Warner Bros has announced an "aggressive" release plan in 2006 for their catalog titles, of which The Magnificent Ambersons is one; a preliminary list of many titles was posted over at the Digital Bits site today, and Ambersons (not surprisingly, at this point) was not among those titles listed. With 200 titles on the cards though, maybe there's a chance, assuming no other hold-ups. But, if you need a 14 (!) disc set of the Superman movies, they're coming. Urgh.
Archive for January, 2006
I've only recently seen over on the Criterion Forum forum that the excellent UK label Masters of Cinema will be releasing F for Fake, and that this release will include an interview with critic/Welles scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum; no date was given. Considering their usual high standard of work, this should be a very good release.
And, in a lighter vein, while doing research yesterday, I came across this tidbit in a Variety news column: "Orson Welles, guesting on the Philip Morris 'Playhouse' last Friday night (16) pulled the old spare-script gag on Charles Martin, director of the show. With only a few seconds until air time, Welles 'accidentally' dropped his script, the pages scattering across the stage. While Martin frantically yelled for the cast to gather up the fallen pages and simultaneously told a couple of supporting players to give Welles their scripts, the Columbia Playhouse 3 audience was in a frenzy of excitement and laughter. Just as the show was about due on the air, Welles pulled another copy of the script from an inside coat pocket and proceeded with the broadcast."
Thanks to my own rampant laziness, I had not affixed the Amazon affiliate link to the news blog page here, but that has been remedied, thanks to a timely reminder. So click away and order things, as it supports Wellesnet. You have to order on that specific visit for it to count. I will make links for the items mentioned in posts below sometime before the sun burns out.
Also, I have noticed that if you click on one of the Archives buttons in the right hand column, you get an error message. I have no idea why it is doing this, but I will figure it out. So on the off chance someone else has actually clicked those buttons, the problem has been noted and one of our fine technicians (i.e. me) will get on it ASAP. Really.
Per Criterion, their three disc set of Mr. Arkadin has been re-scheduled for release on April 18.
A few days ago I suggested voting for the unreleased Welles titles listed in Turner Classic Movies' database (see below). How has the voting been going since? Not too bad, thanks in part to threads on several other sites as well as this one (he said modestly). Ambersons is up to 90 votes (from 31), Journey Into Fear up to (only) 21; Falstaff up to 36, and Fountain of Youth up to a mere 8. By comparison, Greed, the current leader, had 290-something votes last I checked, so keep on voting for those Welles titles (hint: use multiple email addresses), and any others you might fancy, as there's plenty of worthy titles there.
Per a couple other sources, the Criterion Collection's release of Mr. Arkadin has been removed from their "Coming Soon" section, but remains on the site, listed on its own page simply as "Coming Soon," with no given date.
If you visit the Turner Classic Movies Database, you can look up titles they hold and vote to see them on DVD. I have no idea if it will make any difference to the powers that be (probably not, the cynic in me says), but why not go and vote for the unreleased Welles titles in Region 1? Go here to vote for The Magnificent Ambersons (only 31 votes so far); go here to vote for Journey Into Fear (I was vote number 3); go here to vote for Falstaff (only 2 votes); Filming Othello is there as well, but it seems fairly pointless to vote for that, for obvious reasons. This link is to Welles' overview page, where you can vote for stuff he starred in, or documentaries, and so on. Scroll a ways down to find Fountain of Youth (vote number 1 right here, baby) and vote for that while you're at it. You do have to enter an email to prevent ballot box stuffing, FYI.
From time to time, I'll give a look to biographies of people who played roles in the life of Welles, however small, and the most recent and interesting of these is Samantha Barbas' The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons, telling the story of that infamous gossip columnist who did her best to have Citizen Kane destroyed. As far as I know, this is the first full-length biography of Parsons, who terrorized Hollywood for decades as the motion picture editor for William Randolph Hearst's newspaper empire. Barbas should be commended for her diligence in puncturing many falsehoods and inventions that came from Parsons herself, who, like Welles, wasn't above re-arranging the truth to make herself look better. When Welles did make up stories, he did at least do so far more interestingly than Parsons, it must be said. Barbas also gives numerous examples of the sleazy journalistic behavior Parsons engaged in, using blackmail and other underhanded methods to force people in the movie business to do her bidding. Parsons invented a persona that the public ate up, that of the homespun, folksy small town girl who lived a prim and proper life. In reality, Parsons led a dissolute life like many of the stars she covered up for, as she guzzled her share of booze, was an inveterate gambler and an adulterer, and had multiple divorces in an age when that was a serious social offense.
Parsons relentlessly kissed Hearst�s ass until he gave her a job (and we're not talking about the Ince affair, a story which Barbas deftly skewers), which she parlayed via hard work and underhandedness into the top dog of movie �journalism.� Stars and studio executives alike truly feared what she (and by extension Hearst) could do to a career; look at what Hearst did to Fatty Arbuckle for the sake of selling papers. So the studios gave her an exclusive 48-hour advance on stories coming out, and stars showered her with gifts to curry her favor. Needless to say, she had long since sold her journalistic soul to hype whatever star or picture Hearst told her to, and she boosted them to the extent that it became readily evident what she was doing. She engaged in blatant nepotism, getting cushy jobs for her daughter and final husband, and forced stars, who could command large fees for appearing on radio, to do her radio show, Hollywood Hotel, for free, lest they get frozen out of her column.
When Welles began work on Kane, he deftly suckered Parsons into believing that the picture had nothing to do with Hearst, despite every indication that it did in fact directly come from Hearst�s life at least in part. Her rabid reaction to being so duped came close enough to getting the picture permanently shelved in not destroyed, if not for George Shaeffer, who remained firm in his plans to release the film. Granted, he did it in part because he thought the film would make money, but he did so in the face of enormous pressure from the rest of Hollywood�s execs. The fallout from the Kane struggle left Parsons� career damaged, much as it did Welles; Hollywood, which had long resented her strongarm tactics, quickly turned on her, and rival columnist Hedda Hopper, who had also crusaded against Kane (mainly to kiss Hearst�s ass), quickly grew in power, despite being a lesser writer and a much lousier person than Parsons.
Parsons would remain a potent force on the Hollywood scene, but her day as the supreme force she had once been was largely over. When she died in 1972, the old Hollywood she was such a part of largely turned a blind eye, with only a tiny handful of stars coming to her funeral. Today, she is largely forgotten outside of hardcore movie fans and scholars, her immense influence relegated to a footnote in movie history.
Barbas� book is extensively footnoted, cleanly written and very balanced, objectively reporting Parsons� often odious behavior as well as her several accomplishments. Parsons was a workaholic and pursued her stories very seriously, but she also appears to have been largely devoid of ethics and integrity. Barbas has presented a biography of Parsons that doesn�t attempt to interpret Parsons� personality or actions beyond the facts at hand, which might dismay readers who want a book that tries to get into the head of its subject. That isn�t what is on offer here, but the book tells a Hollywood story that certainly deserves to be remembered. I went in to the book with absolutely zero respect for Parsons, and while my opinion remains more or less the same, I at least have a better understanding of what she did and how she did it.