After reading the post of Orson Welles first Almanac column, I re-read chapter 13 (Actor Turns Columnist) in Simon Callow's second volume on Welles and was struck by what I can only regard as some of Callow's very odd deductions.
Firstly, after he quotes the beginning of Welles's column at some length, he declares: "The big success of the column, of course, is his eye-witness account of the inauguration, which he wrote, as it happens, three days before the event."
Now, where he got and why he should believe this bit of information is to me, highly suspect. We know that Welles was a great supporter of FDR, and would have clearly been invited to the inauguration party. Perhaps he didn't actually go, but I don't think Welles would have to make up this "eyewitness account." But even if he did, Welles was clearly making a very valid comparison between a third or fourth wedding, and the only American President who has ever had a third and a fourth inauguration!
Now, the question is, where - to quote Callow about Welles's writing - does Mr. Callow get "his first-hand information about" Welles! It appears that Callow based it on the TIME magazine report, which he also quotes (by an unnamed writer), whom Callow says, "Casually revealed that Welles's account of Roosevelt's inauguration had been pure invention."
Now, as I admit, it's quite possible Welles's account was pure invention, but it is so generic and unspecific about the inauguration, I don't see how anybody without first hand knowledge of Welles actually whereabouts on that day could possibly question it. It's quite clear Welles is writing his own subjective opinion about what he observed at the inauguration. But Callow goes on to reiterate the point that he wasn't there several times, thereby cleverly raising doubts in a casual readers mind about the veracity of all of Welles's subsequent columns.
Now, as far as I can tell, Callow based his assumption on the evidence of one unnamed reporter from TIME magazine, whom Callow candidly admits was probably out to get Welles for "muscling in on their patch." So once again, the question becomes, how would the TIME writer in 1945, or Mr. Callow, over 50 years later, possibly know that Welles wrote his piece three days before the inauguration? Maybe, like Welles they can lay claim to the gift of prophecy!
What is ironic, is that Callow appears to be quite as guilty, as he assumes Orson Welles is, of fabricating the events he's reporting on!
Here's the complete text of the TIME magazine article from January 29, 1945 that appears to be Callow's source:
ACTOR TURNS COLUMNIST
Orson Welles, 29, precocious master of a number of trades—and jack of several more—apprenticed himself to a new one: newspaper columning. This week his first effort appeared in eleven papers (The New York Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Detroit News, etc.), all of whom bought him sight unseen. What they got were 1) excerpts from Welles's favorite reading, the Farmer's Almanac; 2) handy hints about cooking; 3) cocksure remarks about foreign affairs; 4) personal chitchat.
The first day Welles committed the high journalistic sin of describing an event before it happened. His column, written three days before the Term IV inaugural but published two days after it, told how Franklin Roosevelt "played his part in the ritual like a veteran bridegroom. I was there. . . ." In his second try, Wonderboy Welles professed accurate knowledge of what Stalin had told his Big Three partners—at Teheran, Churchill and Roosevelt had wanted to refer a matter to their experts; Stalin rejoined: "Can't we three decide anything?"
One big problem faced the New York Post Syndicate, which signed Welles to a three-year contract: would the column hold Welles's interest, as well as the reader's? Welles, who has taken a Hollywood highbrow's vocal interest in the world since 1940, was reassuring. "Right now I'm much more interested in politics and foreign affairs than I am in the theater," said he. "I have set up my life in such a way that I can spend more than occasional time on these interests."