I give a big "thumbs up" to the Leaming biography. It was the first Welles biography (as opposed to interviews) to come down the pike to actually have Welles in it, and by that I mean his voice, his opinion, his point of view. Previous biographers went out of their way to avoid talking to Welles, as if he would somehow spoil all their good work. As if Welles shouldn't be allowed a perspective on his own life! As if he were the liar, the self-mythologizer, not to be trusted, and everyone who played a role in the vast Welles life drama was holier than thou truthful. But others can be liars, too. Somebody close to Welles, I can't remember who, once said that, despite his reputation for making things up, you'd often find with Welles that the elaborate fabulous story that he just told you turned out to be the truth, but when he told you something simple, like he had just eaten a tuna fish sandwich for lunch, that that would be the lie. So why not listen to the man?
And listen Leaming does, beautifully. Her book gives a real sense Welles, in all his incredible complexity, which a lot of bigger, denser, more factually inclusive biographies fail to do. You also get Welles' opinions on a lot of the people, like Houseman, MacLiammoir, and numerous others, who have given their opinion of HIM so freely and critically over the years. How nice to finally hear Welles' version of the famous fight with Houseman that ended their productive collaboration. How nice to hear that perhaps Houseman deserved to have that can of sterno launched at him for being a jealous, catty, nitpicking pain in the *ss.
Leaming contributes some good research, as well. Her stuff on Welles' years at the Todd school is priceless, and she managed to track down Welles' assistant, Shifra Harran, to Welles's genuine shock and delight, whose recollections provide real insight into what it was like working for the man.
Most importantly, far from being a fluff piece, Leaming's book is critical, but critical where Welles himself is self-critical, which is often. The reader gets a vitally important sense of where Welles felt he did good, and where he did bad.
The missing part of Citizen Kane is Kane's perspective on his own life. His is the only voice we do not hear. That, I think, is what the central mystery, Rosebud, really is. Barbara Leaming's biography of Welles supplies that missing piece of the puzzle. No Trespassing, indeed...
Last edited by mido505
on Wed Aug 15, 2007 7:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.