T For True: Three new books on Orson Welles (review-essay @ Senses of Cinema)

September 26, 2013 § Leave a comment


My review-essay T For True appeared in issue 68 of the online film journal Senses of Cinema (September 2013). It discusses these new Orson Welles books:

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Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts by Todd Tarbox (BearManor Media, 2013).
My Lunches With Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles. Edited and with an introduction by Peter Biskind (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2013).
Orson Welles in Italy by Alberto Anile (translated by Marcus Perryman). (Indiana University Press, 2013).

The essay begins:

Bewildered by false tales circulating about his life, Orson Welles once came to a general conclusion: “I don’t think history can possibly be true!” Of course, in the same interview, Welles claimed to be the great-grandson of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under President Lincoln, so he can’t be considered a completely innocent victim of historians. Even now, despite decades of often exemplary research – by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Catherine Benamou, François Thomas & Jean-Pierre Berthomé, and others – the complicated facts of Welles’ life continue to be obscured by his irresistible self-invented mythology and the popular counter-myth of a prodigy in a decline that knew no indignity.

Two entertaining new books of transcribed conversations with, respectively, his former headmaster Roger ‘Skipper’ Hill and the filmmaker Henry Jaglom, reaffirm Welles’ reputation as a great (if unreliable) raconteur and go some way towards unmasking the private man. The conversations date from the early 1980s as Welles, in weakening health, struggled to organise financing for a range of doomed film projects in Los Angeles. That was the unhappy end; Alberto Anile’s Orson Welles in Italy (translated from the Italian original of 2006) takes us back to the invention of Welles’ independent methods after the Second World War. Anile’s research into contemporaneous Italian sources adds degrees of nuance to a largely mythical period in Welles’ career….



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