"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love
and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone."
by Chris Dandeneau
Bit of background: George Orson Welles was born May 6,
1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to Beatrice Ives Welles (suffragist, community
activist, and accomplished pianist) and Richard Head Welles (inventor and
businessman). His birthplace at 6116 Seventh Avenue (in 1915 it was 463 Park
Avenue), is now part of Kenosha's Library Park Historic District. Welles was the
second of his parents' two children, the oldest being Richard Ives Welles Jr.
(b. 1905). Richard Jr. was a huge disappointment to his father, and was later
committed to the Kankakee Institute in Wisconsin. In her biography on Orson
Welles, Barbara Leaming wrote about an instance when a corpse reported to be
Richard Jr. (it wasn't) washed up on the banks of the Mississippi River.
According to Leaming, Orson remembered his father saying, "That's good, at
least the family is rid of him!" Orson's father was an alcoholic and a
womanizer, so his marriage seemed doomed from the start. Orson's parents
separated when he was 6. In 1924, Orson's mother - thought by many to be the
artistic influence in his life - died of jaundice. Six years later, Orson's
father died of heart and kidney failure. Orson received most of his father's
estate, with only a small portion going to Richard Jr. In 1937, Welles
co-founded the Mercury Theatre, which performed at the Comedy at 108 West 41st
St. in New York (the Comedy was demolished in 1970). Welles expanded the Mercury
operation in July of 1938, to include weekly radio dramas for CBS. Known as Mercury
Theatre on the Air, it garnered infamy with its October 30, 1938
broadcast of The War of the Worlds. (Not to be confused with the psychotic
meltdown we've been privy to recently) This clever adaptation of the H.G.
Wells' classic caused panic for thousands of listeners, who thought an actual
invasion from Mars was taking place. The chaos created by the broadcast helped
Welles gain international fame. In 1939, Welles signed with RKO
Radio Pictures, Inc., at the time one of Hollywood's "Big Five"
After a few failed attempts to make a film (one of which was based on Joseph
Conrad's Heart of Darkness - later the basis for Apocalypse
Now), Welles struck gold with Citizen Kane. While the film
was not commercially successful at the time of its release, it is now considered
by many critics to be the best motion picture ever made. At its most simplistic, Citizen Kane tells the story of the rise and subsequent fall of a
rags-to-riches child. The film was controversial even before its release, because
it appeared to be a fictional account of the powerful real-life newspaper
publisher, William Randolph Hearst. Spurred on by Hollywood gossip witches, Hedda
Hopper and Louella Parsons, Hearst tried to keep the film from ever seeing the
light of day. One story by Welles claims that he was tipped off by police that
Hearst had planted an underage girl and two photographers in his hotel room, in
an attempt to have leverage for blackmail. A terrific film based on this
story is called RKO 281.
Regardless, the commercial failure of Citizen Kane was seen by many as a direct result of boycotts and
threats made by Hearst. The irony of the Hearst-Kane fiasco is that while Hearst
tried vehemently to keep the population from seeing the film, many people only
recognize the name William Randolph Hearst in association with Citizen
Kane. The film was successful with critics at its time of release,
receiving nine Oscar nominations (it was booed during the ceremony) and winning
one, for Best Original Screenplay. That particular Oscar statuette was
auctioned off in 1999.
Welles' follow-up to Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), would foreshadow some of the problems that Welles would face in his
career as a filmmaker. During production of Ambersons,
Welles was asked by the U.S. government to shoot a documentary about South
America. While working on that project (titled It's All True) in
Brazil, RKO took control of Ambersons and proceeded to do some heavy editing. It's All True became one
of Welles' many endeavors throughout his career that would remain unfinished.
Welles developed a reputation in Hollywood as a fiscally irresponsible director,
who had trouble keeping to schedule. Throughout his life's work, he would be
plagued with problems of film financing and studio interference.
In the late 1940s, Welles moved to Europe. It was here the
filmmaker, effectively exiled from Hollywood, would produce much of his later
work. The creative and filmmaking independence Welles insisted upon, ultimately
led to reduced budgets. Some of the films made by him in Europe include Othello (1952 Palm d'Or winner) and The Trial (1963). In 1971, Welles
received an honorary Academy Award. He was now being praised by the same
Hollywood that had previously shunned him.
Welles was frequently overweight, but became obese later in life. For the last decade or so of his life, he was reduced to
doing commercials and made regular appearances on the talk-show circuit, often
Welles' final roles were as the voice of Unicron in Tranformers:
The Movie (released in 1986), and an introduction to a black and white
sequence for an episode of Moonlighting. For all other
credits, visit here.
The night before the Cybil Shepherd/Bruce Willis show, Welles
appeared drawn and haggard during a luncheon with Burt Reynolds at Ma Maison.
That happens a lot to Burt Reynolds.
George Orson Welles died of a heart attack in
this home on October 10, 1985
Probably in the Master Bedroom
Orson died on the same day as Yul Brynner and the same week as Rock
Hudson and Nelson Riddle. One report states that it wasn't Welles' home,
but the home of friend Aleksander Deviec in which he drewhis last breath.
He was cremated, and his ashes were buried inside an old well
on the property of retired bullfighter, Antonio Ordonez (who died on December 19,
1998), in Ronda, Malaga, Spain.
Fact I've saved in my Orson file for years, from Bob in TN: Welles and his
wife shared a little poodle, Kiki. On occasion, the poodle would be transported
from LA to Vegas, via limousine, with instructions from Orson to stop at Barstow
and exercise the dog for 15 minutes.
Marriages and children: Orson Welles was married three times, most notably to
Rita Hayworth (which makes me believe love exists). His first marriage was to
Virginia Nicholson, an actress whom he directed in his short film The
Hearts of Age (shot at the age of 19). The couple had one daughter,
Christopher Welles, born March 27, 1938. They divorced in February of 1940. Rita
Hayworth, who needs no description, was Welles' second wife. The two met during
a production of a story called There Are Frenchmen and Frenchmen for The Orson Welles Show. The couple had one daughter, Rebecca
Welles, on December 17, 1944. Hayworth and Welles were divorced in 1948. Orson's
third (and last) wife was an Italian actress named Paola Mori, whom he met at a
cast party for the film The Adventures of Don Juan (1948). The
couple had one daughter, Beatrice Welles, on November 13, 1955. In 1962, while
married to Mori, Welles met Oja Kodar during the filming of his movie The
Trial. For the rest of his life, Welles would remain married to Mori but
keep a relationship going with Kodar. Upon Welles' death, there was a dispute
over the terms of his will. Mori and Kodar were to settle the dispute through a
signed agreement on August 14, 1986, but Mori was killed in a car accident on
August 12, 1986, (missed it by that
Some random notes: In the film Citizen Kane, there is a scene where
Kane's close friend, Jedidiah Leland (Joseph Cotton), is drunk after Kane (Orson
Welles) loses his election bid for governor of New York. Leland informs Kane
that he wants a transfer to their Chicago paper. Leland makes his case by saying
to Kane, "Well, you said yourself, you were looking for someone to do
dramatic crimitism" The use of "dramatic crimitism" (instead of
"dramatic criticism") was unintentional. Welles - probably thinking
that the scene was going to be reshot - shows a faint smirk. The scene was not
re-shot, and the flubbed line actually adds some realism to Leland's drunken
Citizen Kane was also the motion
picture debut of Agnes Moorehead. She played Kane's mother.
Orson Welles, and past presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, were all
descendants of John Alden, a passenger on the Mayflower.
Orson Welles turned down the chance to be the voice of Darth Vader.
He was also considered for the part of Mr. Roarke,
on Fantasy Island.
Sweet Lady Jane at 8360 Melrose Ave. in
LA is said to be haunted by a ghost of Orson Welles.
The website for Sweet Lady
Jane has the bakery opening on May 5, 1988. Q: Welles died in 1985 so was there
a different business there, or am I missing something? A: I phoned Sweet
Lady Jane, and apparently it is in the location of the old Ma Maison restaurant,
frequented by Orson Welles (and where murderer John
Sweeney worked). Nice Bonnie explained that someone once offhandedly
mentioned that Orson ate there, so often he probably haunts the place now.
It got repeated, and now is legend.
Pinks was another favorite spot of Orson Welles. He is said to have
eaten 17 hot dogs in one sitting. In June of 2012 Los Angeles Magazine's Ask
Chris went to Pinks for the answer:
A Sedona home (65 Sycamore Road) that Welles rented with Paola Mori and his
daughter, Beatrice, was on sale (found it on the internet) for almost $1.4
Citizen Kane costar and former David Gest beard,
Ruth Warrick, died in January 2005.
Some Orson Welles quotes:
"The best thing commercially, which is the worst artistically, by and
large, is the most successful."
"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop
"Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to
act in accordance with the dictates of reason."
"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four - unless
there are three other people."
The Encyclopedia of Orson Welles - Chuck Berg and Tom Erskine
Orson Welles - Barbara Leaming
Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles - David Thomson
Check out this great link about the
"Martian landing site" from War of the Worlds,HERE.