Simon Callow, who is a great friend of Wellesnet, has sent along the biggest contribution I've yet to receive towards helping keep the site active and alive on the web. I know I've mentioned to everyone who has contributed to Wellesnet that we hope to add more pictures to the site in the future. Well, to my own surprise I found some very rare pictures I had never seen, that Jeff posted to the site from two brothers who were on the set of Chimes at Midnight in 1965.
These photos are especially interesting as they not only show Welles directing in his costume as Falstaff (and according to Keith Baxter, Welles designed all the costumes for Chimes himself), but several of them are also in color, giving us a unique view of the costumes and scenery. They can be viewed at Wellesnet HERE
Now, if there is ever an American DVD release for Chimes at Midnight, the producers might want to get in touch with Marc and Bruno Yasoni about including the rare production photos they took on location in Spain.
Anyway, while talking to Mr. Callow, I asked him whether his biography of Orson Welles would be concluded in one or two more volumes. He said there will definitely only be one more book, which will certainly make for an epic final volume in his acclaimed trilogy about the life and work of Orson Welles.
The last book in the trilogy, will of course, cover Welles's staging of Chimes at Midnight in Belfast and Dublin in 1960 and the subsequent movie version Welles made in Spain in 1965, which many critics (and Welles himself) considered to be his finest work in the cinema.
In 1998, inspired by Welles version of Chimes at Midnight, Simon Callow had the chance to tackle the role of Sir John Falstaff for the first time. He relates the specific details about playing Falstaff in this instructive TALK he gave at London's National Theater in 2003.
Mr. Callow was appearing at the National Theater to talk about the two (then) recent books he wrote for the Faber and Faber series, Actors on Shakespeare. Callow chose to write about Shakespeare's King Henry the IV Part One, and King Henry the IV Part Two. Both books are still available at AMAZON for quite a reasonable price.
Here is Simon Callow's forward to the books:
My qualifications for writing this volume are a little oblique. Some years ago at the Chichester Festival Theatre I played Falstaff in a production of Orson Welles’s CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, a play drawn from HENRY IV Parts I and II, which he had directed on stage some years before shooting the film of the same name. Reviving Welles’s version seemed like a good idea at the time, but for a number of reasons, it failed rather badly – as indeed had the original production in Belfast and Dublin. On the face of it, the notion of compressing the two plays into one to focus on the relationship between Hal and Falstaff is attractive; many of the most memorable passages in the plays are in the scenes between them, and Welles was careful to include the scenes between the ailing king and his son as a counterpoint. In practice, though, however ably staged and acted, it creates an unwieldy vehicle which lumbers across the stage unhappily and unrhythmically, dangerously risking over-exposure for the Fat Knight and removing the context in which events unfold. (The film, of course, is quite a different matter: the entirely different dramaturgical demands of the medium made Welles’s selective process not only feasible but inevitable).
My discomfort in the performance constantly led me back to the full texts – pointlessly, since it was by this time impossible to restore anything more than a line or two. But it did give me a peculiarly keen appreciation of Shakespeare’s craftsmanship, and some insight into why he does what he does in the very particular way in which he does it. Some of the fruits of that painful reading are to be found in the following pages. In essence, I aim to take the reader through the play from the point of view of a practitioner, not becoming entangled in the tricky logistics of the actual staging, but presenting a practical view of the play, a sort of groundwork for a production, which may bring out some of the ways in which the play works. Anyone who attempts to write in this way is consciously or unconsciously treading in the footsteps of Harley Granville-Barker, for actors and directors greatest and most useful of all Shakespearean commentators: a tough act to follow, to be sure, but the most inspiring of models (fortunately, perhaps, for me, he never wrote about HENRY IV).
As noted above, Simon Callow's first appearance as Falstaff was in 1998 at the Chichester Festival Theatre, where Keith Baxter, graduated from playing Prince Hal in Welles film to taking on the role of his own father, King Henry IV.
Mr. Baxter's very insightful comments about working with Orson Welles on Chimes at Midnight can be found in Leslie Weisman's report for Wellesnet HERE.
The Simon Callow/Keith Baxter version of Chimes at Midnight opened in August, 1998 in Chichester, with the following cast:
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT – By Orson Welles, adapted from plays by William Shakespeare. Directed by Patrick Garland.
Simon Callow (Falstaff), Keith Baxter (King Henry IV), Tam Williams (Prince Hal), Tristan Gemmill (Hotspur) Sarah Badel (Mistress Quickly), David Weston (Bardolph), Rowland Davies, Timothy Bateson, Rebecca Egan, John Warner.
In doing research for the part, Simon Callow also wrote the following article which gives us some fascinating insights into the origins of Falstaff.
THE FAT MAN IN HISTORY
Falstaff is one of the great characters of Western literature, but he is not Shakespeare's exclusive creation. As Simon Callow prepares to play him, he explores the ancient roots of a mythic figure
By SIMON CALLOW
The Independent - 11 August 1998
Sir John Falstaff has been widely described as Shakespeare's greatest creation and his best loved character, which in the circumstances is no mean claim. The adjective "Falstaffian" has long passed into the language. We all know what it means: fat and frolicsome, gloriously drunk, bawdy, boastful, mendacious; disgraceful but irresistible; above all, fun. Not only, as he says in Henry IV Part Two, witty in himself, "but the cause that wit is in other men," Falstaff provokes cascades of comparisons both from critics and from his fellow characters in the play; to see him is to be irresistibly impelled to describe him.