Juan Cobos on Orson Welles’ Spanish travelogue IN THE LAND OF DON QUIXOTE
Although In the Land of Don Quixote is essentially a travelogue about Spain, it’s done by a film artist, and as such, it is possibly one of the most poetic documentaries I’ve yet to see on any country. Seeing it today, years later, it still seems quite unique. Unfortunately, like most of Welles work, it’s no real surprise that it has never been widely seen. It was first broadcast on RAI, the Italian TV station in 1964, and afterwards seems to have disappeared almost entirely. As far as I can tell it was never shown in America until 1986, when it appeared as part of the AFI’s National video festival, which offered a comprehensive survey on most of the work Orson Welles had made for television.
However, back in 1964, RAI supposedly felt that using Welles own voice as the narrator would be too "American" so they added a new narration, written by the Italian playwright Gian Paolo Callegari with the assistance of Antonio Navarro Linares. It was spoken by the actor Arnoldo Foa, who had appeared in The Trial. Naturally, Welles had wanted to either use his own narration, or else have none at all! Based on seeing the first episode, I think having no narration at all works quite beautifully.
Recently RAI restored the series closer to Welles original intentions, by re-working the soundtrack so that the offending voice-over track was eliminated and the music and effects tracks are now much closer to the plan indicated by Welles. Hopefully, some enterprising DVD company will attempt to buy the rights to this series for an eventually DVD release in America. It would certainly be a welcome addition to the Welles oeuvre!
Meanwhile, to fill in the gaps on this seldom seen Welles documentary, I asked Juan Cobos, the assistant director to Orson Welles on Chimes at Midnight, to provide Wellesnet with some details. Juan wrote back in great detail, both before and after he viewed his own sub-standard video copy of In The Land of Don Quixote, that he had recorded from Italian TV (with the offending narration intact.)
Below is Juan's report. Also, there is a link to Juan Cobo's article THE SAD STORIES OF A NOBLEMAN FROM WISCONSIN. The article follows the efforts of Orson Welles to make his film version of DON QUIXOTE from 1956 in Mexico until the last days of his life in Hollywood. Juan tells me he gathered all the facts about DON QUIXOTE from the very best sources, including letters Welles wrote to his leading players Akim Tamiroff and Francisco Reiguera. Unfortunately, the article is entirely in Spanish - So if anyone out there is fluent in Spanish and would like to help translate the article, please get in touch with me at: (email@example.com ), as Juan would like to add a few corrections and additions to the piece, if someone can help us translate the piece for posting at Wellesnet in English! The article also has many rare pictures from Welles's Don Quixote:
IN THE LAND OF DON QUIXOTE
By JUAN COBOS
In the Land of Don Quixote is nearer in approach to Welles first trip to Spain as a young man in the early thirties, than to the present day Spain, but some of the things in the series are very nice. It was produced by RAI (Italian State TV) but was never shown in Spain. Welles always liked to visit many places in Spain, which I discovered after he sent me looking for locations he could use for Chimes at Midnight. However, Andalucia (in the south of Spain) was undoubtedly his favorite destination. In the beginning, Welles thought of In the Land of Don Quixote as a visit to Spain by an American family, which explains the presence of (his wife) Paola and (daughter) Beatrice in many of the shots. It also shows Orson’s proud regard for little Beatrice, who was only six years old.
The first time I asked Welles about the series, he said to me, “Juan, it’s just a travelogue.” I agree and I cannot imagine that he ever approved the final cut that was shown on RAI-TV in 1964. I think he only partially cut the series, and he certainly didn’t want the spoken narration that was used.
It seems the main reason he made In the Land of Don Quixote was to get help and travel expenses for financing the making of his film version of Don Quixote. In fact, there was a whole episode with Akim Tamiroff that Welles filmed twice for Don Quixote, first in Mexico in 1957 and then again in Spain, in the early sixties at the festivities of San Fermin in Pamplona (that Hemingway made famous with his novel The Sun Also Rises).
I included some explanations about it in my book, Orson Welles: España Como Obsession, published in 1992 by the Filmoteca de España. Unhappily, I only have a rather poor video copy of In the Land of Don Quixote, taped from Italian TV. It has never been for sale in Spain in any format, including DVD.
In the sixties I had some meetings with the Spanish TV representatives in the name of Orson Welles, to see about importing the film negative from Italy, so he could record a commentary in Spanish after re-cutting the nine chapters. I read a lot of material Welles had selected for the narration. He said that Spaniards would not need the explanations that were spoken in the Italian version. What we asked for from the Spanish State TV was to also get the negative of Don Quixote into Spain, free of any customs duties, so he could finish making the film here. The man who ultimately refused the deal, later became Premier in democratic Spain (after Franco), but now has Alzheimer disease, so he has totally lost his memory!
Welles also wished to re-shoot some of the landscapes he had shot for Don Quixote in Mexico, as well as finish all of the filming of the movie in Spain. Around 1966 I had translated Welles script for Don Quixote, which now began with a great masked ball, after he had abandoned the idea of starting the film with Patty McCormack in a Mexican hotel. There, Orson Welles playing himself would talk to the young girl Dulcie about the story of the Knight errant and Sancho Panza. That footage indicated that all the early work was thought of being done a TV show. It also recalled the great ball in Mr. Arkadin, which Welles added to that film after he began shooting in Spain (In Paola Mori´s script, the big Arkadin masked ball was set in Venice. According to Welles, there was a big and very expensive international ball held in Venice in the early fifities.)
When Welles started to make In The Land of Don Quixote, he specifically asked for a newsreel cameraman and years ago I had some meetings with the chief cameraman on the series, José Manuel De La Chica. When De La Chica first met Welles, he was shooting documentaries at NO-DO, the official Spanish newsreel operation, born to "praise" the Franco regimes socio-political “triumphs,” such as Franco’s visits to cities and places, his ability to salmon fish with the crowds "enjoying" his presence and the dams they built back in those days. NO-DO was modeled after Mussolini´s Istituto Luce and maybe even Hitler´s propaganda newsreels. As a propaganda weapon the newsreels were to be shown at every movie house in Spain prior to the features on the bill. Not only in the big cities, but everywhere, they were obliged to show the NO-DO newsreels with the featured movie, which were almost always heavily censored.
Alessandro Tasca, as producer of the series, made some deals with the director of NO-DO to use material from their archives. Besides footage of Franco and the Catholic Church, NO-DO had as much as twenty years of filmed material of places, festivities, castles, ruins, popular songs and a lot of items that had not been officially "censored."
When neither Paola or Beatrice Welles are seen on screen, it usually meant that Welles had sent Jose Manuel de la Chica off with a working plan, telling him what he wanted to be shot. The series also showed that Orson wanted Beatrice to learn, (and she did), the flamenco dances. My wife has been practicing flamenco with a very good teacher for the last four years. She recently watched the series with me and being a long time friend of Beatrice, admired very much the way that little girl of only six years old danced!
1. Andalusian Itinerary
In the opening episode we see Welles, his wife, Paola Mori and Welles 6-year old daughter, Beatrice, as they tour Spain in a black Mercedes. We also see many Spanish landscapes that were so important to many of Welles films. There are many shots of windmills, and Welles also visits many other famous Spanish locations, several that he would end up using for his upcoming films shot in Spain, such as the walled city of Avila, that appeared in Chimes at Midnight. There are also shots of many locations Welles had already used in Spain, such as the imposing “Arkadin Castle” and the Roman aqueduct at Segovia that were both featured in Mr. Arkadin. Then, most prophetically, towards the end of this episode, Welles shows us some beautifully edited shots of the magnificent cliffs and streets of Ronda, the town in Spain where bullfighting was born, and where Welles himself would eventually be buried.
2. Holy Week in Spain
This episode shows the Holy Week processions in Seville, the theme for some fine Spanish composers. While the processions parade mostly at night on the narrow streets of Seville, there is from time to time somebody who sings to Jesus or the statue of the Virgin Mary from a balcony (the same kind of singing you can hear in Mr Arkadin.)
3. The San Fermin Holidays (July 6)
Both episodes 3 and 4 are devoted to Pamplona. One is mainly about people on the streets singing and having fun (and good wine). Most of the music for the series is traditional music you hear for flamenco dancing or at the bullrings in Spain. As an "aficionado" Welles was used to the music that is played when the matador is doing his job at his best.
4. The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona
The famous early morning running of the bulls for the afternoon fight in the Plaza. For these shots Welles used some archive material and made a beautiful cutting based on stills. Here you can see him at his best on the editing room.
5. The Caves of Jerez
On April 28, 1961, on the occasion of completing filming of his documentary chapter The bodegas of Jerez (Le Cantina di Jerez), from his documentary series In the Land of Don Quixote, the Marquis de Torresoto honored Welles by bestowing on him the title of fourth member of the order of Tio Pepe. At the same time, Welles signed his name to a cask of sherry wine in Gonzalez byass. A few year later, Welles returned to Spain to film his masterpiece, Chimes At Midnight, based on four historical plays by William Shakespeare, in which Welles played the role of Falstaff. In the movie, Welles reproduced the famous Shakespearian dialogue where he praises sherry wine.
The Welles family moves through the small streets of Seville in their black Mercedes, visiting the Alcazar Palace, the tobacco factory that inspired Prosper Merimee for Carmen, and the Easter procession of the penitents, just like those who appear in Mr. Arkadin.
7. April Fair in Seville
Centered on the festival held every year in Seville that celebrates the beginning of Spring. Like the Carnival in Rio, the Feria De April celebrations last all day and long into the night. There are Andalusian costume parades, street dancers and the religious ceremonies of Holy Week.
8. Time for Flamenco
Welles visits the Pueblo Espanol (or Spanish village) of Barcelona, built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exhibition. The Pueblo Español brings together attractive traditional architecture from all over Spain. The visual story is centered on the steps of the flamenco dance, shown in all the places Welles has visited in northern Spain: Biscaglia, Salamanca, Segovia (and the castle there of Mr. Arkadin), Avila and the cult of St. Teresa.
9. Rome and the Orient in Spain’s past
Welles explores the Roman history in Spain, (at Segovia and Italica) as well as the Arab influences on Granada, Toledo and Cordoba, noting the happy cohabitation of different architectural styles in the development of these cities. Welles also visits the geographic curiosity of having Gibraltar – a British Protectorate – at the tip of Spain. He then visits the general archives of the East Indian Company in Seville and ends his journey at Palos, where Christopher Columbus began his.
Nella Terra di Don Chisciotte (In the Land of Don Quixote)
RAI TV – 1962
Written and directed by Orson Welles. Executive Producer: Alessandro Tasca di Cuto. Director of Photography: José Manuel De La Chica. Assistant editors: Mariano Faggiani & Roberto Perpignani; Collorcollaborazione al montaggio Carla Tonini; Music by Juan Serrano; edizione 2005: lavorazioni al negativo Gina Giovannetti; postproduzione Francesco Sarrocco; realizzazione Enrico Ghezzi, Ciro Giorgini.