Best wishes to Simon Callow on his 60th Birthday and the upcoming final volume of his biography on Orson Welles ONE MAN BAND
Simon Callow had mentioned some time ago that he originally hoped to finish the third volume of his massive biography on Orson Welles by his 60th birthday. So I thought that today, on the occasion of his 60th birthday, I'd take the opportunity to wish him a very happy birthday on behalf of everyone at Wellesnet, and also wish him well as he continues his monumental task of research and writing on volume three.
Of course, Mr. Callow has not yet finished his work on the last volume, but with the wealth of new information that has come to light about Welles, in just the last year, that is all for the best. I for one think it would be very foolish to rush such an important book into print, before it is actually ready, based on artificial deadlines. Of course, when dealing with Orson Welles's life and career (from 1948 until his death and beyond), there are a great many things Mr. Callow may still be exploring.
However, the final volume is now scheduled to be titled:
Orson Welles volume 3: One Man Band.
I also have a suspicion that Mr. Callow may be just a bit reluctant to actually let go of the project. Certainly Welles has become like his own description of Don Quixote: a figure of myth --- and as such he can easily seize you and grab hold of your imagination, so once you have entered his enchanted world, it can be very difficult to let go.
Earlier this week I asked Mr. Callow if he might send along a short piece from Volume Three, as a special preview, but he said nothing was ready quite yet, so instead I will reproduce the following piece from Hello Americans, on Macbeth, which I think perfectly captures both the virtues and flaws of the film:
Seen in this, its original form, Macbeth is an extraordinary piece of work, by turns daring and imaginative, then clumsy and conventional, breathtakingly fresh, then suddenly dull and ponderous. Welles's overpowering presence is at odds with his capacities as an actor; the performances in general are at best interesting, at worst risible; the visual world is crudely created, but often potent; the interpretation of the play jejune, but the cinematic concept often thrilling. Welles himself dismissed it in various ways at various times, but the best description of it is his remark to Barbara Learning that it was 'a bold charcoal sketch', a sort of marquette for a possible approach to putting Shakespeare on the screen. As such it is highly stimulating, and contains within it the seeds of much of Welles's subsequent work. Above all it identifies him as what he was: an experimental artist, deeply unconcerned with commercial success or indeed with the idea of a finished artwork — finished either in the sense of being completed or of having a smooth veneer. Apart from Citizen Kane and parts of The Magnificent Ambersons, all Welles's films lack finish. He may be compared to a painter who prefers to leave some of the canvas unfilled, or a sculptor who seeks to remind you of the marble from which the image has been fashioned. This notion of film-making has nothing to do with Hollywood, or with making profitable films...
Images of the original Macbeth program book and a window card, can be seen HERE
Incidentally, Mr. Callow's extensive chapters on Macbeth in Hello Americans quote extensively from the many Orson Welles---Richard Wilson letters that discuss the changes and editing of Macbeth. As such, they provide a nice overall background for the complete Orson Welles memos that are on view in the current issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review.