This is Orson Welles

Has anyone ever asked you to come up with a list of guests, living or dead, that you'd like to invite to your ideal dinner party? If you've ever included Orson Welles on your imaginary list, then this is the book for you.

Made up of a series of interviews between Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles, the book covers a variety of topics, from Orson's early and prolific radio career to his later projects like The Trial. While PB's questions occasionally grated on me (and Orson, too, apparently, as he sometimes declines to answer) there's still a lot of good information in the conversations. They talk very little about Orson's personal life but instead focus on his artistic achievements (and missteps) and some of the controversies surrounding them. Orson hates to be asked about symbolism, but is quick to defend himself where he feels he deserves credit.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the Appendix: The Original Ambersons. It's a summary of the alterations made from Orson's original version of The Magnificent Ambersons. (I had watched the remake a while back hoping to get some insight into what was cut, but this Appendix is a much better way to see what Orson had originally intended.) I must say, I don't think all the cuts made were necessarily bad! While some of the scenes that didn't make it into the film would have added some depth and detail to the story, others (like one where a jealous Georgie imagines Lucy with other suitors) might be better left out. And while the original ending is a little bleaker and might have fit Orson's ideas better, I find the ending in the movie to be sufficiently bittersweet.

This book is a chance to be a fly on the wall listening to the one and only Orson Welles. For extra fun, you can even imagine his melodious voice speaking the words as you read them. It's as close as you're going to get to the late, great genius.


Anonymous said...

Hey there WendyMoon,

Great article, I actually added the book to my list of 'books I should read soon rather than later' list and have you to thank. I've always been a fan of Welles, his early career of course dwarfing everything that followed, much like Bogdanovich who peaked in 71' with The Last Picture Show and never truly came even remotely close to what he accomplished in that movie. I love books about movies that offer more than just the usual fair and this book sounds like just the ticket.

Hope your holidays are bright. Drop by my blog, Above the line and say hello.

Stationary Explorer said...

Great post. I love this book. It's fun to read Orson's comments as he speaks candidly in a relaxed atmosphere with a friend.

The Ambersons section of the book is very informative and helps illustrate the lost scenes. Even more thorough is the book "The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction" by Robert Carringer which contains a complete transciption of the 132 minute version the film. It's a book I always keep handy.

Wendymoon said...

Hi Rory and Stationary Explorer! Thanks for stopping by.

Hope you enjoy the book, Rory, and thanks Explorer for letting me know about the Ambersons book, that sounds like a great read.

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