Here is Orson Welles witty Foreword to Micheál Mac Liammóir's diary of the making of Othello, Put Money in thy Purse, first published in 1952 by Methuen in London. Photos of Welles and Mac Liammóir from Othello along with shots of the locations Welles used in Morocco can be seen at the Wellesnet Facebook page HERE.
Why is it, I wonder, that most of us who are Micheál Mac Liammóir's friends-–having never been his victims–-are so very certain that at any minute we might be?
‘O that Micheál!' we say, with a knowing, a vaguely apprehensive sort of leer.
What do we think we mean? In company, 'that Micheál' of ours doesn't slash or slaughter, or even prick, but lavishly spreads about him, instead, the pleasant oils and balms of good humor. He is an entertainer rather than a conquistador, a good companion, who could certainly scratch, but who prefers to purr. If he must be excluded from the full title of wit, his lack is ruthlessness and his only fault a preference for being kind.
Why, then, do we think of him as so fatal a swordsman among conversationalists, so perilous a man to meet over a martini? I now reveal his true, his darkest secret. It is simple almost to the point of squalor: he keeps a diary!
The diarist, having arranged a sort of rendezvous with posterity, moves, for all his good manners, in a solid aura of menace. Most of Micheál’s acquaintances don't know why, but this is what makes them so jumpy in his presence. Some of us, of course, have long had our suspicions. For, as a contraction of the pupil is said to betray the dope fiend, so we are warned by a certain glitter, a cold glint of appraisal in the eye of the abandoned wretch who has given himself over to the keeping of a private journal.
I have had diaries myself. But, then, I have known how to leave them alone: an entry or two just for the thrill of it, and then back to normalcy. I count myself lucky. The addiction to diaries, the habitual keeping of a journal, a secret vice like the eating of hashish, degrades the diarist himself to something very like the moral status of a drama critic and, unlike drugs, destroys not only the character of the user but of his friends.
Having exposed Mac Liammóir for what he is, an explanation of this book requires that I make full confession of being myself an inveterate, an incurable snoop.
My friends, such as remain to me, are about evenly divided between those who do not believe that I would stoop to steaming open their most intimate correspondence, and those who, having caught me in the act, have decided to forgive me.
Knowing my curiosity to be such that I am perfectly capable of learning Gaelic in order to read it, Micheal (who not only keeps his daily journal under lock and key, but writes it in the Irish language) has guarded it with such exquisite caution that at long last I was forced into the desperate maneuver of begging him to publish it. This book is the result.
I would have preferred to have been the only reader. Indeed, my portrait emerges from the Mac Liammóir journal as a rather unpalatable cocktail of Caliban, Pistol and Bottom, with an acrid whiff here and there of Coriolanus. I am to be found (the dialogue being rendered in a peculiarly quaint version of Americanese) railing and raging against its author, a veritable force of bad nature, a withering blast from off my own Middle Western prairies.
I must defend myself against this, because the truth is that Micheál's ears, during almost every moment of our daily work together, rang with highly merited praise. A nice reticence withheld him from keeping any record of this success. The rare exceptions, for comic effect, are elaborately dwelt upon. Permit me to insist that if there is an impression that my administrative tactics are just a trifle more thorough-going than Captain Bligh's, only Micheál's modesty is to blame.
It is reported that I addressed him as 'harp'. I ask the reader to believe that I do not use or approve of that special level of slang ('kraut' for German, 'hunky' for Hungarian, 'limey' for Englishman, etc., etc.). For the benefit of those who share my loathing for even the mildest shades of chauvinism, I must explain a joke whose point was in deliberate bad taste:
'Harp', you see, brings to mind that improbable figure, the Irish-American of St Patrick's Day parades, complete with budget-sized shamrock and souvenir shillelagh, and Micheál is something else again. His far-wandering spirit has chosen never to travel without a plush knapsack, plum-colored and chock-full of the more attractive Edwardian airs and continental graces, but no shamrocks at all. Indeed Micheál, who does really look a bit like something Beardsley would have drawn if they'd taken away his pencil-sharpener, is the very last Irishman on the broad face of the earth to be called 'harp'.
So much for that. As they say at banquets, Micheál Mac Liammóir needs no introduction. He has proven himself in every one of the numerous mediums of his choice, and has done so again and again. Well, then, here is a book of his about a film we made together. I have nothing significant to add to the first of these projects, which you are evidently about to read, except to say that I hope it won’t keep you from seeing Othello for yourself.
I don’t think even Micheál would mind.