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Orson Welles (1915 - 1985)

Related: American cinema - director

Citizen Kane (1941) - Orson Welles [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


George Orson Welles (May 6, 1915 - October 10, 1985) is commonly considered one of Hollywood's greatest directors, as well as a fine actor and screenwriter. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orson_Welles [Oct 2004]

Touch of Evil (1958) - Orson Welles

Touch of Evil (1958) - Orson Welles [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The greatest B movie ever made.

Amazon.com essential video
Considered by many to be the greatest B movie ever made, the original-release version of Orson Welles's film noir masterpiece Touch of Evil was, ironically, never intended as a B movie at all--it merely suffered that fate after it was taken away from writer-director Welles, then reedited and released in 1958 as the second half of a double feature. Time and critical acclaim would eventually elevate the film to classic status (and Welles's original vision was meticulously followed for the film's 1998 restoration), but for four decades this original version stood as a testament to Welles's directorial genius. From its astonishing, miraculously choreographed opening shot (lasting over three minutes) to Marlene Dietrich's classic final line of dialogue, this sordid tale of murder and police corruption is like a valentine for the cinematic medium, with Welles as its love-struck suitor. As the corpulent cop who may be involved in a border-town murder, Welles faces opposition from a narcotics officer (Charlton Heston) whose wife (Janet Leigh) is abducted and held as the pawn in a struggle between Heston's quest for truth and Welles's control of carefully hidden secrets. The twisting plot is wildly entertaining (even though it's harder to follow in this original version), but even greater pleasure is found in the pulpy dialogue and the sheer exuberance of the dazzling directorial style. --Jeff Shannon for Amazon.com

Touch of Evil (1958), was one of the last and one of the greatest examples of film noir ever made. It was directed by Orson Welles, who also appeared as a strangely corrupt policeman, Captain Hank Quinlan. The black-and-white film also features Charlton Heston as Mike Vargas, a Mexican narcotics agent on his honeymoon, Janet Leigh ("at her most perversely innocent" as one critic put it) as his bride, and Marlene Dietrich as Tanya, a cigar-smoking Mexican gypsy brothel owner with huge beautiful eyes.

The movie was written in two weeks by Welles based on Whit Masterson's novel Badge of Evil. It is not to be confused with another movie of the same title which aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its later years. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touch_of_Evil [Aug 2005]

see also: 1958 - Orson Welles

Citizen Kane: Cinema's Shakespeare

Sight & Sound editor Nick James, who, interestingly enough, doesn't have Kane in his own Top 10, commented this week that Kane is now 'established as cinema's Shakespeare'. This is a telling remark, even if it was just a soundbite. It indicates where these latest lists are coming from and why they are so frustrating for younger critics. The lists judge cinema as literature. The critics' list, certainly, reads like a reading-list Oxbridge students get sent before their first term. Don't even come here, says such a list, unless you've read all these. La Règle du jeu is your Flaubert, Vertigo D.H. Lawrence - ooh, they let us do Lawrence in the second year! - and Murnau's Sunrise, that's definitely Beowulf . --http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4479519,00.html [O

Citizen Kane (1941) - Orson Welles

Although it was little seen at the time of its initial release (largely due to Hearst's blacklisting of the film), and virtually forgotten until its revival in the 1950s, its critical fortunes have skyrocketed since. Many critics consider the film the best ever made; the American Film Institute ranked it #1 on its "100 Greatest Movies" list; it has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry; and the film is consistently in the top 5 on the Internet Movie Database. Beginning in 1962, and every ten years since, it has been voted the best film ever made by the Sight & Sound critics' poll.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_Kane [Oct 2004]

  • Citizen Kane (1941) - Orson Welles [Amazon.com]
    Arguably the greatest of American films, Orson Welles's 1941 masterpiece, made when he was only 26, still unfurls like a dream and carries the viewer along the mysterious currents of time and memory to reach a mature (if ambiguous) conclusion: people are the sum of their contradictions, and can't be known easily. Welles plays newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, taken from his mother as a boy and made the ward of a rich industrialist. The result is that every well-meaning or tyrannical or self-destructive move he makes for the rest of his life appears in some way to be a reaction to that deeply wounding event. Written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, and photographed by Gregg Toland, the film is the sum of Welles's awesome ambitions as an artist in Hollywood. He pushes the limits of then-available technology to create a true magic show, a visual and aural feast that almost seems to be rising up from a viewer's subconsciousness. As Kane, Welles even ushers in the influence of Bertolt Brecht on film acting. This is truly a one-of-a-kind work, and in many ways is still the most modern of modern films from the 20th century. --Tom Keogh, Amazon.com

    The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) - Jack Moss, Robert Wise

    1. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) - Jack Moss, Robert Wise [Amazon.com]
      Citizen Kane is considered by many to be Orson Welles's masterpiece, but more than a few prominent critics have argued that his second film, 1942's The Magnificent Ambersons, is an even greater artistic achievement. It's certainly the source of the most painful injustice of Welles's brief career in Hollywood, having been seized from the director's control, drastically cut from over two hours to merely 88 minutes, and reshot with a different, upbeat ending that Welles vehemently disapproved of. Adapted by Welles from the novel by Booth Tarkington, it remains a truncated masterpiece, as impressive for what remains as for the even greater film it might have been. The story is set during the late 19th century and follows the rise and fall of the wealthy Amberson family of Indianapolis, Indiana. Central to the drama is George Amberson Minafer (Tim Holt), who is snobbishly to the manor born, and whose petty jealousies and truculent pride compel him to prevent a wealthy inventor (Joseph Cotten) from marrying his widowed mother (Dolores Costello). This in part is the cause of the Ambersons' downfall, and ultimately leads to George's humbling "comeuppance" at the film's dramatic conclusion. It's an absorbing tale of fading traditions and changing times, and it's also a magnificent showcase for Welles's cinematic audacity, famous among film students for its long, fluid shots and ambitious compositions. Responding to the film's drastic cutting and re-editing, Welles justifiably complained that "they destroyed the heart of the film, really." And yet, the director's stamp of genius is evident throughout--the work of a young master (Welles was only 26 when the film was made) that still shines despite its unfortunate fate. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

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