I have a little theory that the best biographical books and articles on Welles have been those written by authors who knew, or who had at least met him. This would include Peter Noble, Maurice Bessy, Joseph McBride, Peter Bodanovich, Jonathan Rosenbaum (book coming in 2006), Barbara Leaming, James Naremore, Peter Cowie, John Houseman, et. al.
But when the author never met Welles. then there is a problem with a biographical book, for example: Charles Higham (with his "theory" of Welles "fear of completion", Simon Callow, (with his "theory" of Welles "repressed homosexuality"), David Thomson, (with his "theory" that Welles had in general a bad personality), Peter Conrad's book, Clinton Heylin (although he is "pro-Welles", I think he still has no sense of the man- how could he?), et. al.
Now, to me it's very interesting that nearly all the books written by people who knew Welles, or at least met him and got a sense of the man, are very "pro-Welles", even if they have some criticisms (this includes biographical articles as well, such as Audrey Stainton's work on the Don Quixote period). But- nearly all of the biographical work done by writers who never met Welles is extremely critical of his character- and this is why books on Welles are becoming more and more critical of his character as the decades proceed.
I am talking here only of biographical works- not aesthetic discussions of Welles' work- such as Callow's work on the W.P.A. and Mercury Theatre playscripts, Andre Bazin's discussions of the films, Bridget Lyons work on Chimes at Midnight, Robert Garis's discussion of the films, Michael Anderegg's book on Welles, Shakespeare and popular culture, Claudia Thieme's book on F For fake, et. al. These are critical works, and anyone can write them who has thought inteligently about film, and who has something to say. This kind of critical discussion will go on forever in the arts.
But it's this relentless "psychologizing" of Welles and his work (and we know what Welles thought of psychology) that I find absurd, and the reason why I find myself increasingly uninterested in new biographical books on Welles. They are what I think Welles would call "dollar-book Freud", written by people who never met the man.
John Houseman is extremely critical of Welles' character in "Run-Through"; but he also praises Welles' genius, and actually knew and collaborated with Welles for several years, producing plays, radio, and Citizen Kane. Houseman is not god, but he has the right and the authority to give his opinion about Welles' character. For Simon Callow to hypothesize anything about a man he never knew is laughable. This 20th century obsession with identifying the art and the artist as one thing is I think a great danger to art, and one which surely Welles did not support.
What do you think? ???