Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
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He was an irreverent personality with a commanding presence and voice that was responsible for one of the greatest films ever made. That man is Orson Welles, who was most known for his directorial work in which he was considered among the best, and he did some acting as well. Welles wasn’t your typical Hollywood icon, doing things to the beat of his own drum. It’s now been more than 30 years since Welles passed away, but his work lives on thanks to his film genius.
Welles was born just north of the Illinois border in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915. His parents were rather well off, but he still ran into problems as his mother passed away when he was young while his father that earned a large sum of money during his career had addiction issues. Welles had originally wanted to get into music, but then his father unexpectedly passed away while Welles was a teenager. “My mother and father were both much more remarkable than any story of mine can make them,” Welles said. “They seem to me just mythically wonderful.”
Welles added that “I was spoiled in a very strange way as a child, because everybody told me, from the moment I was able to hear, that I was absolutely marvelous and I never heard a discouraging word for years, you see. I didn’t know what was ahead of me.”
Because he received money from his father following his death, Welles left the United States for a brief time to go to Europe, beginning his work on stage. When he came back to stateside, Welles started to work in radio, which was the preferred medium at the time for many people as television hadn’t yet taken off. During his radio career, Welles had a rendition of the novel “The War of the Worlds” that sparked panic as people thought that it was an actual news report of an alien invasion instead of simply a reading of the book.
Welles had his first foray into film when he directed a short production called “Twelfth Night”, and the next year followed it up with “The Hearts of Age”. Then, in 1941, Welles had his first feature film with “Citizen Kane”, considered to be a masterpiece in the art. “Citizen Kane” was also his first film as an actor, but wasn’t all that well received by audiences in terms of money. Still, “Citizen Kane” was beloved by critics and earned him an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay and nominations for Best Actor and Best Director. “The notion of directing a film is the invention of critics,” Welles said. “The whole eloquence of cinema is achieved in the editing room.”
The next film for Welles came a year later when he directed “The Magnificent Ambersons”. During the rest of the 1940s, Welles added films with “Journey into Fear”, “The Stranger” and “The Lady from Shanghai”. Welles added just three movies throughout the 1950s, though, with “Othello”, “Mr. Arkadin” and “Touch of Evil”. Welles had gotten into television, releasing “Orson Welles’ Sketch Book”, “Around the World with Orson Welles” and “The Fountain of Youth”.
During the 1960s, Welles had another trio of films with “The Trial”, “Chimes at Midnight” and “The Immortal Story”. Meanwhile he had a miniseries called “In the Land of Don Quixote”. He followed this up with “Filming Othello” on TV, and had his final film while living in 1974 with “F for Fake”. Welles had two films that were released after his death, which included the 2018 film “The Other Side of the Wind”.
Still, Welles very much remained an outsider to the typical Hollywood scene. “Hollywood is the only industry, even taking in soup companies, which does not have laboratories for the purpose of experimentation,” Welles said. “I’m a provincial. I live very much like a hermit; reading, listening to music, working in the cutting room, writing, commercial work - which doesn’t take up that much time.”
Welles still had some work that he was hoping to finish in 1985, but sadly was never able to complete some of his projects. In the early hours of October 10, 1985, Welles had a heart attack after completing an interview just hours earlier. Welles was found by his personal driver, passing away at 70 years old. Instead of a large funeral where his loved ones and fans could gather, he was cremated with his ashes heading to Spain.
Dwelling on his career, Welles had said that “Anybody who has trouble being successful doesn’t have any sympathy from me…I was just awful busy and awful lucky. I had a tremendous streak of luck and I was very grateful for that. I am not being fake modest talking about luck. I really do think it has everything to do with anybody’s life.”
“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone,” Welles once famously said. “Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” He added that “Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There’s a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.”
Welles never wanted the recognition that badly compared to many directors. “I do not suppose I shall be remembered for anything,” he said. “But I don’t think about my work in those terms. It is just as vulgar to work for the sake of posterity as to work for the sake of money.”