George Orson Welles was an American actor, director, writer, and producer who worked in theatre, radio, and film. He is remembered for his innovative work in all three: in theatre, most notably Caesar (1937), a Broadway adaptation of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar; in radio, the 1938 broadcast "The War of the Worlds", one of the most famous in the history of radio; and in film, Citizen Kane (1941), consistently ranked as one of the all-time greatest films.

Welles directed a number of high-profile stage productions for the Federal Theatre Project in his early twenties, including an innovative adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast, and the political musical The Cradle Will Rock. In 1937 he and John Houseman founded the Mercury Theatre, an independent repertory theatre company that presented an acclaimed series of productions on Broadway through 1941. Welles found national and international fame as the director and narrator of a 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds performed for his radio anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. It reportedly caused widespread panic when listeners thought that an invasion by extraterrestrial beings was occurring. Although some contemporary sources claim these reports of panic were mostly false and overstated,[1] they rocketed Welles to notoriety.

His first film was Citizen Kane (1941), which he co-wrote, produced, directed, and starred in as Charles Foster Kane. Welles was an outsider to the studio system and directed only 13 full-length films in his career. He struggled for creative control on his projects early on with the major film studios and later in life with a variety of independent financiers, and his films were either heavily edited or remained unreleased. His distinctive directorial style featured layered and nonlinear narrative forms, innovative uses of lighting such as chiaroscuro, unusual camera angles, sound techniques borrowed from radio, deep focus shots, and long takes. He has been praised as a major creative force and as "the ultimate auteur".[2]

Welles followed up Citizen Kane with critically acclaimed films including The Magnificent Ambersons in 1942 and Touch of Evil in 1958. Although these three are his most acclaimed films, critics have argued other works of his, such as The Lady from Shanghai (1947)[3] and Chimes at Midnight (1966),[4] are underappreciated.

In 2002, Welles was voted the greatest film director of all time in two British Film Institute polls among directors and critics,[5][6] and a wide survey of critical consensus, best-of lists, and historical retrospectives calls him the most acclaimed director of all time.[7] Well known for his baritone voice,[8] Welles was a well-regarded actor in radio and film, a celebrated Shakespearean stage actor, and an accomplished magician noted for presenting troop variety shows in the war years.

Trivia Edit

  • Orson's last name: Welles sounds similar to the author of the original novel: H.G. Wells. They are even pronounced similarly.

Sources Edit

  1. Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns, and Head-Hunting Panics: A Study of Mass Psychogenic Illness and Social Delusion by Robert E. Bartholomew (McFarland - 2001). ISBN 9780786409976
  2. Discovering Orson Welles by Jonathan Rosenbaum, . Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press, 2007 ISBN 0-520-25123-7
  3. List-o-Mania, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love American Movies (Jonathan Rosenbaum - June 25, 1998)
  4. Great Movie: Chimes at Midnight (Roger Ebert - June 4, 2006
  5. Sight & Sound |Top Ten Poll 2002 – The Directors' Top Ten Directors (BFI - September 5, 2006)
  6. Sight & Sound |Top Ten Poll 2002 – The Critics' Top Ten Directors (BFI - September 5, 2006)
  7. "TSPDT – The 1,000 Greatest Films: The Top 250 Directors". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? January 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  8. "Orson Welles: An Incomplete Education". Senses of Cinema (Christey, Jaime N. )

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