May 10th, 2013
William Friedkin, who is making the rounds publicizing his memoir "The Friedkin Connection," gave his picks for the five best books on directors to The Wall Street Journal.
Among his picks was "This Is Orson Welles" by Peter Bogdanovich and Welles. Friedkin says of the book, "Peter Bogdanovich is a respected film historian and critic as well as a fine director ... His lively conversations with Welles in various parts of the world took place over a nine-year period in the late 1970s and early '80s."
Also on Friedkin's list was "Searching for John Ford" by Joseph McBride. "McBride has written the definitive work on Ford's inner life – a respectful but critical study of a complex man, the most "American" of filmmakers."
As Welles fans know, McBride has written three books about Welles, most recently "What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career." He also had a role in the still unfinished "The Other Side of the Wind." Read the rest of this entry »
May 9th, 2013
Orson Welles' infamous radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" will be recalled this fall on PBS.
PBS announced its fall programming on Thursday. Among the highlights is an "American Experience" look at "The War of the Worlds.” It will air on Tuesday, October 29, at 9 p.m. ET – a day before the broadcast's 75th anniversary.
You can listen to the original Mercury Theatre On the Air production on the Wellesnet radio page.
According to the network, "Orson Welles’ infamous radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds set off one of the biggest mass hysteria events in U.S. history 75 years ago. The film examines the elements that made America ripe for the hoax."
Also of interest to Welles and Shakespeare fans will be "The Hollow Crown." The four-part miniseries assembles four of Shakespeare’s history plays Read the rest of this entry »
May 6th, 2013
Today marks the 98th anniversary of the birth of the late Orson Welles.
Please make today the day you support efforts to throw a fitting 100th birthday bash in Welles' "hometown" of Woodstock, Illinois.
The non-profit Woodstock Celebrates Inc. will mark the 80th anniversary next year of the 1934 Todd Theatre Festival at the historic Woodstock Opera House, as well as the 100th anniversary in May 2015 of Welles' birth. You can read more about both events on our Welles in Woodstock Celebrations page.
All of this takes money. Wellesnet readers can start to help by becoming members of Woodstock Celebrates Inc. for just $15 a year.
Membership dues may be mailed to: Woodstock Celebrates Inc., P.O. Box 342, Woodstock, IL 60098. Read the rest of this entry »
May 3rd, 2013
May 6, 1943: Orson Welles leaves his U.S. Army physical after being rejected for military service and given a 4-F draft status. (Los Angeles Times photo)
By RAY KELLY
Throughout World War II, Orson Welles unreservedly supported U.S. involvement overseas, both on the airwaves and printed page. His work with the Mercury Wonder Show in entertaining servicemen is also well-documented.
What has been forgotten with the passage of time is the intense heat Welles took for not serving in the military. His foes at the Hearst newspapers and critics at the American Legion openly questioned Welles' patriotism over a two-year period.
The pressure placed on Welles and how it impacted his cinematic work – notably his decision to shoot the ill-fated "It's All True" – is well-documented in Joseph McBride's book "Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?"
Pressure began in 1941 with Hearst columnist Louella Parsons making calls to the local draft board demanding to know why Welles had not been called into service. Similarly, the American Legion publicly questioned Welles' military status in light of his left wing political views. (The former was angered by "Citizen Kane" and the latter by the radio production of "His Honor the Mayor.")
Welles initially received 1-B status, meaning he was unfit for active duty but available for limited duty. That status was altered to 1-A (available for unrestricted military service) in February 1943.
Welles was targeted for enjoying the Hollywood life, while other men his age were fighting the Axis powers on the battlefields of Europe or the Pacific. Read the rest of this entry »
May 1st, 2013
Wellesnet.com set a record for unique monthly visitors to the website in April 2013.
Last month, 20,125 users visited Wellesnet.com from their PCs, smartphones and tablets. This was a nearly 40 percent gain over the audience size a year earlier. It easily surpassed the record 17,230 unique monthly visitors set in December 2012.
This growth comes just as Wellesnet.com establishes a new home on Facebook, located at www.facebook.com/wellesnet, as well as Twitter. You can follow us at twitter.com/wellesnetcom
Interest in Orson Welles' career is expected to climb as we near the centenary of his birth in May 2015. We urge all Welles fans to support anniversary events planned next year and in 2015 in Woodstock, Illinois. You can learn more about the events and how to support Woodstock Celebrates Inc. at our Welles in Woodstock celebrations page. Read the rest of this entry »
April 15th, 2013
In his new book "The Friedkin Connection," director William Friedkin recounts his work on such memorable films as "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection."
And he also tips his hat to his greatest inspiration – Orson Welles.
Friedkin, 77, writes of his reaction to seeing "Citizen Kane" for the first time.
"I went in at noon, and I watched it five times that day," Friedkin said. "And I couldn't believe it. When I came out, it was like standing in front of a Vermeer or a Rembrandt. That's the effect it had on me."
He added, "I didn't know what the hell it was, but that's what I wanted to do."
In his memoir, Friedkin also details the extreme effort Welles pal Mercedes McCambridge put in to creating the memorable voice of the demon in "The Exorcist."
"She wanted to sit in a position of being tortured. She wanted to drink raw eggs. She wanted quantities of Jack Daniels and cigarettes," Read the rest of this entry »
April 8th, 2013
By RAY KELLY
The remake of Orson Welles' 1946 thriller "The Stranger" is moving forward and the identity of the actors who will step into the roles played by Orson Welles, Loretta Young and Edward G. Robinson may soon be revealed.
Scriptwriter Alanna Belak has indicated on Twitter that casting decisions may have already been made.
The 21-year-old writer tweeted a month ago, "They're starting the process (whatever that may be), could make an offer to somebody as soon as next week!"
In a tweet three weeks ago, Belak stated, "I am so excited for The Stranger to get cast! (Even though I won't be able to say anything about it for months, probably.)"
In Belak's script, the Nazi war criminal has been replaced with a reformed serial killer assuming the identity of a college professor in a small town.
Jack and Joseph Nasser of NGN Releasing ("For a Good Time, Call …") will Read the rest of this entry »
April 5th, 2013
By MIKE TEAL
Over the course of their 24 years together on television, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert became the best-known movie critics in the nation, if not the world. They began as fierce rivals for competing newspapers in Chicago, but rose to fame together, reviewing the latest theatrical films on public television starting in 1975. Their influence grew as they made their way onto network television in the early 80s, thus gaining bigger distribution and audiences.
Their avuncular charm and often spirited sparring over films they disagreed with caused millions to tune in weekly, and their “thumbs up/thumbs down verdict” format often meant the difference between a film succeeding or failing at the box-office. Furthermore, because they had started out on public television, and only gradually worked their way onto network TV, Read the rest of this entry »
April 4th, 2013
Roger Ebert, widely viewed as America's most influential film critic, has died at the age of 70.
The Pulitzer Prize winner had endured multiple health problems since 2002 when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He revealed earlier this week that the cancer had returned.
Ebert provided an audio commentary for the "Citizen Kane" Criterion laser disc and subsequent Warner Bros. DVD. "Kane" with Ebert's audio commentary was screened at the critic's 2012 Ebertfest.
An admirer of Welles, Ebert chose "Citizen Kane" as one of his choices in the 2012 Sight and Sound poll of top films of all time. He wrote, "Its surface is as much fun as any movie ever made; its depths surpass understanding." Read the rest of this entry »
April 2nd, 2013
Cult filmmaker Jess Franco, director of more than 180 films, died today in Málaga,Spain, at the age of 82.
Franco made his feature directing debut with "We Are 18 Years Old" in 1959. His final film, "Al Pereira Vs The Alligator Women," opened last month in Spain.
His other films include “Necronomicon,” (1967), “Count Dracula” (1969), “Vampyros Lesbos” (1970), “Dracula vs. Frankenstein” (1971), and “Oasis of the Zombies” (1983).
Franco was the second unit director on Orson Welles’ "Chimes at Midnight" and worked on an aborted "Treasure Island" film with Welles in 1964. He oversaw the poorly received assembly of Welles’ unfinished “Don Quixote" footage in 1992.
In an interview with HorrorGarage.com, Franco offered an unflattering summary of "Chimes." He said, "The production of 'Chimes at Midnight' was a total mess, not because the film was too expensive, but because Orson lied with the budget and the film was 10 times more expensive. You can imagine...what a disaster." Read the rest of this entry »
March 31st, 2013
By RAY KELLY
A half hour guide on gambling hosted by Orson Welles and filmed some 35 years ago for Caesars Palace has gone viral. The acclaimed actor-director provided a lively and colorful how-to on card playing, craps, baccarat, roulette, and slot machines for the famed Las Vegas casino.
As he explains at the start of the film, "I know a little about cards, a little about history and, well, because I have been know to pick a long shot or two."
"Caesars Guide to Gaming with Orson Welles" was shown to guests staying at Caesars via the closed-circuit television in their hotel rooms. The guide is informative. effective and – not surprisingly – entertaining.
Check out the video Read the rest of this entry »
March 28th, 2013
Inspired by the groundbreaking Federal Theatre Project's production, The American Century Theater in Arlington, Virginia, is currently offering up its own take of "Voodoo Macbeth."
While the production is set in an era and location removed from Orson Welles' landmark 1936 version, it is getting high marks for pushing the boundaries of theater – something that would have no doubt pleased Welles.
Here is a sampling of what Washington, D.C. area critics are saying about The American Century Theater production, which runs through April 13.
"'Voodoo Macbeth' was Orson Welles’s pot-stirring, 1936 adaptation of Shakespeare’s captivating Scottish thriller – pot-stirring because Welles set it not in Scotland, but in Haiti with an all-black cast. NoVa’s American Century Theater takes an altogether new Read the rest of this entry »