Orson Welles: Thoughts on Studio Moguls

Orson Welles in The Lady from Shanghai trailer.

Orson Welles in The Lady from Shanghai trailer.

Some compelling material has surfaced from recorded conversations with Orson Welles. Among these conversations, Welles discusses what he thought of the old studio moguls, agents, lawyers and the new breed of movie executives who replaced the the original moguls. Welles is well regarded as great filmmaker, but he had more setbacks than successes along the way and was ultimately seen as a fallen genius, who failed to live-up to his potential.

Welles directed, co-wrote and starred in the classic film, Citizen Kane in 1941, which was nominated for Oscars in 9 categories and won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) by Herman Mankiewicz and Welles. The movie has been frequently cited as the best movie of all times (whatever that means).  He also directed and co-starred in the lessor-known masterpiece Touch of Evil, which starred Charlton Heston in 1958.

Orson Welles from Touch of Evil trailer (public domain)

Orson Welles from Touch of Evil trailer (public domain)

Director Henry Jaglom recorded conversations he had with Orson Welles over a series of lunches, which took place in 1983. These conversation have been documented in the forthcoming book "My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles," by Peter Biskind. 

What comes-out in the excerpts I've seen so far is a highly opinionated, nostalgic and at times nasty man. Welles was a true genius when he was at his best. At his worst he was petty, cynical, bigoted, provocative and downright rude.  It's easy to see why Welles  – who started his career as a handsome and gifted actor-director – could have fallen so far from grace as he had over the years.  I found it fascinating to hear what he had to say about the people he worked with and knew in the industry.

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