Thursday, May 6, 2010
Remembering Orson Welles
George Orson Welles was born on May 6, 1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Welles was the son of an inventor of a bicycle lamp, who became a drunk and stopped working. His mother was a concert pianist who died when Orson was nine. He was raised by his mother's employer Dr. Dudley Crafts Watson. Welles father died when Orson was 15. Orson attended Todd School and was taken under the wing of a teacher, Roger Hill, who let him pursue subjects of Welles interest which included drama and theater. With his inheritance Welles toured Europe and made his theater debut in 1931 at the Gate appearing in “Jew Suss” to great reveiws. When he returned to the U.S. his fame had preceded him. In 1933 he toured in three Off-Broadway plays which brought him to the attention of John Houseman who signed him to his Federal Theater Project company of players. Welles supplemented his income as a radio actor. Houseman and Welles resigned from the Federal Theater Project and formed the Mercury Theater which resulted in Welles 1938 broadcast of “War of the Worlds”. This broadcast drew Hollywood offers and he was signed by RKO where Orson turned out his most famous film “Citizen Kane” in 1941. Although a box-office failure it was later looked upon as the greatest film ever made. Many of his next films were commercial failures so he exiled himself to Europe in 1948. In 1956 he directed “Touch of Evil” (1958); it failed in the U.S. but won a prize at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. In 1968 he made his only Euro-western “Tepepa” with Tomas Milian and John Steiner. In 1975, in spite of all his box-office failures, he received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1984 the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award. Welles died of a heart attack on October 10, 1985 in Hollywood. His reputation as a filmmaker has climbed steadily ever since. Today we remember Orson Welles on what would have been his 95th birthday.