"Revisions" is the key word: if an experienced writer (or writers) prepared a good script, Welles could revise, but he couldn't originate a good script (see BBR!); this architectural foundation problem seems to be a key factor contributing to Welles' inability to release a feature for the last 20 years of his life, along with the fact that he had a horrible reputation as a profligate spender and as someone whose pictures always lost money. Ask yourself this question: if you were an exec in the 70s or 80s, and you knew Welles' track record, and if you were to produce a film with him which lost money you would lose your job, would you seriously consider giving him 10 million dollars for a picture? I know I wouldn't. Actually, it's amazing that Welles made as many pictures as he did, considering that he had established his bad reputation as early as 1942!
Jeff: you say that Welles' movies always featured quality writing; is this so? Lets have a look:
Heart of Darkness: Based on a novella of genius. Welles took this and edited, my guess is with Housman.
Kane: a Mank/Housman script of high quality, which Welles took and revised and made his own and turned into a film of genius.
Ambersons: A great book, which Welles nicely edited for film. (Welles generally did a good job if his source material was strong.) Unfortunately, Ambersons has a weak "fortune teller" ending, and Welles was forced to write his own. Whether or not he was successful we will probably never know, but his source material was strong (Pulitzer Prize material!)
Stranger: not too bad a story: Eric Ambler novel, wasn't it? And revised By Houston? At any rate, other people originated the story, which is strong, but not a personal picture of Welles'.
Shanghai: Did Welles ever read "If I Die..." by Anderson? At any rate, a Welles script which is completely confused and disorganized, as was the picture. Imagine a picture looking this good, but with a great script!
Macbeth: Source material of the highest quality!! (Ditto for Othello and Chimes, all three masterful jobs of editing for film.)
Othello: see Macbeth
Arkadin: A disaster from beginning to end, all based on a terrible story and script by Welles, with many lines worthy of an Ed Wood picture. (Have you ever shown this to a non-Welles fan? They think you're crazy.)
Evil: Probably Welles' greatest script, but based on an earlier Universal script which itself was based on a novel. Welles turned these into genius, but again the structure, the foundation, was already there: he REVISED it.
Quixote: Based on an episodic work of genius, Welles seems to have never figured out in which order to present the scenes, and how to end the picture; these problems surfaced after shooting the picture, when of course they should have been resolved BEFORE the picture was shot, in something called a "shooting script".
Trial: Based on a work of genius, and edited for film by Welles.
Chimes: see Macbeth
Immortal: Based on a short story of brilliance, and nicely adapted by Welles.
Wind: Never seemed to have a script, and Welles seemed to improvise much of it on the set; probably why it was a six year shoot that could never be edited into a film; as "Billy" says in the screening room:" He's making it up as he goes along- he's done it before."
The Dreamers: We haven’t seen the script, but this probably would have been similar to Immortal, as they are both by Dinesen.
Big Brass Ring: An original by Welles: read it and weep with embarrassment; it's amazing he got anybody interested in this. Lines so bad, you can't imagine any actor wanting to say them; it needed a good professional scriptwriter to rewrite it.
Cradle: The anomaly of Welles' output: An original of high quality: Ring Lardner Jr. wrote the first draft, and Welles substantially revised it. It's no surprise that Welles got some offers to make this, even with his reputation and his ill health.
As for Kael's comment, I think there's some truth to it, as Welles never again had the support team that he had when he made Kane: the Mercury theatre, RKO, and Houseman and Mank.
I'm reminded of Kubrick (the other American director of genius): His pictures ALWAYS made money, and he ALWAYS used a professional scriptwriter to help fashion the story. Of course, he only made 12 pictures too, and it's up to posterity to determine as to who made the better pictures. Certainly Kubrick had more time to prepare pictures and spent less time getting money to make them.