Welles in L.A.


I’ve got a piece in today’s LA Weekly previewing Academy @ LACMA’s new Orson Welles series, the most comprehensive in this city in at least a decade. The series includes more readily available titles, but there are a few more films Welles directed that are available online; I thought I’d list some here:

The Fountain of Youth (1956) (YouTube) This very witty television show, based on a story by mid-century fantasist John Collier, was only broadcast once in 1958, but it still managed to win a Peabody Award. It was intended to be the pilot for an anthology, but Welles was never permitted to continue the series.  It might have sank into obscurity if it wasn’t for the many Welles fans and experts who have rightly championed it for years.

The Immortal Story (1968) (Hulu Plus) Made for French TV, this adaptation of an Isak Dinesen short story stars Jeanne Moreau as the daughter of a man who’s ex-business partner (Welles) is now an aging business tycoon who hatches a plan to make an erotic urban legend come true.  It’s a strangely sedate and ethereal drama for Welles, and it downplays the potentially lurid elements of the story and replaces them with a reflective, simmering tone.

F for Fake trailer (1976) (YouTube) Welles made this lively nine-minute trailer when his film was released in the U.S., but the distributor never used it.

Filming ‘Othello’ (1978) (YouTube) Produced for West German television, this is an amiable “conversation” with Welles at the editing table, regaling the viewer with the colorful story of his three-year independent production of Othello. Among other things, he talks about his collaboration with designer Alexandre Trauner – whom he cites as one of the true artists of the profession (along with William Cameron Menzies, Vincent Korda and Georges Wakhevitch). He also incorporates a fascinating after dinner talk with his old theater friends (and Othello costars), Micheal MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards, who engagingly discuss the themes of the play.

Filming ‘The Trial’ (1981) (YouTube) A feature shot by Welles’ late cameraman, Gary Graver, recording a live Q&A discussion at USC following a screening of the film.

It’s All True (1993) (Amazon streaming) This documentary about Welles’ experience in Brazil during the 1940s shooting his unfinished film for RKO makes extensive use of Welles’ original footage that was discovered and restored in the ’80s and ’90s. Despite a slightly dated flair in the narration, it’s beautiful, well-researched and well-written (by critic Bill Krohn, Welles associate Richard Wilson, and critic Myron Meisel), detailing the complex events and political undercurrents at the time.

The Projection Booth: The Magnificent Ambersons (2013) I recently came across this gem, a roughly 48-minute podcast from last December about Ambersons that includes interviews with experts such as Peter Bogdanovich, Joseph McBride and Jonathan Rosenbaum.  You can also find a four-hour version; I’ve only listened to a portion of that one, but it seems to feature a lot more material by the hosts of the podcast.

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