Glenn, with your comments we move from "Fountain of Youth" to "Fountain of Information". Fascinating stuff you've added to the mix, the sort of things that make this site such a worthwhile place to visit. From NY radio in the 30's through 50's TV astride the Atlantic and on to cinema from the 70's to the late 90's: it is all, as they say, a continuum. That said...
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I sure hope that any lurkers still out there are now that much more inclined to doff their "Shadow"-like obscurity and join likewise first-hand in the fray. I'm sure nothing would delight OW more than to be discussed even more widely as a force still in effect or to encounter fresh new perspectives and connections regarding efforts one can be sure he never intended to lie somewhere in stale and dusty irrelevance. (Okay - end of commercial; we now return you to the program already in progress)
All glad-handing, aside, there IS a further discussion proposition I've been wanting to work up to, which is as follows:
Consider: Welles and the cinema were inherently unsuited for each other; that's why his relationship with it could not have been other than a lifelong struggle.
"WHAT?", you say! "Heresy and outrage! Who let this R Kadin bumpkin in the door? Show him the exit he mistook for an entrance!"
Wait, I urge you; hear me out a little, at least. I merely offer the thought by way of inciting some spirited debate - and not entirely devoid of some support for it. To wit...
Welles could envision thousands of possible ways of conveying ideas, images, impressions, experiences - each one replete with excellent reasons to choose it above all others. Small wonder, then, it took him forever to piece his films together because each editing choice necessarily precludes all other possible, and equally valid, choices. In the end, each film can only really be one way, it cannot be all ways. Once done, it's done, locked in its imperfection with its warts, however little or concealed, still frozen in time for future audiences eventually to expose like a magician's trick repeated once too often and at too close a range.
How unlike the theatre and live performance, in general! Each night is a brand new challenge and the unknown hangs excitingly in the air. Each appearance is a chance to try something new and each extended run is an opportunity to essay all possible and reasonable variations so that, perhaps over time, one might manage to stitch individual moments of interspersed brilliance into a legacy of perfection in their aggregate.
And how unlike the radio of Welles' day, where "live to air" and one-off performances were the rule of law. Once done, a show was done, unlikely to be heard again. The fact that many were also recorded was secondary and very much beside the point. For most practical purposes, over meant over. And usually for good. Bad readings, missed cues, lost opportunities - these all disappeared into the very ether that played host to the signals that carried them.
Next week was always beckoning out there, offering yet another reason to hope, another summit to scale, ever a chance to edge that much closer to the perfection that all know can never truly be achieved. Gone was the immediate evidence of failures to date; in the "here and now" one could be fully intimate with the promise of greatness that had yet to be.
Not so, I fear, with film. Film does not disappear. In fact, its very essence lies in its slavish repetition of choices committed to celluloid that become fixed for the ages, too late, by and large, to be called back. To a mind and spirit such as Welles, then, it could readily become an immutable catalogue of everything that was not done, every other nuance that had not been tried, every angle there had not been adequate time or funds to shoot.
It comes, then, as no surprise that Welles returned to his many film projects again and again, sometimes in the guise of new incarnations entirely but - as perhaps in Fountain of Youth and in F for Fake or Kane and Arkadin - joined creatively at the hip. Perhaps he wanted them to possess the same ongoing and unfettered promise as the theatre and radio media with which he had first fallen desperately in love.
Yet, suspecting that such could never truly be the case, he opted for multiple-version offerings (Arkadin/Confidential Report) and enterprises (It's All True, Don Quixote, The Other Side of the Wind, e.g.) that would never see their completion. It might also explain why he did not publish more in his lifetime, despite no lack of acumen in that department.
Perhaps these films' unfinished fates came about as much by Welles' unconscious design as by the outward misfortunes to which we have traditionally ascribed the blame. Perhaps Welles fell so deeply into film's embrace because it seemed so much like his beloved theatre and radio and yet still, enticingly, and maddeningly different. Perhaps he became inescapably intent on re-casting his cinematic mistress into something that could offer it all, only to become entralled in a struggle that was doomed inevitably to failure because, in her essence, she simply could never be what he hoped she could be.
But, before we draw the wrong conclusions entirely about our man, let us remember this one thing above all others: Welles was in love with his art, first and foremost. Truly, madly, deeply. If he was locked in a doomed embrace, it was as a lover: willingly and happily so, laughing more and more heartily with its each successive hug. We should all misspend our lives in such blissful and overreaching delight. Therefore, Good night, OW, wherever you are.
(Curtain. Fade to black.)