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Orson Welles Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (76) | Personal Quotes (73) | Salary (17)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 6 May 1915Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA
Date of Death 10 October 1985Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameGeorge Orson Welles
Height 6' 1½" (1.87 m)

Mini Bio (1)

His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was seven) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr. Maurice Bernstein. In 1931, he graduated from the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois; he turned down college offers for a sketching tour of Ireland. He tried unsuccessfully to enter the London and Broadway stages, traveling some more in Morocco and Spain (where he fought in the bullring). Recommendations by Thornton Wilder and Alexander Woollcott got him into Katherine Cornell's road company, with which he made his New York debut as Tybalt in 1934. The same year, he married, directed his first short, and appeared on radio for the first time. He began working with John Houseman and formed the Mercury Theatre with him in 1937. In 1938, they produced "The Mercury Theatre on the Air", famous for its broadcast version of "The War of the Worlds" (intended as a Halloween prank). His first film to be seen by the public was Citizen Kane (1941), a commercial failure losing RKO $150,000, but regarded by many as the best film ever made. Many of his next films were commercial failures and he exiled himself to Europe in 1948. In 1956, he directed Touch of Evil (1958); it failed in the United States but won a prize at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. In 1975, in spite of all his box-office failures, he received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1984, the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award. His reputation as a filmmaker has climbed steadily ever since.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan < stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (3)

Paola Mori (8 May 1955 - 10 October 1985) (his death) (1 child)
Rita Hayworth (7 September 1943 - 1 December 1948) (divorced) (1 child)
Virginia Nicholson (14 November 1934 - 1 February 1940) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (5)

One of the most recognizable deep voices in all of film, radio or television.
Frequently casts Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane and Oja Kodar
Films that he wrote/directed often revolve around the rise and fall of main characters (Kane, Quinlan, Arkardin) who, in classic Shakespearean style, are unmade by their own vices.
Known for his use of low camera angles, tracking shots, deep focus and elaborate crane shots in his films.
More than often than not sported a beard

Trivia (76)

Once ate 18 hot dogs in one sitting at Pink's, a Los Angeles hot dog stand.
Welles' Oscar statuette sold for $861,542, when it was auctioned by Nate D. Sanders Memorabilia on December 20, 2011.
H.G. Wells was driving through San Antonio, Texas, and stopped to ask the way. The person he happened to ask was none other than Welles', who had recently broadcast "The War of the Worlds" on the radio. They got on well and spent the day together.
ABC-TV wanted him to play Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island (1977), but the show's producer, Aaron Spelling, insisted on Ricardo Montalban.
Died the same day as Yul Brynner.
Ashes are buried inside an old well covered by flowers, within the rural property of the now-deceased, then-retired bullfighter Antonio Ordóñez, Ronda, Malaga, Spain.
One of only six actors to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his first screen appearance. The other five actors are: Paul Muni, Lawrence Tibbett, Alan Arkin, James Dean and Montgomery Clift.
On October 30, 1938, he directed "The Mercury Theatre On the Air" in a dramatization of "The War of the Worlds", based on H.G. Wells' novel. Setting the events in then-contemporary locations (The "landing spot" for the Martian invasion, Grover's Mill, New Jersey, was chosen at random with a New Jersey road map) and dramatizing it in the style of a musical program interrupted by news bulletins, complete with eye-witness accounts, it caused a nationwide panic, with many listeners fully convinced that the Earth was being invaded by Mars. The next day, Welles publicly apologized. While many lawsuits were filed against both Welles and the CBS radio network, all were dismissed. The incident is mentioned in textbook accounts of mass hysteria and the delusions of crowds.
Despite his reputation as an actor and master filmmaker, he maintained his memberships in the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians (neither of which are unions, but fraternal organizations), and regularly practiced sleight-of-hand magic in case his career came to an abrupt end. Welles occasionally performed at the annual conventions of each organization, and was considered by fellow magicians to be extremely accomplished.
A bootleg tape of a short-tempered (and foul-mouthed) Welles arguing with a recording engineer during a voice-over session has been widely distributed. It was used as the basis for an episode of the cartoon show Pinky and the Brain (1995), with The Brain reading cleaned-up versions of Orson's rantings (the episode's title, "Yes, Always", is taken from one of Welles' complaints). Ironically, the actor who plays The Brain, Maurice LaMarche, dubbed the voice of the actor who portrays Welles in Ed Wood (1994).
He was born on the same day that Babe Ruth hit his very first home run.
He tried to make a film version of Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra' book "Don Quixote". He started working on it in 1955 and continued to film through the 1970s with Francisco Reiguera and Akim Tamiroff starring. An incomplete version was released in Spain in 1992.
Made a Hollywood satire, The Other Side of the Wind (2015), starring John Huston and Peter Bogdanovich. Though it was completed, the post-production process was not and the film also ran into legal problems.
Posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988.
Frank Sinatra was the godfather of his and Rita Hayworth's daughter, Rebecca Welles.
Host/narrator of the BBC/Mutual Radio's "The Black Museum" (1952).
Portrayed the title character on the syndicated radio show "The Lives of Harry Lime" (also known as "The Third Man") (1951-1952). It was based on his character from the film The Third Man (1949).
Has the distinction of appearing in both the American Film Institute and British Film Institute's #1 movie. For AFI it was Citizen Kane (1941). For BFI it was The Third Man (1949). Welles shares this distinction with Joseph Cotten, who also starred in both movies.
He was the studio's first choice to play the voiceover role of "OMM" in THX 1138 (1971). However, director George Lucas insisted on casting the relatively unknown stage actor James Wheaton instead.
Has provided voice for some songs by the heavy metal band Manowar: "Dark Avenger" and "Defender".
He became obese in his 40s, weighing over 350 pounds towards the end of his life.
Was possibly not as tall as is often reported. According to Simon Callow's "Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu", medical records exist from a Welles physical in 1941. His weight is listed as 218, and his height at 72" - 6 feet even. Biographers Charles Higham and Frank Brady describe Welles as being 6' 2", though they never provide a source. Biographer Barbara Leaming often comments on his height, but never gives an exact measurement. An early Current Biography article on Welles describes him as being "tall and chubby", while a later one gives the obviously incorrect 6' 3-1/2" height. If you average all the figures and based on his size compared to other actors, he probably in fact stood a little over 6 feet tall (6' 1" to 6' 2").
Was voted the Second Greatest Film Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890- 1945". Pages 1168-1185. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
His 1937 Broadway stage production of William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"--in which the setting was changed to a modern Fascist Rome to reflect the Benito Mussolini era, but in which Shakespeare's language was completely retained--became, and still remains, the longest-running Broadway production of the play. Welles played Brutus. This production was never filmed, but years later Welles' former working partner John Houseman produced a traditional film version of the play for MGM, starring James Mason as Brutus, Marlon Brando as Marc Antony, and John Gielgud as Cassius.
Was suggested as a possible suspect by author Mary Pacios, in the mutilation murder of actress Elizabeth Short, known as "The Black Dahlia" case, in Los Angeles in 1947. Among other reasons, Pacios suggested Welles as a suspect because Welles' artwork for the surreal bizarre fun-house set in The Lady from Shanghai (1947) was similar in many ways to the mutilation and bisection of Elizabeth Short. Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures--the studio that produced "Lady from Shanghai")--ordered the footage cut before release because of its disturbing resemblance to the murder.
When he signed on to direct Touch of Evil (1958), instead of reading the book on which it was based--a pulp novel named "Badge of Evil"--Welles completely changed an early draft of the script.
Told Peter Bogdanovich that, as a practicing magician, he became adept at the old carny trick of fortune-telling, but he became so good at it that it scared him. He was worried that he'd come to believe he actually did have the power to tell the future, like the self-deluded fortune tellers known as a "shut eye".
He had wanted to make films of two literary masterpieces, Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" and Joseph Heller's "Catch-22", but had to be satisfied in having supporting roles in the films made of the two books by John Huston (Moby Dick (1956)) and Mike Nichols (Catch-22 (1970)).
Wrote his novel "Mr. Arkadian" during an extended stay with Laurence Olivier and his wife Vivien Leigh. Welles was appearing at Olivier's St. James Theater in London at the time.
Laurence Olivier had wanted to cast him as Buckingham in Richard III (1955), his film of William Shakespeare's play "Richard III", but gave the role to Ralph Richardson, his oldest friend, because Richardson wanted it. In his autobiography, Olivier says he wishes he had disappointed Richardson and cast Welles instead, as he would have brought an extra element to the screen, an intelligence that would have gone well with the plot element of conspiracy.
Lobbied to get the part of Don Vito Corrleone in The Godfather (1972). Francis Ford Coppola, a huge fan of his, had to turn him down because he already had Marlon Brando in mind for the role and felt Welles wouldn't be right for it.
He made The Lady from Shanghai (1947) towards the end of his marriage to Rita Hayworth. They were constantly fighting at the time and (some say as a comeuppance to Hayworth) he made her cut off most of her long, luxurious red hair and dye it bright platinum blonde.
Was named #16 on the 50 Greatest Screen Legends list of the American Film Institute.
Was the narrator for many of the trailers for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
Before deciding on adapting the life of William Randolph Hearst in Citizen Kane (1941), Welles intended his first film to be an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". Coincidentally, he was Francis Ford Coppola's first choice for the role of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979), itself an adaptation of "Heart of Darkness".
His average dinner famously consisted of two steaks cooked rare and a pint of scotch whiskey. This contributed to his obesity in his later life and his eventual death.
Ranked #9 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Greatest directors ever!" [2005].
His father was an alcoholic.
Considered black and white to be "the actor's best friend", feeling that it focused more on the actor's expressions and feelings than on hair, eye or wardrobe color.
Was very good friends with Peter Bogdanovich, in whose house he lived for several years during Bogdanovich's affair with Cybill Shepherd. Welles even gave Bogdanovich written instructions to finish his last film, The Other Side of the Wind (2015), before his death.
Was a passionate painter
Most of his movie projects never got finished or released due to financial problems and disputes with studio executives. Some of his unfinished productions are: The Deep (1970) (Laurence Harvey's death made a finished movie impossible), The Merchant of Venice (1969) and Don Quixote (1995).
Longtime companions with Oja Kodar. They lived together until his death.
Has been played by Vincent D'Onofrio twice: Ed Wood (1994) and Five Minutes, Mr. Welles (2005).
In the 1930s, he worked at various radio stations in New York City, at different times of the day. He found it difficult to be on time for his live shows because he had to use taxicabs and the heavy New York City traffic meant that he was often late. He soon found a loophole in the law that said you didn't have to be sick to hire an ambulance, so he did just that and had the drivers blast their sirens as he traveled from one station to the next, and that way he was on time.
Profiled in in J.A. Aberdeen's "Hollywood Renegades: The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers" (Palos Verdes Estates, CA: Cobblestone Entertainment).
Merv Griffin claimed in his DVD collection "Merv Griffin: Interesting People" that Welles died two hours after giving Merv an interview in which he had said to ask him anything, "for this interview there are no subjects about which I won't speak.". In the past, Welles refused to speak about the past.
His performance as Harry Lime in The Third Man (1949) is ranked #93 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
His performance as Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane (1941) is ranked #12 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Hated working on The Transformers: The Movie (1986), where he voiced Unicron. When asked about the film, he not only couldn't remember the name of his character, but he described the film as being "I play a big toy who attacks a bunch of smaller toys.".
John Ford, whom Welles admired as the greatest American director and who, in turn, admired Welles as a director and actor, wanted to cast him as Mayor Frank Skeffington in his movie adaption of Edwin O'Connor's novel The Last Hurrah (1958). Welles was unable to accept the role due to scheduling conflicts, and Spencer Tracy was cast instead.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 861-864. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
CBS wanted him to host Twilight Zone (1959) but the producers felt that he requested too much money. He was ultimately ruled out in favor of the show's creator, Rod Serling.
Was George Lucas' first choice as the voice for Darth Vader, but he thought the voice would be too recognizable.
He was of Scottish, Irish and German heritage.
He was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture.
Was close friends with Bud Cort.
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 1600 Vine Street; and for Radio at 6652 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
He died only two hours after being interviewed on The Merv Griffin Show (1962) on October 10, 1985. Reportedly Welles died working with a typewriter in his lap.
When execs at RKO couldn't decide to greenlight Citizen Kane (1941), Welles asked the studio for film equipment and a small crew so he could spend the midway time doing test shots. Not wanting its new import from New York to sour on his deal with RKO, the studio granted the request. Welles proceeded to shoot actual scenes of the movie. By the time execs realized what he had done, Welles had many key scenes completed. RKO green-lit the film, having already--albeit unknowingly--financed the picture.
Was friends with Josip Broz Tito, a partisan guerrilla leader who fought the Nazis in World War Ii Yugoslavia and who later became president of the country.
Last completed work as director was "The Orson Welles Show" a never broadcast television show.
Directed 2 actors to Oscar nominations: Himself (Best Actor, Citizen Kane (1941)), and Agnes Moorehead (Best Supporting Actress, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)).
He and John Huston were good friends from the 1940s to Welles' death in 1985. Both men coincidentally made their spectacular debut as directors in 1941 (Welles with Citizen Kane (1941) and Huston with The Maltese Falcon (1941)). Both would eventually be directed by the other: Welles' had a cameo in Huston's adaptation of Moby Dick (1956) and Huston played the lead in Welles' unfinished The Other Side of the Wind (2015).
He remained good friends with Joseph Cotten until the end of his life, despite a working relationship that was often considered demanding of the older Cotten.
George, his given name, was in honor of his father's friend, humorist George Ade.
Film critics lobbied for him to record an audio commentary for Citizen Kane (1941), but he refused, stating that he was tired of talking about it.
Welles was so impressed with Dorothea Durham that he walked on stage where she was performing at the Club Rhumboogie and put $500 in her hand. Durham, who went by the stage name La Garbo, was a popular dancer in the 1930s and 1940s on the West Coast. She also danced at the Cotton Club in Harlem and in Duke Ellington's "Jump for Joy", and appeared as a dancer in movies such as Cabin in the Sky (1943).
Once referred to the audience as "the big, many-headed beast crouching out there in the darkness".
Became a father for the 1st time at age 22 when his 1st wife Virginia Nicholson gave birth to their daughter Christopher Welles on March 27, 1938.
Became a father for the 2nd time at age 25 when his married lover Geraldine Fitzgerald gave birth to their son Michael Lindsay-Hogg on June 5, 1940.
Became a father for the 3rd time at age 29 when his 2nd wife Rita Hayworth gave birth to their daughter Rebecca Welles on December 17, 1944.
Became a father for the 4th time at age 40 when his 3rd wife Paola Mori gave birth to their daughter Beatrice Welles on November 13, 1955.
The Last Picture Show (1971) was filmed in black and white because of Welles famous remark to Peter Bogdanovich and Polly Platt, when director and crew were uncertain on how to film the locations without using too many colors. Welles, who was on the set, replied: "Of course you'll film it in black and white!". The advice proved to be helpful cause the movie was praised by (among other qualities) its cinematography, which earned Robert Surtees an Oscar nomination.
His full name is George Orson Welles. He was named "George" in honor of writer George Ade, who was a friend of the family. His middle name was in honor of another family friend, a man named Orson Wells (without the "e").

Personal Quotes (73)

Even if the good old days never existed, the fact that we can conceive such a world is, in fact, an affirmation of the human spirit.
[on pop idol Donny Osmond] He has Van Gogh's ear for music.
I'm not very fond of movies. I don't go to them much.
I started at the top and worked down.
I'm not bitter about Hollywood's treatment of me, but over its treatment of D.W. Griffith, Josef von Sternberg, Erich von Stroheim, Buster Keaton and a hundred others.
Movie directing is the perfect refuge for the mediocre.
[on Hollywood in the 1980s) We live in a snake pit here . . . I hate it but I just don't allow myself to face the fact that I hold it in contempt because it keeps on turning out to be the only place to go.
I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.
If there hadn't been women we'd still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girlfriends. And they tolerated it and let us go ahead and play with our toys.
I hate it when people pray on the screen. It's not because I hate praying, but whenever I see an actor fold his hands and look up in the spotlight, I'm lost. There's only one other thing in the movies I hate as much, and that's sex. You just can't get in bed or pray to God and convince me on the screen.
[on Citizen Kane (1941) being colorized] Keep Ted Turner and his goddamned Crayolas away from my movie.
[at RKO Pictures working on "Heart of Darkness", a film he later abandoned] This is the biggest electric train set a boy ever had!
For thirty years people have been asking me how I reconcile X with Y! The truthful answer is that I don't. Everything about me is a contradiction and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There is a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don't reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.
My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.
I think I'm . . . I made essentially a mistake staying in movies, because I . . . but it . . . it's the mistake I can't regret because it's like saying, "I shouldn't have stayed married to that woman, but I did because I love her." I would have been more successful if I'd left movies immediately. Stayed in the theater, gone into politics, written-- anything. I've wasted the greater part of my life looking for money, and trying to get along . . . trying to make my work from this terribly expensive paint box which is an . . . a movie. And I've spent too much energy on things that have nothing to do with a movie. It's about 2% movie making and 98% hustling. It's no way to spend a life.
I think it is always a tremendously good formula in any art form to admit the limitations of the form.
I don't pray because I don't want to bore God.
A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.
I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theater, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.
The word "genius" was whispered into my ear, the first thing I ever heard, while I was still mewling in my crib. So it never occurred to me that I wasn't until middle age.
I passionately hate the idea of being with it; I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.
I'm not rich. Never have been. When you see me in a bad movie as an actor (I hope not as a director), it is because a good movie has not been offered to me. I often make bad films in order to live.
Everybody denies that I am genius - but nobody ever called me one.
A good artist should be isolated. If he isn't isolated, something is wrong.
Hollywood is the only industry, even taking in soup companies, which does not have laboratories for the purpose of experimentation.
I do not suppose I shall be remembered for anything. But I don't think about my work in those terms. It is just as vulgar to work for the sake of posterity as to work for the sake of money.
Race hate isn't human nature; race hate is the abandonment of human nature.
Living in the lap of luxury isn't bad, except you never know when luxury is going to stand up.
I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won't contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.
If spiritually you're part of the cat family, you can't bear to be laughed at. You have to pretend when you fall down that you really wanted to be down there to see what's under the sofa. The rest of us don't at all mind being laughed at.
[on his favorite directors] I prefer the old masters; by which I mean: John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.
[on James Cagney] No one was more unreal and stylized, yet there is no moment when he was not true.
[on René Clair] A real master: he invented his own Paris, which is better than recording it.
[on Federico Fellini] His films are a small-town boy's dream of a big city. His sophistication works because it is the creation of someone who doesn't have it. But he shows dangerous signs of being a superlative artist with little to say.
[on Edward G. Robinson] An immensely effective actor.
The optimists are incapable of understanding what it means to adore the impossible.
[on Stanley Kubrick] Among the young generation, Kubrick strikes me as a giant.
[to Dick Cavett] I'm always sorry to hear that anybody I admire has been an actor . . . When did you go straight?
I don't think history can possibly be true. Possibly! I'll tell you why. We all know people who get things written about, and we know that they're lies written. I told a story to Buck Henry, last year in Weymouth, and he told the story that he thought I told him to a newspaper that I read the other day, and it bears not the *slightest* resemblance to what I said! Now, that's an intelligent man, a year later, meaning me well, and that's the gospel according to Buck Henry, and it's totally apocryphal. Imagine what nonsense everything else is!
[About Nostradamus' ability to predict the future] One might as well make predictions based on random passages from the phone book.
[After his first tour of RKO Studios] This is the biggest toy-train set any boy ever had.
[on Jean-Luc Godard] His gifts as a director are enormous. I just can't take him very seriously as a thinker - and that's where we seem to differ, because he does. His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin.
The only good artists are feminine. I don't believe an artist exists whose dominant characteristic is not feminine. It's nothing to do with homosexuality, but intellectually an artist must be a man with feminine aptitudes.
I know that in theory the word is secondary in cinema, but the secret of my work is that everything is based on the word. I always begin with the dialogue. And I do not understand how one dares to write action before dialogue. I must begin with what the characters say. I must know what they say before seeing them do what they do.
A poet needs a pen, a painter a brush, and a director an army.
I liked the cinema better before I began to do it. Now I can't stop myself from hearing the clappers at the beginning of each shot. All the magic is destroyed.
I think it's very harmful to see movies for movie makers because you either imitate them or worry about not imitating them and you should do movies innocently and i lost my innocence. Every time i see a picture i lose something i don't gain. I never understand what directors mean when they compliment me and say they've learned from my pictures because i don't believe in learning from other people's pictures. You should learn from your own interior vision and discover innocently as though there had never been D.W. Griffith or [Sergei M. Eisenstein] or [John Ford] or [Jean Renoir] or anybody.
[about a lunch encounter with Richard Burton] Richard Burton had great talent. He's ruined his great gifts. He's become a joke with a celebrity wife. Now he just works for money, does the worst shit. And I wasn't rude. To quote Carl Laemmle, "I gave him an evasive answer. I told him, 'Go fuck yourself'."
I never could stand looking at Bette Davis, so I don't want to see her act, you see. I hate Woody Allen physically, I dislike that kind of man. ['Henry Jaglom' (qv], I've never understood why. Have you met him? Oh, yes. I can hardly bear to talk to him. He has the [Charles Chaplin] disease. That particular combination of arrogance and timidity sets my teeth on edge . . . Like all people with timid personalities, his arrogance is ­unlimited. Anybody who speaks quietly and shrivels up in company is unbelievably ­arrogant. He acts shy, but he's not. He's scared. He hates himself, and he loves himself, a very tense situation. It's people like me who have to carry on and pretend to be modest. To me, it's the most embarrassing thing in the world-a man who presents himself at his worst to get laughs, in order to free himself from his hang-ups. Everything he does on the screen is therapeutic.
After [Irving Thalberg] died, Norma Shearer--one of the most minimally ­talented ladies ever to appear on the ­silver screen and who looked like ­nothing, with one eye crossed over the other--went right on being the queen of Hollywood. Everybody used to say, "Mrs. Thalberg is coming", "Miss Shearer is arriving", as though they were talking about Sarah Bernhardt.
In his time, Samuel Goldwyn was considered a classy producer because he never deliberately did anything that wasn't his idea of the best-quality goods. I respected him for that. He was an honest merchant. He may have made a bad picture, but he didn't know it was a bad picture. And he was funny. He actually once said to me, in that high voice of his, "Orson, for you I'd write a blanket check". He said, "With Warner Brothers, a verbal commitment isn't worth the paper it's written on".
[Louis B. Mayer] offered me his studio! He was madly in love with me, because I wouldn't have anything to do with him, you know? Twice he brought me over--spent all day wooing me. He called me "Orse". Whenever he sent for me, he burst into tears, and once he fainted. To get his way. It was fake, ­absolutely fake. The deal was, I'd have the studio, but I'd have to stop acting, directing and writing--making pictures. But Mayer was self-­righteous, smarmy, waving the American flag, doing deals with The Purple Gang [a violent gang of hijackers and killers] in Detroit . . . before the unions, it was all Mafia. But no one called it the Mafia. Just said "the mob".
[on Meyer Lansky] He was probably the #1 gangster in America. I knew them all. You had to. If you lived, as I did, on Broadway during that period, if you lived in nightclubs, you could not not know them. I liked screwing the chorus girls, and I liked meeting all the different people who would come in, and I liked staying up until five in the morning, and they used to love to go to nightclubs. They would come and sit at your table. . . . [asked how Lee Strasberg did with the Hyman Roth character, who was supposed to be Lansky, in The Godfather: Part II (1974)] Much better than the real thing. Meyer Lansky was a boring man. Hyman Roth is who he should have been! They all should have been like that, and none of them were. "The Godfather" was the glorification of a bunch of bums who never existed. The best of them were the kind of people you'd expect to drive a beer truck. They had no class. The classy gangster is a Hollywood invention.
[Irving Thalberg] was the biggest single villain in the history of Hollywood. Before him, a producer made the least contribution, by necessity. The producer didn't direct, he didn't act, he didn't write--so, therefore, all he could do was either (a) mess it up, which he didn't do very often, or (b) tenderly caress it. Support it. Producers would only go to the set to see that you were on budget, and that you didn't burn down the scenery . . . Once you got the educated producer, he has a desk, he's gotta have a function, he's gotta do something. He's not running the studio and counting the money--he's gotta be creative. That was Thalberg. The director became the fellow whose only job was to say, "Action!" and "Cut!". Suddenly you were "just a director" on a "Thalberg production". A role had been created in the world. Just as there used to be no conductor of symphonies . . . He convinced [Louis B. Mayer] that without him, his movies wouldn't have any class. Remember that quote Mayer gave? All the other moguls were "dirty kikes making nickelodeon movies". He used to say that to me all the time.
[about rumors that he, and not Robert Stevenson, directed Jane Eyre (1943)] I invented some of the shots--that's part of being that kind of producer. And I collaborated on it, but I didn't come around behind the camera and direct it. Certainly I did a lot more than a producer ought to, but Stevenson didn't mind that. And I don't want to take credit away from him, all of which he deserves . . . In fact, we got along very well, and there was no trouble.
[on Anthony Asquith] One of the nicest, most intelligent people who was ever in films . . . and my God, he was polite. I saw him, all alone on the stage once, trip on an electric cable, turn around, and say, "I beg your pardon" to it.
[on TV] We live in a world of happy endings with audiences who make every show, no matter how doomed it is and ready to be canceled, sound like a smash hit. [And if not] they have a little black box full of laughter, and they add that to the jokes. And you know that most of the people laughing on that box died long ago.
I have all the equipment to be a politician. Total shamelessness.
[on Gary Cooper] You'd see him working on the set and you'd think, "My God, they're going to have to retake that one!" He almost didn't seem to BE there. And then you'd see the rushes, and he'd fill the screen.
We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.
Hollywood died on me as soon as I got there. I wish to God I'd gone there sooner. It was the rise of the independents that was my ruin as a director.
[on shooting Macbeth (1948)] Our best crowd scene was a shot where all the massed forces of Macduff's army are charging the castle. There was a very vivid sense of urgency to it, because what was happening, really, was that we'd just called noon break, and all those extras were rushing off to lunch.
[about making I tartari (1961)] Victor Mature and I had an extended sword fight, on which I worked day after day. And in no shots--full, long, medium--at any moment is Victor Mature EVER involved! Not even to hold the sword and look menacing... He said, "Oh, I don't want to do any of that stuff".
[regarding the many documentary films he'd narrated] I never saw the movies. That's always been a condition of mine in narrating a film--that I don't have to see any footage. Otherwise, I won't accept the job.
[on Luis Buñuel] He's a deeply Christian man who hates God as only a Christian can and, of course, he's very Spanish.
[about working with Charlton Heston] All you have to do is point and Chuck can go in any direction. He's spent a lot of years being a movie star.
[asked about the rumor that he directed part of Compulsion (1959), credited to Richard Fleischer] Dick Fleischer is a director who doesn't need and wouldn't welcome any help from me.
[on his friend William Faulkner] I never saw him anything but wildly drunk through the years. He must have been sober to produce that great body of work.
[about finding work to Hollywood in the late 1950s after spending several years in Europe] I went a year without almost nothing, just sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. And then I got a couple of jobs. _The Long, Hot Summer (1958)_ (qv], which I hated making--I've seldom been as unhappy in a picture.
[regarding his famous "cuckoo clock" speech in The Third Man (1949) ("In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love--they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."] When the picture came out, the Swiss very nicely pointed out that they've never made any cuckoo clocks--they all come from the Schwarzwald [Black Forest] in Bavaria.
[about director W.S. Van Dyke, aka "Woody"] Woody made some very good comedies. And what a system he had! . . . His retakes sometimes took longer than his original shooting schedule . . . He'd shoot a "Thin Man" or something like that in about 20 days. Then he'd preview it and come back to the studio for 30 days of retakes. For comedy, when you're worried about the laughs, that makes a lot of sense.
[on why he hired Fortunio Bonanova for Citizen Kane (1941)] I saw him as the leading man with Katharine Cornell in "The Green Hat" when I was about eight years old. I never forgot him. He looked to me like a leading man in a dirty movie. Sent for him the minute I wrote that part. He was a great romantic leading man. When he was prompting her [Dorothy Comingore] in the opera, he was so marvelous. God, he was funny.
[about Tim Holt, with whom he worked in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)] One of the most interesting actors that's ever been in American movies, and he decided to be just a cowboy actor. Made two or three important pictures in his career, but was very careful not to follow them up--went straight back to bread-and-butter westerns . . . he was the most marvelous fellow to work with you can imagine.

Salary (17)

Jane Eyre (1943) $100,000
Follow the Boys (1944) $50,000
Tomorrow Is Forever (1946) $20,000
The Stranger (1946) $50,000
Macbeth (1948) $100,000 (for acting, adapting and directing)
Black Magic (1949) $100,000
The Third Man (1949) $100,000
I Love Lucy (1951) $15,000
Trouble in the Glen (1954) £10,000
Around the World with Orson Welles (1955) £75 per episode
Moby Dick (1956) £6,000
Lucy Meets Orson Welles (1956) $5,000
Man in the Shadow (1957) $60,000
The Long, Hot Summer (1958) $150,000
The Roots of Heaven (1958) settlement of debts worth $15,000
Compulsion (1959) $100,000
The Kremlin Letter (1970) $50,000

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