ORSON WELLES’ ALMANAC: “The New Yorker ought to be ashamed of itself!”
This column features a hilarious riposte to The New Yorker magazine’s then recent article describing Welles’s new political activities as both columnist and speaker on world affairs. According to Welles, The New Yorker sent along an attractive young Juliette Riche-like female reporter to draw Mr. Welles out about his serious new activities, who ended up inventing much of what Welles told her (or him). At least that reporter attempted to talk with Welles before writing the article. 25 years later Pauline Kael wouldn’t even bother to check her information gleaned from John Houseman, against Welles’s own account, so she simply invented many of her supposed “facts” in her now thoroughly discredited article, “Raising Kane.”
Here is the text of The New Yorker's 1945 report on Welles, followed by his reply in his New York Post almanac column:
The Talk of the Town by John McCarten
The New Yorker, January 27, 1945
Until the other day, we regarded Orson Welles as simply an actor, producer, writer, costumer, magician, Shakespearean editor, and leading prodigy of our generation, and then out of our mail fluttered an announcement that he was about to become a new-day Bryan by delivering an oration called “The Nature of the Enemy” at the City Center. ”Mr. Welles’s understanding of international happenings” the announcement stated, “has been widely acknowledged. Not only has he the ability of analysis, but of prophecy, and he also has the master’s art of making his statements felt by everybody.” We decided we must call on the master, who was holed in at the St. Regis, surrounded by enough publicity operatives to put on a production of “Julius Caesar.” On our arrival, one of the lady publicity agents murmured, “He looks dedicated.” To us, however, he looked the same as he did the last time we had a talk with him--moon-faced, girthy, bland and authoritative. He was wearing a ministerial black broadcloth suit, old-fashioned boots with elastic inserts in the sides, and a pair of monogrammed gold cuff links as big as half dollars. Only the lack of a black string tie (he was wearing a sharp red bow) marred a considerable resemblance to the Boy Orator of the Platte.
Leaning thoughtfully against the fireplace in his living room, Welles told us that he has had a compulsion to awaken his fellow-men to the dangers of Fascism for years and is now delighted to be doing something about it. He plans to make one-night stands in Chicago, Washington, Baltimore, and elsewhere. “Naturally,” he remarked, “a lot of people are going to ask, ‘what’s a ham actor think he’s doing as an expert on international affairs?’ But that will help prove that international matters are not as mysterious as Rosicrucianism or something. We’ve got to outgrow our Tinker Toy stage of anti-Fascism and use a sophisticated approach.” At this point two photographers appeared and began shooting off flash bulbs. When Welles hesitated under the barrage, both of them muttered, “Keep talking.” He obediently carried on. “I’ve been reading up on Fascism,” he said, “and what I learned will help supplement what I actually saw of it in the year and a half I spent down in Latin America. I’ve got all kinds of friends subscribing to Fascist papers here, so I keep pretty well posted about local Fascist activities.” Rambling along in his impressive baritone, he told us that the William Morris Agency had arranged for the lectures, which will command a $2.40 top and will probably make money. “This lecture in the City Center,” said Welles, “reminds me of the days when I did the Wonder Radio Show there for the Wonder Bakers. The audience used to make airplanes out of the programs and throw them at us. They might even be rougher this time.”
Welles is so intense about fighting Fascism that he's not only going to orate against it but also will give it hell in the newspaper column he's launching this week in the Post. “The column is so important,” he said, “that I plan to devote all of my time to it as soon as I can. I’ve given up all my Hollywood work except to act in one picture each year.” As we talked with Welles, all kinds of people kept drifting in—a lady who wanted to know if actors should participate in politics (“Yes”), a correspondent from Tass, who chuckled amiably as he took notes in Russian, several local newspapermen, and three Latin Americans in bright yellow shoes. While the crowd was growing, Orson outlined his program for the next few months. As a sturdy supporter of the President, he was to appear at the inauguration. Then off to the Pan-American Conference in Mexico City, perhaps a short spin around Central America, and presently to work on a picture about Latin American he almost finished some years ago and which he brought the other day from R.K.O. After that, he figures he’ll be in the clear for his column. He’s been invited to so many Democratic gatherings in Washington during the coming weeks that he’s begun to regard himself, he says, as the Lucius Beebe of the Democratic Party. As we left, we heard a publicity man advise him to keep such cracks off the record.
ORSON WELLES' ALMANAC
By Orson Welles – January 30, 1945
Sixty-three years ago today, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as everybody knows, was born at Krum Elbow on the Hudson, Hyde Park, N.Y. Twelve years ago today, as everybody now regrets, Adolf Hitler took office as Chancellor of Germany.
This is Royalist Fast Day in Virginia and in case you feel like celebrating, it commemorates the beheading of King Charles the First, two hundred and ninety-six years ago, for the crime of treason.
Communiques (From our staff of international spies): Information obtained from several German generals captured by the Red Army leads Moscow to expect a new attempt on Hitler’s life. The Nazis have more than five billion dollars already invested in Argentina.
The Chicago Abendpost, German language newspaper, is now advocating a negotiated peace.
This week the New Yorker pokes a good bit of hearty fun at me for bothering my head about anything gown-up and announces (as if anybody cares) that I look just the same as I did the last time it saw me.
I’m afraid the very pretty, very young reporter sent out to check on my physical condition couldn’t possibly have remembered that last time. If memory serves this aging wunderkind, the last representative of that amiable paper to request an interview was male. I remember well that he followed another member of the staff who had quit his assignment because he didn’t think he could write what was wanted, giving as his reason that in the course of our conversation he had begun to like me a little.
That was a weary time ago, before the old lady from Dubuque had subscribed to my favorite magazine, and even before it surprised me, and, I think, most of its readers, by entering the field of world affairs.
I can’t count how many years it is now since those solemn little essays on international organization first began to settle on those pleasant pages, where once only the brightly feathered quip was known to roost. We all welcomed this occasional sobriety. The new editorials were as readable as the old jokes, and they served as the magazine’s credentials to a more responsible decade. It was reassuring to see that the New Yorker was acting its age, since it is edited by smart young people who, like so many of us, have commenced to lose their figures and their hair.
Now, the editor of this Almanac has been concerning himself with matters of State and the hope of an abundant peace, for just about as long as the editors of the New Yorker. Indeed, he already has a fat scrapbook full of indignant newsprint demanding his immediate return to the seclusion of the playhouse. He doesn’t lose much sleep over these angry mementos, but is really very sorry to have to add the sneers of the New Yorker to their number.
By inventing a queer string of surrealist sentences and attributing them to him, this current issue manages to imply that his hatred of Fascism is nothing but a rather silly fad. The New Yorker ought to be ashamed of itself; it knows as well as you do that anti-Fascism is never silly, even when a movie director or comic paper works in its behalf.
Put orange juice in your pie crust to improve the flavor.