The New York Times: Orson’s Back and Marlene’s Got Him!
After The Other Side of the Wind had been shooting for only a few months, Charles Higgham, whose error-ridden book on Welles had recently been published, wrote this short piece about the filming of OSOTW. It appeared in The New York Times on January 31, 1971, and since Mr. Higgham's piece gets almost 100 % of his facts wrong, it seems likely, that as other N Y Times reporters have been known to do, he may have simply "invented" many of his facts. In retrospect, however, it certainly makes for quite an amusing read. In fact, it makes a nice companion piece to Richard Schickel's recent Welles book review in the L A Times!
ORSON'S BACK AND MARLENE'S GOT HIM!
By CHARLES HIGHAM, author of "The films of Orson Welles"
For months now, Hollyood has been talking about a secretly made feature film being directed by Orson Welles, his first American movie since "Touch of Evil" 14 years ago. Made largely on location in Los Angeles, the picture's cast includes Marlene Dietrich, and it is financed by Welles himself. Shooting began last September, but few have know exactly when or where since; the crew has been loyally silent, few of the cast can be reached for comment. In a controversial exchange in these pages last year, Peter Bogdanovich, Welles's Boswell, denied that Welles was making the picture at all, even though he had assisted him in the production, which was shooting at that time. Yet the same day that Bogdanovich's denial appeared, Welles was creating a sequence at Century City, and there wasn't a self-respecting gossip in town who hadn't spread word of it.
The picture is "The Other Side of the Wind," a story written by Welles about a crusty, veteran director of the Henry Hathaway/John Ford breed who comes back to Hollywood after a long exile to be confronted by the self-conscious intellectualism and Beverly Hills hippiedom of Hollywood in the 1970's--with fantastic and often funny results. Typically, Welles has been shooting off the cuff, improvising the story daily. It hasn't been settled whether John Huston or Welles himself will appear in the role of the director, whose scenes are to be shot last.
Nobody knows when the picture will be finished: shooting was interrupted recently when Marlene Dietrich had to return to Paris to attend the funeral of her close friend, Coco Chanel.
Paul Mazursky, director of "Alex in Wonderland," who appears in the film, told how he came to be in it on a radio show I conduct: he was at home one evening when Bert Schneider, an independent producer, called him to ask if he would like to appear in a film of Orson Welles's. "Naturally I said, 'Yes.' To all of us, he's the idol. When Bert said, 'Come to Welles's house tonight,' and gave me the address I couldn't believe it. I went over, and quite a few directors were there to play the scene with me: Monte Hellman, Bob Rafelson and others. I'm excited by Welles's improvisatory methods, which have influenced my own."
The scene in which Mazursky and the directors of "The Shooting" and "Five Easy Pieces" appear concerns a sudden power failure that plunges Marlene Dietrich's Bel Air dinner party into darkness. The guests start interviewing each other obsessively. It is characteristic of Welles that he should combine in the sequence an impish humor at the expense of the contemporary film scholar's interviewing obsessions, and an overriding concern, visible in all his films, with the nature of human identity.
Akradin rides again.