Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles had its New York City premiere on November 23, and the next day, on November 24, there was a dedication by Chris Welles Feder and Christian McKay of a plaque in memory of Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre which once stood at the site of the current building which now occupies the lot at 110 West 41st street.
That is why Wellesnet will be recalling some of the memories of the original cast members of Julius Caesar this week, beginning with these filmed recollections of one of the founding members of Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre company, Mr. William Alland.
Part One: Meeting Welles, Theater and Radio
Photos of William Alland and Orson Welles can be seen at Wellesnet's Facebook page HERE.
William Alland most famously played the reporter Thompson in Citizen Kane, and was one of the original Mercury Theatre actors, having first met Welles early in his career in 1936. He then went on to play the part of Marullus in Julius Caesar, and joined the other Mercury Actors when they went to Hollywood. Alland debuted as a film actor in Citizen Kane and worked with Welles on several of his subsequent films, including playing one of the murderers in Macbeth.
Mr. Alland also had roles in many of Welles's radio shows, most notably playing several parts in the notorious War of the Worlds broadcast.
John McCarty, a colleague from Cinefantastique magazine, recently wrote to tell me he had filmed an long interview segment with Mr. Alland for a documentary project and had just recently placed it on YouTube for everyone to enjoy.
I asked John to write a short introduction for his documentary, The Man Who Pursued Rosebud, and he readily complied. In looking at Mr. Alland's comments, what I found especially interesting, is how his account of his first meeting with Orson Welles differed so greatly from what John Houseman recorded in his own autobiography, Run Though. Like the reporter he played in Citizen Kane, it seems William Alland and Mr. Houseman have two very different memories of how they first came to meet the great man!
So after you watch John McCarty's documentary, I have included the relevant comments from John Houseman's book, where he recalls his own take on how William Alland became a member of the Mercury Theatre.
It should also be noted that William Alland is portrayed in a featured part in Me and Orson Welles, by the actor Iain McKee. In the movie he is known only as "Vakhtangov" which is explained by Mr. Houseman in the excerpt from his autobiography.
THE MAN WHO PURSUED ROSEBUD
By John McCarty
In 1994, I published a book titled The Fearmakers (St. Martin’s Press), a compendium of essay-profiles of twenty filmmakers who, in my opinion, had the greatest influence on the evolution of the terror-horror-suspense film genre from the silent era to the present (circa 1993). One of these filmmakers was Jack Arnold, the director of such enduring sci-fi/horror classics of the 1950s as It Came From Outer Space, Tarantula, The Creature of From the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and others.
Two years later, a Texas-based video production company contacted me about developing the book into a documentary series for the fast-growing home video market. Each half-hour segment would focus on one of these master fearmakers and include clips from their films as well as interviews with co-workers, cast members, film historians, and even the filmmakers themselves if they were still around. I signed on as narrator, script supervisor, co-director, interviewer, and chief cook and bottle washer.
After selecting a baker’s dozen from the twenty in my book for the thirteen segments that would be produced, I gave the producers a list of potential interviewees. For the segment on Jack Arnold, the interviewee I most hoped to get was William Alland, Universal’s “house producer” of science-fiction and horror films in the ‘50s – and, not unimportantly to me, the man who had played Jerry Thompson, the reporter in pursuit of the identity of “rosebud” in the Orson Welles masterpiece Citizen Kane.