Bonhams to sell a Treasure Trove of Production Material on Orson Welles’s Masterpiece CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT
Chimes at Midnight is Welles's masterpiece, the fullest, most completely realized expression of everything he had been working toward since Citizen Kane, which itself was more an end than a beginning.
--Joseph McBride, ORSON WELLES.
Bonham's Auction house will be selling an archive of rare production material on November 22 in London that belonged to the executive producer of Chimes at Midnight, Alessandro Tasca, who was a cousin of Guiseppe Lampedusa, the author of the classic Sicilian novel The Leopard.
The presale estimate for the collection is between £40,000 and 60,000 (British pounds). Ideally, it would be wonderful if an archive could obtain the material, such as The University of Michigan or the Lilly Library, where it could be available for Welles scholars, but it would seem doubtful that either institution could afford the asking price during these lean economic times. Presumably Simon Callow interviewed Alessandro Tasca before he died in 2000, but if he didn't, it would obviously be nice if he could access to the archive so he could include it's contents in the third volume of his upcoming Welles biography.
Another tantalizing possibility would be to collect the material in a lavish Taschen type of book devoted to Chimes at Midnight, as was done with Les Bravades, after it was auctioned off by Rebecca Welles.
Here are the highlights of the archive, as listed in the auction catalogue:
A series of 23 wash and watercolour drawings by Welles for Chimes at Midnight, some annotated by him (each c.250 x 500mm).
A series of some twenty stills from Don Quixote with the drawings and watercolors commissioned by Welles from the stills, by Ivano Staccioli and other artists.
Papers including some fifty sheets of production and location notes and memos by Welles, with the odd sketch, relating to Chimes at Midnight, Don Quixote and The Dreamers.
Photographs of Welles on the set of Chimes at Midnight, together with the negatives.
Other stills (one of Welles and Tasca on the set of Cagliostro, another of them setting up a TV short in 1961).
A substantial series of approximately 80 letters and notes or memos by Orson Welles to Alessandro Tasca, the majority signed, about ten being autographed, the remainder typed, dating between 1964 and 1984.
Retained copies of letters by Tasca to Welles.
Some 25 telegrams from Welles to Tasca.
Correspondence relating to Welles's death (Tasca being the last person to have seen him alive).
Proposed budgets for the never made King Lear, The Big Brass Ring and The Dreamers.
A contract signed by Orson Welles with Central Casting.
Scripts for Orson Welles films or projects (some in duplicate), including Chimes at Midnight, The Other Side of the Wind, The Big Brass Ring, The Dreamers, The Cradle will Rock, King Lear, The Magic Show and Mercedes.
Orson Welles's library ticket for the Los Angeles Public Library, 1985.
The papers chart what were, as Tasca himself confessed in his interview with Cahier du Cinema in November 1985, their many tempestuous rows, not least when Tasca had the temerity to leave the set in order to attend his daughter's wedding. But after the Wellesian storms, comes the sunshine, as a (fairly typical) letter shows:
"I have put a severe strain on the most valued of all my friendships; behaving stupidly and brutishly and am most profoundly ashamed for having done so. It's an indisputable fact that you must be left alone to do your job your way, and that's the way it's going to be from now on, believe me"; having, in the same letter, launched into a discussion of the correct negotiating techniques to employ with agents, he ends: "But that, of course, doesn't change my boorish treatment of your good self, in whom I hold a regard higher than I could ever express and a personal affection which makes my behaviour all the more inexcusable".
Many of Welles's notes have been scrawled on the set, and give a tangible sense of being there with him; as in one hand-scrawled missive:
WHERE'S THE WIND?
Often they are trivial in the extreme, and all the more valuable for that:
Last night I asked Rose Marie to call you and say not to come this Morning...
I've just now found out that she forgot. Forgive me! / Could you arrange to get me some more Cigars?
In this interesting memorandum headed "Cinematographer: And The Crew" Welles discusses his preference for a lighting cameraman, who ended up being, not an Italian, but a French man, Edmond Richard, who had shot Welles' previous film The Trial:
With almost any other director it would be logical to use, for the European filming, a European cameraman: not a Yugoslav (they are good but slow) but an Italian. However, in my pictures I am, to a very considerable extent, my own cameraman. All basic decisions particularly as regards the lighting must be made by myself. This means that we require a good technician who is also a good leader of his crew, and above all, a fast worker. It goes without saying that he must be fully capable of lighting a scene entirely on his own, but it is essential that he understand and cheerfully agree to an arrangement whereby all the important initiatives in the photography come from me – in other words, he must accept a sort of partnership in which I am, in the crunch, the senior partner.