ORSON WELLES plea to GEORGE LUCAS and STEVEN SPIELBERG (INDIANA JONES and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull): “Will you help save IT’S ALL TRUE, before it fades away?”
While it may seem unfair to single out Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg for such a plea, I think that given the fact they both supposedly loved Orson Welles and his work, and that their new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is being made for Paramount Pictures, who control all the rights to It’s All True, it's actually rather appropriate. And don't forget, that in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy's adventure begins in South America, and ends with the famous warehouse homage to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.
Ironically, Frank Marshall, the producer of all the Indiana Jones movies, got his start working as the production manager on Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind. So you might think that between these three very wealthy men, they would have the clout to, at the very least, ask the head of Paramount Pictures to come up with the meager funds (about $150,000) that are needed to preserve the 100,000 feet of negative footage Orson Welles shot for It’s All True that has never even been printed!
I find it especially ironic that Mr. Spielberg would spent about half of what is needed to preserve It’s All True, ($60,000), on a little sled called “Rosebud.” Wouldn’t or shouldn't Mr. Spielberg be more interested in seeing what the director of Citizen Kane shot in South America only a year later, and what has never been seen by anyone else, including Mr. Welles? My God, if I were Steven Spielberg, I'd go to Paramount and say, "Print this material or I'll never make a film for you again!"
Well, maybe if the new Indiana Jones movie grosses over $200 million, Lucas and Spielberg might consider donating the small pittance of $60,000. each to the restoration of Orson Welles It’s All True. Or better yet, insist that Paramount fund the restoration of all of the footage they have deposited with the UCLA film archive. In any case, It’s All True needs a wealthy patron, because there is about 100,000 feet of nitrate footage shot or supervised by Orson Welles in Brazil, that has never even been seen! Now, to be quite clear, this is mostly documentary footage, and may not startle the average viewer or even be terribly exciting footage. But on April 13, Joe McBride showed a reel of silent rushes I’d never seen from It’s All True at the Pacific Film Archive, in Berkeley. It was mostly shot by Harry J. Wild, in high contrast black and white, showing couples dancing at the Urca Casino in Rio. Joe read the audience Catherine Benamou's description of the footage:
"Some of the footage was shot documentary style at the Teatro Municipal - an elite carnival venue, where we can see Welles in the frame and Phil Reisman (RKO vice-president) dancing; a freeze frame of Reisman appears in the 1993 documentary. Other material was shot in Teatro da Republica, a popular and mixed race venue, also documentary style. Still other material is indeed from the Cinedia set of the Casino da Urca, where Carmen Miranda was originally "discovered" by Lee Shubert and which would have figured in the "Grand Finale" of the film, so it was shot on a sound stage."
What I found quite interesting about the footage, was it seemed to anticipate the style of the ballroom scenes from David O. Selznick’s Since You Went Away (shot by Stanley Cortez, who Selznick hired after seeing Cortez’s work on Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons!). And according to Bernard Herrmann, it was Selznick, who after seeing The Magnificent Ambersons in it’s long cut, pleaded with RKO to at least make a copy of the long version for the Museum of Modern Art, before they cut it to ribbons.
So will history repeat itself? I would certainly hope not.
That is why all Wellesnet fans are plea, plead, pleading for some Angel from above to appear and save all this precious footage from It's All True before it turns into vinegar.
Just think about it: Back in 1942, if only Mr. Selznick had said to to RKO, "Just make a single print of Ambersons for me, and I'll pay you $10,000." Today, that print would be worth a mint to Warner Bros. if it were found in Selznick's archives. We are currently faced with the same kind of choice. There is actually a chance to save 100,000 feet of fragile nitrate footage Welles shot in Brazil for It’s All True. But this is footage that is over 60 years old, so it may be decomposing even as you read this! And unless Mr. Spielberg or Mr. Lucas, or some other patron of the cinematic arts steps up to the plate soon, we will likely be faced with a situation where the footage is lost to us forever!
I would hope somewhere out there in the cinematic world, there is at least one patron who would not allow the images that Welles never got to see perish from the face of the Earth forever!
Now, here are some of the facts regarding the current situation facing It's All True, as provided by the preeminent Welles scholar in this area, Catherine L. Benamou, when she showed some of preserved footage at the Cinemateca Brasileira, in São Paulo, Brasil on August 7, 2006:
A Screening of Preserved Footage from
IT'S ALL TRUE
CARNIVAL IN RIO/HOLY WEEK IN OURO PRETO, MINAS GERAIS
Documentary rushes assembled in the archive under supervision of Richard Wilson, b/w, silent, 2,000 feet, shot in February and April 1942
ARRIVAL OF THE JANGADEIROS IN GUANABARA BAY
Documentary, rough assemblage from early 1940s, performed under the supervision of Orson Welles, b/w, silent, 975 feet, shot in May, 1942.
Some facts (figures are approximate):
MY FRIEND BONITO
Shot in Mexico, September to December, 1941
Preserved and used in the 1993 documentary IT’S ALL TRUE: 8,000 ft.
Developed and copied onto nitrate positive (1942): 16,793 ft
Still in nitrate negative, not yet preserved: 67,145 ft
Shot in Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto, and at Cinédia studio,
February – June, 1942
Technicolor preserved as interpositive: 2750 feet
Technicolor used in the 1993 documentary: 1000 feet
Technicolor nitrate not yet preserved: 2700 feet
Technicolor processed in b/w, 1942: 6500 feet
B/W preserved: 3,330 feet
B/W preserved and used in 1993 doc: 1000 feet
B/W still in nitrate, not yet preserved: 32,200 feet
Recorded sound negative: 50,000 feet
(including some scenes pertaining to JANGADEIROS)
JANGADEIROS (FOUR MEN ON A RAFT)
Shot in Ceará, Recife, Bahía, and Rio de Janeiro, March – July, 1942
Shot in the Northeast: 40,000 ft
Shot in Rio de Janeiro: 24,000 ft (b/w)
Nitrate Positive: 13,798 ft
Preserved and (mostly) used
in the 1993 documentary: 35,950 ft