I am a Welles fan from way back and just stumbled onto this most interesting and entertaining and useful site. Bravo!
I was surprised to find no mention of a novel published in 2003, Me And Orson Welles, written by Robert Kaplow. Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing.
While it is a fiction, this book is based on a good deal of serious and unique research. Kaplow managed to locate one of the actors who had appeared in the famous Mercury Theater stage production of Julius Ceasar; the man, whose name escapes me just now, still lives in NYC. Kaplow interviewed him at length and used what he learned in his book.
The book should be out in paperback soon. It's a fun book, not deep, but quite entertaining and well-informed. It has some good jokes and evidently accurate descriptions of Welles and his gang: Joseph Cotten's nickname, it seems, was "Fertlizer," on account of his bedding so many women.
(Full-disclosure: Kaplow and I went to college together, shafred a strong interest in Welles, have stayed in touch off and on since then - more off than on. He is a quite serious Welles fan/scholar, even met the guy, has collected many interesting Welles-related items, as I recall.)
Here's a story I just found on the Web:
Orson, the kid, and a ukulele, 1937
Sunday, February 1, 2004
By JIM BECKERMAN
"Me and Orson Welles" is Robert Kaplow's first book in a foreign language.
It's the language not of another place, but another time - New York, 1937.
"That don't buy beans." "A bum of the first water." "What's the diff?" "Take a runout powder" (later to be shortened to the more familiar "take a powder").
"I made this long list, it must have been eight pages of words and phrases, and I hung it in the doorway of my kitchen," says the Metuchen writer. "I wanted to work those things in."
It's the language of a Preston Sturges movie or a Clifford Odets play - "half poetic and half street mook," Kaplow calls it. And it gives an authentic edge to this lively yarn, à la "My Favorite Year," about an eager-beaver high school kid from Westfield who crosses paths and then swords with the great Orson Welles.
The book, Kaplow's sixth, has gotten glowing reviews from Entertainment Weekly ("A-"), The Washington Post, and Kirkus.
"This is really based on a deep and lifelong interest in Welles and the theater, and the popular art of that time," Kaplow says.
The time is the Great Depression. Fiorello LaGuardia is mayor. "Have You Got any Castles?" is No. 5 on the hit parade, and bratty 22-year-old genius Welles is about to make Broadway history with his first Mercury Theatre production, a modern-dress, "fascist" rendition of "Julius Caesar."
It was a photo from that production that sparked "Me and Orson Welles."
Ten years ago Kaplow, who teaches English, creative writing, and film at Summit High School, came upon a 1937 theater magazine. In it was a picture of Welles in his "Julius Caesar" garb. Next to him was a bit player - a teenage boy with a lute, which on closer inspection proved to be a modified ukulele.
"I said, 'Wow, this is a novel,'" Kaplow recalls. "What does this moment feel like? Not from Welles' point of view, but from this kid's point of view?"
Kaplow, 49, well remembers what it feels like to be young and bursting with ambition.
Soon after graduating Rutgers in 1976, he became one of the founding members of The Punsters, an offbeat rock band-comedy troupe that released two albums and appeared many times on National Public Radio.
In the end, Kaplow based his teenage hero Richard partly on himself (Kaplow is originally from Westfield) and partly on his father, who had been a stage-struck teen in the 1930s. But he also managed to track down the boy actor from the photograph.
Arthur Anderson, now in his 80s, lives in lower Manhattan.
"He had a very good memory of the period, and he kept a scrapbook," Kaplow says of Anderson, who played Lucius, a boy musician, in the production.
He let Kaplow question him at length about John Houseman, Joseph Cotton, Martin Gabel, and other members of The Mercury Theatre, some of whom later came to fame in Welles' notorious "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast and his history-making first film, "Citizen Kane."
"I went through everyone in the playbill," Kaplow says. "I said, 'Tell me everything about these guys you can remember.' I said to him, 'Where were the bathrooms in the theater? Where were the dressing rooms? Was it cold?'" (It was - Welles couldn't afford heat until opening night.)
More than one of Anderson's anecdotes made their way, heavily fictionalized, into the novel. "He told me how he set the sprinkler system off in the building with a pack of matches in the dressing room," Kaplow says. "I worked that into the book."
The actor also had a surprise for Kaplow. "He says to me, 'I still have the ukulele.'
"Then he goes to the shelf and pulls down this Gibson ukulele from 1937. I said to him, 'Do you remember the song you sang in the play?' He says, 'I could sing it in my sleep.' So right at his kitchen table, he sings the song. And he let me tape it. I couldn't believe it."
Amazon's page: http://www.amazon.com/exec....s=books