Blog — Orson Welles

Orson Welles: “The Magnificent Ambersons” first preview

Orson Welles

It’s 1942 and RKO aren’t taking any chances on Orson Welles second feature film “The Magnificent Ambersons.” Studio executives line up a preview at a movie theater in Pomona, California. They spring the film unannounced to an audience who had just watched a forgettable musical.  After the screening, preview cards are handed out to the audience. Out of the 125 they handed back, 72 contained negative comments. The cards pose questions such as, ‘Did you like this picture?’ Here were some of the answers. - Yes. This picture is magnificent. The direction, acting, photography, and special effects are the best...

Read more →


Orson Welles: “The Magnificent Ambersons” interview

Orson Welles

Of all Orson Welles’ films, none suffered more at the hands (and knives) of studio executives than “The Magnificent Ambersons.” Merely viewing a scene from the version that eventually made it to theaters was enough to reduce Welles to tears all his life. Welles’ true vision of his adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s novel, is lost to history. Peter Bogdanovich asks him what happened. Bogdanovich: Francois Truffaut once said that if Flaubert reread Quixote every year, why can’t we see The Magnificent Ambersons whenever possible. Did you ever hear that quote? Welles: No. Thank you for passing it along. Bogdanovich: Tim...

Read more →


Orson Welles: Eagle Carries Off Live Baby!!!

Orson Welles

You might think today’s full page glossy advertisements for films in trade mags like Variety and Screen International sell their virtues just a little too hard. But those vainglorious declarations don’t hold a candle to yesteryear. Check out this piece of understatement from William Steiner in the 1937 Film Daily Product Guide. It’s got a baby! It’s got an eagle! It’s got nine (count ‘em) exclamation marks!!!!!!!! Yes, it’s terrific and thrilling and authentic and, well, just plain sensational. But there’s more to come. Six action stunt melodramas featuring horse, dog and man. But probably not all in the same...

Read more →


Orson Welles: Hays Code

Orson Welles

It’s 1937. You’re in Hollywood, you’re in love and you’ve picked up a bit of a morphine habit. But it’s okay because you’ve got a swell idea for a new picture. A real humdinger. A doozy. Sure, it’s a little risque, but not in a bad way. It ain’t gonna kill nobody. Although lately everybody’s been banging on about the Hays Code. Everybody thought it was a joke when it first came out. Some appeasement by a few studio heads to keep those wannabe censors in Washington from declaring war. Moral guidance? You’ll need more than a production code for...

Read more →


Orson Welles: Todd School for Boys

Orson Welles

  Orson Welles attended Todd School for Boys in Woodstock Illinois from 1926 to 1931. Welles is pictured here in the top left below a window of Grace Hall, the 1915 Prairie Style building where the actor and director lived as a student. He studied film and radio in the basement studio. As a student, Welles collaborated with Headmaster Roger Hill to write the “Everybody’s Shakespeare” series of plays that provided a simple adaptation for high school student’s Shakespeare productions. Between 1932 and 1942 over 100,000 copies of these plays were sold An active member of the Todd Troupers theatrical...

Read more →