaining and factual look at the legend of Christopher Columbus.
The Axis, trying to stir Latin America against Anglo-America, had constantly emphasized the differences between the two.
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It became the job of American radio to emphasize their common experience and essential unity. Admiral of the Ocean Sea , also known as Columbus Day , begins with the words, "Hello Americans" — the title Welles would choose for his own series five weeks later. The minute weekly program promoted inter-American understanding and friendship, drawing upon the research amassed for the ill-fated film, It's All True. The program was conceived to glorify the aviation industry and dramatize its role in World War II. Welles's shows were regarded as significant contributions to the war effort.
Throughout the war Welles worked on patriotic radio programs including Command Performance , G. Filming also had wrapped on the film adaptation of Jane Eyre and that fee, in addition to the income from his regular guest-star roles in radio, made it possible for Welles to fulfill a lifelong dream. He approached the War Assistance League of Southern California and proposed a show that evolved into a big-top spectacle, part circus and part magic show.
Members of the U. The development of the show coincided with the resolution of Welles's oft-changing draft status in May , when he was finally declared 4-F — unfit for military service — for a variety of medical reasons. Welles remarked that The Mercury Wonder Show had been performed for approximately 48, members of the U.
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- The Medium and the Magician: Orson Welles, the Radio Years, - .
The idea of doing a radio variety show occurred to Welles after his success as substitute host of four consecutive episodes March 14—April 4, of The Jack Benny Program , radio's most popular show, when Benny contracted pneumonia on a performance tour of military bases. Many of the shows originated from U. Welles was placed on the U. Welles campaigned ardently for Roosevelt in A longtime supporter and campaign speaker for FDR, he occasionally sent the president ideas and phrases that were sometimes incorporated into what Welles characterized as "less important speeches".
On April 12, , the day Franklin D. Roosevelt died, the Blue-ABC network marshalled its entire executive staff and national leaders to pay homage to the late president. Welles presented another special broadcast on the death of Roosevelt the following evening: "We must move on beyond mere death to that free world which was the hope and labor of his life.
He presented a half-hour dramatic program written by Ben Hecht on the opening day of the conference, and on Sunday afternoons April 29—June 10 he led a weekly discussion from the San Francisco Civic Auditorium. In the fall of Welles began work on The Stranger , a film noir drama about a war crimes investigator who tracks a high-ranking Nazi fugitive to an idyllic New England town.
Edward G. Robinson , Loretta Young and Welles star. Producer Sam Spiegel initially planned to hire director John Huston , who had rewritten the screenplay by Anthony Veiller. When Huston entered the military, Welles was given the chance to direct and prove himself able to make a film on schedule and under budget  — something he was so eager to do that he accepted a disadvantageous contract.
One of its concessions was that he would defer to the studio in any creative dispute. The Stranger was Welles's first job as a film director in four years.
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Nims under the terms of the contract. The Stranger was the first commercial film to use documentary footage from the Nazi concentration camps. Completed a day ahead of schedule and under budget,  — The Stranger was the only film made by Welles to have been a bona fide box office success upon its release. No reason was given, but the impression was left that The Stranger would not make money. Producer Mike Todd , who would later produce the successful film adaptation , pulled out from the lavish and expensive production, leaving Welles to support the finances.
When Welles ran out of money he convinced Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn to send enough money to continue the show, and in exchange Welles promised to write, produce, direct and star in a film for Cohn for no further fee. The stage show soon failed due to poor box-office, with Welles unable to claim the losses on his taxes. While Mercury Summer Theatre featured half-hour adaptations of some classic Mercury radio shows from the s, the first episode was a condensation of his Around the World stage play, and is the only record of Cole Porter's music for the project.
Several original Mercury actors returned for the series, as well as Bernard Herrmann. Welles invested his earnings into his failing stage play. Commentaries was a political vehicle for him, continuing the themes from his New York Post column. Welles brought significant attention to Woodard's cause. The last broadcast of Orson Welles Commentaries on October 6, , marked the end of Welles's own radio shows. The film that Welles was obliged to make in exchange for Harry Cohn's help in financing the stage production Around the World was The Lady from Shanghai , filmed in for Columbia Pictures.
Intended as a modest thriller, the budget skyrocketed after Cohn suggested that Welles's then-estranged second wife Rita Hayworth co-star. Cohn disliked Welles's rough-cut, particularly the confusing plot and lack of close-ups, and was not in sympathy with Welles's Brechtian use of irony and black comedy , especially in a farcical courtroom scene.
Cohn ordered extensive editing and re-shoots. After heavy editing by the studio, approximately one hour of Welles's first cut was removed, including much of a climactic confrontation scene in an amusement park funhouse. While expressing displeasure at the cuts, Welles was appalled particularly with the musical score. The film was considered a disaster in America at the time of release, though the closing shootout in a hall of mirrors has since become a touchstone of film noir.
Not long after release, Welles and Hayworth finalized their divorce. A similar difference in reception on opposite sides of the Atlantic followed by greater American acceptance befell the Welles-inspired Chaplin film Monsieur Verdoux , originally to be directed by Welles starring Chaplin, then directed by Chaplin with the idea credited to Welles.
Prior to , Welles convinced Republic Pictures to let him direct a low-budget version of Macbeth , which featured highly stylized sets and costumes, and a cast of actors lip-syncing to a pre-recorded soundtrack, one of many innovative cost-cutting techniques Welles deployed in an attempt to make an epic film from B-movie resources. The script, adapted by Welles, is a violent reworking of Shakespeare's original, freely cutting and pasting lines into new contexts via a collage technique and recasting Macbeth as a clash of pagan and proto-Christian ideologies.
Of all Welles's post- Kane Hollywood productions, Macbeth is stylistically closest to Citizen Kane in its long takes and deep focus photography. Republic initially trumpeted the film as an important work but decided it did not care for the Scottish accents and held up general release for almost a year after early negative press reaction, including Life ' s comment that Welles's film "doth foully slaughter Shakespeare.
Welles returned and cut 20 minutes from the film at Republic's request and recorded narration to cover some gaps. The film was decried as a disaster. Macbeth had influential fans in Europe, especially the French poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau , who hailed the film's "crude, irreverent power" and careful shot design, and described the characters as haunting "the corridors of some dreamlike subway, an abandoned coal mine, and ruined cellars oozing with water.