GEORGE ORSON WELLES
May 6, 1915 — October 10, 1985
25 years ago the great artist and poet of the cinema, George Orson Welles met the end of his adventure on Earth.
But not really--if you listen to what Ray Bradbury told the American Society of Cinematographers in 1967. Strangely enough Mr. Bradbury made these comments in Hollywood, while Orson Welles was making his adaptation of Isak Dinesen's The Immortal Story in Madrid, Spain.
ORSON WELLES: Let us—Let us raise our cups then standing, as some of us do, on opposite ends of the river and drink together to what really matters to us all—to our crazy and beloved profession.
To the movies—to good movies—to every possible kind.
–AFI tribute to Orson Welles, February, 1975
RAY BRADBURY: I had a wonderful experience three or four weeks ago that I want to tell you about. I went to the Los Feliz Theatre to see a revival of George Cukor’s Dinner at Eight. My wife and I just wandered into the theatre by accident because we couldn’t get into various other shows around town. I said, “I haven’t seen this film since I was 12 years old. Let’s go in and see it again.” We went in and sat there with a bunch of teenage kids and guys and girls in their twenties, who didn’t know Marie Dressier from the side of a barn, who hadn’t seen Lionel Barrymore or John Barrymore, or Billie Burke in their heydays.
I was in tears by the end of the evening, because, when Billie Burke finished the great scene where she’s mad at the whole world—upset because the food hasn’t been prepared right for the dinner that night, when she finishes her big tirade which ran two minutes in the middle of the film—this audience of teenagers—to a person—broke into applause for this tour-de-force. My hair stood up on the back of my head, and I thought “A thousand years from tonight, the work you people did and that she did and all the people in this industry do will be immortal.” You are all immortal. You have beat death at the game because that scene is going to be repeated a thousand years from tonight and ten thousand years from tonight—and there’ ll be other teenagers who don’t know any of you from Adam, but they’re going to break into applause because of something excellent you did once in your life, maybe—or twice, or three times when you had the breaks, and you had a good director, and you had the decent script, and you had these actors working for you and that magical thing happened.
So I sat there and I broke into tears. I thought: “everyone in that film has been dead for 20 or 30 years. Marie Dressier died in 1934—but she is still alive!”
This is the science-fictional business you are all tied into. You’re really tacked onto the future—like it or not—so you’re going to be changing people 100 years from tonight and 500 years from tonight and a thousand years from tomorrow noon. That’s the kind of business you’re in and I’d like to remind you of that, because you’ve been downgraded so often. I’ve been downgraded because of my love for what you do—but I won’t have it because it does work even once in a while—and we all know the moments when it works. So my evening at the Los Feliz was great—we came out and all those people were living that we had seen!