A retrospective look at television appearances made over the years by Orson Welles, capturing the milestones and highlights of his life and career.
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Orson Welles was a giant of a man in every sense -
big talent, big personality,
In theatre, radio and films,
Welles was one of the 20th century's dominant forces -
a flamboyant figure who lived life to the full.
Welles' masterpiece was of course Citizen Kane,
which he directed at the tender age of 26.
But he had already established himself as a young genius,
and something of a maverick,
with the international success of the notorious War Of The Worlds
radio broadcast. He talks about it here,
in the 1955 episode of a BBC series called
Orson Welles' Sketch Book.
Well, we did on the show exactly what would have happened
if the world had been invaded.
We had a little music playing and an announcer coming on and saying,
"We interrupt this programme to bring you
"an announcement from Jersey City...
"Jersey City has just fallen."
Take you back to our studio, a little organ music,
then another interruption, and so on.
We did all of that very carefully, and exactly reproduced, as I say,
what would have happened -
thinking to make the whole thing more effective.
But we had no idea how effective it would be,
because about halfway through the show, as we were continuing,
with the script in front of us,
we saw that in the control room,
there were a great many policemen, and every moment more...
I had no idea that I'd suddenly become...
a sort of national event. And it was immediately after our show
went off the air that Walter Winchell, who was on a...
on a rival network,
and had heard about how all the telephone lines had been jammed,
and all the excitement was going on,
went on the air on his network, on his...
programme of news commentary, and said,
"Mr and Mrs America, there is no cause for alarm!
"America has not fallen! I repeat - America has not fallen!"
It was only a little while ago that I...
again ran into some... workers, some welfare workers,
Quakers and Red Cross people, who had been up in the Black Hills of Dakota,
some five or six weeks after this broadcast...
..persuading the people to leave the mountains and go back home
because the Martians really hadn't come.
And some... Oh, I think four or five years later,
I was on the air doing a show...
..a very polite show, with a lot of people,
choruses singing and so on - well, that's a typical,
solemn Sunday broadcast on...
commercial sound radio in America at the time,
with full choir and orchestra and everything else.
And for some reason, at this time, this particular Sunday,
that I've illustrated,
we were doing a patriotic broadcast
with excerpts from Walt Whitman and I don't know what else...
Norman Corwin, all the rest of it,
choirs humming melodically and so on.
And I was in the midst of some... hymn of praise
to the American corn fields, or something of the kind,
when suddenly a gentleman darted into the radio studio,
held up his hand and said, "We interrupt this broadcast
"to bring you an announcement.
"Pearl Harbour has just been attacked."
And of course, this very serious and terrible news was never believed -
not for hours - by anybody in America, because they all said,
"Well, there he goes again.
"Rather bad taste - was funny once, but not a second time."
I suppose we had it coming to us, because, in fact,
we weren't as innocent as we meant to be...
when we did the Martian broadcast. We WERE fed up...
..with the way in which everything that came over this new
magic box, the radio, was being swallowed.
People, you know, do suspect what they read in the newspapers,
and what people tell them, but when the radio came -
and I suppose now television -
anything that came through that new machine was believed.
So, in a way, our broadcast was an assault on the, er,
credibility of that machine - we wanted people to understand
that they shouldn't take any opinion...
..pre-digested, and they shouldn't swallow everything that...
came through the tap, whether it was radio or not.
But as I say, it was only a partial experiment -
we had no idea of the extent of the thing.
I certainly personally had no idea what it would mean to me.
Because, in fact, my life - I'm now going back to the time
of the actual broadcast - my life was threatened.
There was somebody, as a matter of fact, who kept
telephoning about every quarter of an hour, saying,
"You will die on the opening night of your play."
As a matter of fact, the opening night was the night
after the broadcast - it was a play called Danton's Death,
that we did in my theatre, and which incidentally was a horrible flop.
At the end, I had to stand in front of the curtain,
and deliver a speech in the character of Saint-Just
on the subject of something - I think it was the French revolution.
Anyway, I had to be alone in front of the curtain
in a blazing white spotlight...
..and I promise you that I'd never been so terrified in my life.
I had to come out in front of this audience, waiting
for the sound of a pistol being cocked,
some angry, er... victim of our broadcast
shooting at me, deliver this speech.
But what actually... What actually happened was that...
..as I stood in front of the curtain,
there was a little spill from the spotlight - I could see
the front row in the audience.
There was a man sitting in the front row who looked up at me...
Did I say the play was a flop?
People didn't like it and they were probably right.
..who looked up at me as I opened my mouth to speak,
raised his hand, looked at his wristwatch, looked at me, and went...
HE SIGHS DEEPLY
Folded his arms. Well, I assure you that...
I would rather have been shot!
At least that's the way I felt about it.
The notoriety that came with War Of The Worlds
had Hollywood throwing itself at Welles.
He was offered a contract guaranteeing him
total artistic freedom to make the film of his choice.
What he chose was Citizen Kane.
Welles co-wrote, produced and starred in Kane,
and his directing broke new ground, changing cinema for ever.
It wasn't a hit when it came out,
but quickly came to be considered one of THE great movies,
and stories of how it was made
continuously fascinate television interviewers and audiences.
Is it true that when Citizen Kane was being made,
that people actually tried to stop it being made?
And is it true that Randolph Hearst, the newspaper tycoon,
took it as an attack on himself, and tried to stop it being shown?
To the first part of your question, there was indeed
a definite effort to stop the film during shooting
by those elements in the studio who were attempting to seize power,
because in those days, studio politics,
particularly RKO and indeed many of the big studios in Hollywood,
were very much like Central American republics.
There were revolutions and counter-revolutions
and every sort of palace intrigue, and there was a big effort
to overthrow the then head of the studio,
who was taken to be out of his mind, because he'd given me this contract,
which made the making of these films possible...
And stopping me, or proving my incompetence,
would have won their case.
He, er... Mr Hearst was quite a bit like Kane,
although Kane isn't really founded on Hearst in particular -
there are many...
many people sat for it, so to speak.
But he was like Kane,
in that he wouldn't have stooped to such a thing.
But he had many hatchet men -
editors and representatives of this great network
of newspapers all over the country.
INTERVIEWER LAUGHS And to get in good with the chief
there was a good deal of very strong hatchet...
Including an effort to frame me on a criminal charge,
which a policeman was good enough to tell me about -
as sensational and silly and dangerous and gangsterish as that.
Was Mr Hearst's staff absolutely wrong?
When you say it was based on that kind of man,
was he really stronger in your mind than just being that kind of man?
Well, let me ask you if you think he was libelled.
-Well, I don't know HIM, you see.
-I see, yes.
Well...do you think that the figure of Kane himself
is a deeply unsympathetic figure...?
-In the Soviet Union, for example, the film has been forbidden,
general distribution, because this important capitalist
and newspaper tycoon and anti-social and crypto-fascist figure, et cetera,
to quote all the slogans,
is too sympathetic, and for that reason it's not shown,
-never has been.
-When you read about Citizen Kane,
a lot of the things you read suggest that it was
a very big social document, a massive attack
on big American institutions of the day. Now, I've always seen it
rather as a story, to be honest. Naturally, any story
has got its implications, but I've seen it as a story.
I'd like to know what your intentions were - did you mean it
as a social document or as a story?
I... I must confess...
to having to... I must answer this in a way that I loathe.
I must admit that it... was intended...
consciously as a sort of social document,
as an attack on the acquisitive society.
And indeed on acquisition in general.
But I didn't think that up
and then try to find a story to match the idea.
Of course, I think the storyteller's first duty is always to the story.
Which makes it all the more ironic that it should have been
-stopped in the Soviet Union?
-Yes, but of course
it wasn't at all a Communist picture or a Marxist picture.
It was an attack on property and acquisition of property
-And the corruption.
-Yes, and of the acquisitive society
of a man who... of real gifts and real charm
and real humanity, who destroys himself and everything near him,
You know, tired old words, Mammon and all - that really was.
Now, when you made this film, you were only, er...
25, weren't you? I mean, everybody knows that you had
the most astonishing contract that Hollywood has ever provided.
-Yes. Not financially speaking - in terms of authority and rights.
-Financially it wasn't extraordinary in any way at all.
It was extraordinary in the control it gave me
-over my own material.
-You had total control.
So much so that the rushes - which I perhaps
should explain to...
-..are the pieces of film
that are shown at the end of the day's work,
as I'm sure you understand, and are always checked
by everybody in the studio - department heads and the bankers
and distributors and everything, long before there's a rough cut...
But under my contract the rushes couldn't be seen by anyone.
And indeed the film couldn't be seen until it was ready for release.
I got that good a contract because I didn't really want to make a film.
Well, you'd better develop that.
And when you don't really want to go out to Hollywood - at least this was
true in the old days, the golden days of Holywood...
When you honestly didn't want to go,
then the deals got better and better. In my case, I didn't want money,
I wanted authority, so I asked the impossible,
hoping to be left alone, and at the end of a year's negotiations,
-I got it.
-Simply because there was no real vocation there.
My love for films began only when we started work.
What I'd like to know is, where did you get the confidence from
-to make them with such...?
-Ignorance! Sheer ignorance, you know.
There's no confidence to equal it.
It's only when you know something about a profession,
I think, that you're timid or careful...
-How does this ignorance show itself?
I thought you could do anything with a camera that the eye could do,
or the imagination could do.
And if you come up from the bottom in the film business
you're taught all the things that the cameraman doesn't want to attempt
for fear he will be criticised for having failed.
-And in this case
I had a cameraman who didn't care if he was criticised if he failed,
and I didn't know that there were things you couldn't do.
So I... Anything I could think up in my dreams
I attempted to photograph.
You got away with enormous technical advances, didn't you?
Simply by not knowing that they were impossible -
-or theoretically impossible.
And of course, again, I had
a great advantage, not only in the real genius of my cameraman,
but also in the fact that he, like all great men, I think,
who are masters of a craft, told me right at the outset
that there was nothing about camera work
that I couldn't learn in half a day,
that any intelligent person couldn't learn in half a day.
-And he WAS right.
-It's true of an awful lot of things.
Of ALL... You know, of every, you know,
the great mystery that requires 20 years doesn't exist
in any field.
-And certainly not in the camera...
-I'd just like to look for a moment,
and have a look at this clip...
FURNITURE CRASHES TO THE FLOOR
SMASHING OF GLASS AND CROCKERY
What I'd like to ask you about that -
it's rather a technical question, in a way...
Er, when you were making that sort of scene,
and that sort of shot, did you ever feel nervous
that maybe you'd gone too far? I put myself in your shoes.
If I'd made that, I'd be terrified
that I was just on the point of toppling over into farce,
that I'd made the room too large...
Do you have this sort of anxiety?
No, because the room IS that big.
What room is that big?
Awfully pompous answer - his room.
-Yes! Pompous question, perhaps.
-No! Not at all.
You're quite right, and I SHOULD have had that fear.
But I do feel that a man like Kane is very close to farce,
and very...and very close to parody,
very close to burlesque.
And that's why I tried every sort of thing,
from sentimental tricks to, er,
an attempt at genuine humanity...
..to keep him always counter-balanced.
But of course anybody who could build a place of that kind...
-..you know, is very close to, er...
-Of course he is.
When eventually Kane was made, it was an enormous success,
as all the world knows, and it's gone on being a success,
and it's a long time ago now - have you ever regretted
that so great a success came so early?
Well, I've regretted early successes in many fields,
but I don't regret that in Kane, because
it was the only chance I ever had of that kind.
I'm glad I had it at any time in my life.
-I wish I had it more often.
I wish I had, you know, a chance like that every year -
-there'd be 18 pictures...
-Yes - not just one.
-Two - Ambersons.
-Two. ..except Ambersons.
The end of it, there's a very serious
piece of surgery involved there - change.
-Which wasn't done by you...
There are two short scenes in it I didn't write, or direct,
and over three reels were taken out in their entirety,
and they were, in my view, the reason for making the film.
Not simply good reels, but the whole film was a preparation
for those reels, which were too tough, and too, er...
in those days, too hard-boiled...
..for the exhibitors' tastes.
And by the time I returned
from South America - that's a long story I won't go into -
to supervise the release of Ambersons,
RKO had fallen into the hands of the counter-revolutionary forces.
And I no longer was invited into the cutting room.
-You've been denied the cutting room before.
-Just recently, on Touch Of Evil.
That's happened really quite often to...to extremely, er...
..individual film-makers. I'm not saying -
it isn't a qualitative thing, it's a style.
And there's a certain kind of film-maker
who really wants to make the film entirely on his own.
And that sort of fellow is the sworn enemy of the...system.
-And the system is at great pains
to denigrate such a person.
Not only myself but many people like myself. And that's happened
in Russia as well as here...in America, it's happened in England,
it happens everywhere in varying degrees.
Seeing that this sort of thing happens, er...
They rightly regard the artist as the enemy of their profession,
-What do you think of Hollywood, Orson?
I'm not at all against Hollywood.
Not at all. It's a...
It's a...er...I think a remarkable community with a great history,
and a very entertaining place to work in.
The obvious things against it are so obvious,
there's really no need to list them over again.
Anything you can say about Hollywood is true - good and bad.
There's no extreme statement - it doesn't apply, I think.
I have heard it suggested that Citizen Kane
is in some sort of sense autobiographical...
The notion that Kane himself is some sort of
version of myself, I'd really fail to recognise.
Maybe out of blindness, but it seems to me that Kane is a, er...
..everything that I'm not.
Good and bad.
After Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons,
Welles fell out with the studios.
He directed his estranged wife Rita Hayworth
in The Lady From Shanghai, but it was a financial disaster.
The rest of his career would see him
struggle to make the films he felt passionate about,
funding his own productions with money earned from acting roles.
It was on the 1959 film Ferry To Hong Kong
-got to work with him,
and found him to be...funny,
warm, generous... and sometimes difficult!
And he was a great storyteller,
as he demonstrates here, talking about his childhood
with David Frost in 1970.
Who had the greatest influence on you, your mother or your father?
My mother. She died before my father did,
she died when I was eight, but no question about it -
she was an absolutely extraordinary woman.
She sounds fantastic, she was... She was an imprisoned suffragette...
Yes, and pacifist, she was a violent radical,
a great concert pianist and beauty.
She was one of those... A crack shot!
-Everything, you know.
She really was quite a super lady.
In fact, you were reading fluently when you were two,
-Of course not!
-LAUGHTER IN AUDIENCE
When I was three!
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
Were you...? Ha-ha!
They also say you...you'd memorised speeches from King Lear
by the time you were seven - is that true?
I don't know, maybe I had.
It doesn't seem the right part at that age, but...
But of course I began my career pretending to be older than I was.
I started, I was just 16, and I pretended to be 25.
And I played, er, 60-year-old men.
That was in Ireland... So I suppose I was getting in practice
when I was doing Lear at seven - if it's true...
You also threatened... Is this true that you once threatened,
because of music lessons, to throw yourself out of a hotel window?
Yes, again that was my mother.
That'll show you the kind of strength of character she had.
We were in the Ritz hotel...
She didn't give the piano lessons...
exercises and all that.
She got a lady in. In this case it was a poor, unfortunate spinster,
and I saw I could bully her, you know?
So I said, "I don't want to do any more scales and if you make me
"do another scale I'm going to kill myself."
And the spinster really fed me so well on that...
when another scale was asked for,
I went out, and there's a balcony,
and I climbed over the balcony and stood like this,
holding over the thing, and when you're very young,
you don't believe in death.
All you see is the people standing around and saying, "Now we're sorry."
"Aw, we shouldn't have done that to him."
You don't think you're going to suffer, THEY'RE going to suffer.
So I was ready to go, you know.
And this poor music teacher ran
into my mother, who was in another room,
and said, "He's out there, he's going to jump,
"he's going to kill himself."
My mother thought to herself, "If I come in and run at him,
"he might be idiotic enough...
So I just heard this voice from the other room which said,
"Well, if he's going to jump, let him jump."
And my mother had the strength of character enough to say that.
And she told me the story later and she waited...
There was a long pause and then she heard,
And it was in Ireland you first acted, wasn't it?
Yes, that was to get out of school.
I had a scholarship for Harvard. I'm a dropout.
The only way... I'd been painting in Ireland
and it got to be winter
and the days were getting short and so was my money,
and I knew I would have to go back to America
and go to this dreaded school of learning.
So I went backstage
to the Gate Theatre and told them I was a famous star
from the New York Theatre Guild
and just for the fun of it I'd like to stay with them
and play a few leading roles.
Now, you can only do that
if you don't believe
that it matters, if you don't care.
I had no desire to be an actor. If I had,
I would have said, "Could I have a spear to hold?" You know...
But because I didn't think... It was ridiculous
that I would be an actor in my life, I just said,
"I AM a leading actor." Why not?
And I began as a leading actor. I played a star part
the first time I ever walked on the stage.
And I have been working my way down ever since.
He was joking there, but Welles DID have his downs...
with films that flopped
and a long list of projects that never got off the ground.
But he always bounced back.
And as new generations of film fans
came to his early works for the first time,
his reputation grew -
a fact he discussed in an interview with Michael Parkinson in 1973.
I asked you that question about heroes, actually,
cos I know to a lot of people, if I asked them that question, they would say you were their hero.
I can't imagine why but I love hearing it.
-You love hearing it, do you?
I sincerely can't see how anybody could make a hero of me.
As I've never yet been called it, I must ask you this,
and you've been called it many times - you've been called a genius.
It's just one of those words, you know.
I suppose there have only been
two or three geniuses in this century.
-We all know who they are.
I suppose, yes... Einstein and Picasso and somebody
in China we haven't heard about, you know.
-So you don't accept the...?
-Oh, I accept anything I get!
But, between friends, there aren't many of them.
I really wouldn't want to try to edge my way
into an elevator
that was "for geniuses only...going up", you know?
You were talking earlier about experts.
I suppose your experts would be ..film critics would be...
would call themselves experts.
Now, they judged a film of yours,
twice running, the best film ever made.
That shows you how crazy experts are!
No, I think it shows you how fundamentally sound film criticism is...
..in this day and age.
No, I never talk about critics
because there isn't anything
to be said about them.
If they criticise you, anything you say is sour grapes.
And if they like what you do, you should shut up, you know.
There's no way of criticising the critics.
-Do they ever wound you?
I can remember every bad notice I've ever had.
I can remember one I got when I was 18 years old,
in Salt Lake City,
when I played Marchbanks with Katherine Cornell
and I was described as "a sea-calf whining in a basso profondo".
And I'm sure it's an absolutely accurate description
of that performance, which must have been abominable.
But it still goes through my head before I go to sleep at night,
along with a thousand other litanies of the same kind.
I have a misfortune...
It isn't out of modesty. It's, I suppose, some form of masochism.
If so, it's the only thing that I'm masochistic about,
but I do remember all the bad notices
and I do forget, or take not very seriously,
-the good ones.
The other curious thing is that you genuinely do not like talking about
-your work in movies at all.
Because it's done. You know that.
That isn't because you've got cameras on.
My family has never heard me say a word about any picture I've ever made.
I just find that very, very curious indeed,
because the number of people I've interviewed - film directors,
film actors, particularly...that's all they can talk about!
Well, I'm sure they can talk about other things
but they LIKE to talk about it.
A lot of directors and actors like to run their movies.
Their idea of a happy night at home
is to turn on the projector and see one of their pictures again.
And I can't think of anything more horrifying.
-Because you can't change it.
-What can you do about it?
There it is. Forever.
And if you're a writer,
and you've written a bad chapter,
and they're going to bring out another edition,
if you're lucky enough, you should get to fix up that chapter.
Nothing you can do about a movie. There it is, locked in forever.
But of course you will talk generally about movies,
not your own, about the industry.
I'm not as interesting about it as I'd like to be, though,
cos I don't see enough movies.
I was just wondering about the changes that you've seen
in the industry since you first started making movies in Hollywood.
Do you think it's still an industry, Michael?
Really an industry?
It's not an industry like it used to be, that's for sure.
And I wonder if it REALLY was.
I think it always was show business
and that when there were big studios,
which still existed when I went to Hollywood,
but were in their very last days...
..as golden-age big studios,
I think they were pretending to be factories
and it was still show business.
It's true they were grinding them out and all that...
but it's show business. The true industrial process
as helter-skelter and idiotic
as EVERY form of show business is,
otherwise every car we'd get in would break down
after the second block.
I can't believe the rest of the people are as stupid as we are.
But how do you get the product, then, if it's all as mad as that?
Well, it sort of happens.
Movies are terribly easy to make.
-It's much harder to put on a play...than a movie.
What's hard to do is make a very good movie.
-A good movie is even easy to make,
because if you have a good cameraman,
if you have the cast that happens to be right,
if you have a story that happens to be vaguely interesting,
that is the art form that works in our day and age.
So it would be very hard to write a great play in blank verse today,
but I think it was pretty easy in Elizabethan days
-to write a good verse play.
-Not a great one but a good one.
And it's damn near impossible now,
-because it has nothing to do with our culture.
But somehow a good movie gets itself made,
even by a lot of second-rate people.
-A very good one is, of course, another thing.
The thing that HAS changed, of course...
I'm sorry, I didn't really answer your question.
You were talking about changes... I went wandering off.
All I really wondered about was, if you look back at those days
in Hollywood when you were first operating over there,
-and it really was the dream factory, wasn't it?
When you look back, are you nostalgic about those days,
or were they just comic relief?
-I loved them, you know.
I thought it was great.
I never belonged to it, you see.
When I came, I was this terrible maverick.
I represented... I was sort of...
40, 30 years ahead of my time, whatever it is.
There was a sort of ghost of Christmas Future,
there was the one beatnik,
there was this guy with a beard
who was going to do it all by himself.
I represented the terrible future of what was going to happen to that town.
So I was hated and despised,
but I had all kinds of friends amongst the real dinosaurs
-who were awfully nice to me.
Yes, and I had a very good time, but...
..I believe that I have looked back too optimistically on Hollywood,
because my daughter has a group of books about Hollywood
that she bought, I don't know why,
probably vainly looking for references of her father in them.
I took to reading them lately
and I realised how many great people
that town has destroyed since its earliest beginnings.
How almost everybody of merit
was destroyed or diminished
and how the few people who were good that survived,
what a great minority they were.
And I suddenly thought to myself,
"Why do I look so affectionately on that town?"
It was because it was funny and it was gay
and it was an old-fashioned circus,
and everything that we're nostalgic about
-made it funny and gay when it was really happening.
But really it was a brutal place.
-And when I take my own life out of it and see
what they did to other people,
I see that the story of that town is a dirty one.
And its record is bad.
One reason Welles survived Hollywood
was the magnetic quality he had as a performer.
His presence and that rich voice meant he commanded every scene.
This was perhaps best demonstrated
in one of his most-famous roles.
Harry Lime in The Third Man...
which he discussed in an Arena special from 1982.
What kind of a spy do you think you are, satchel foot?
What are you tailing me for?
Cat got your tongue?
Come on out.
Come out, come out, whoever you are.
Step out in the light and let's have a look at you.
Who's your boss?
WOMAN SPEAKS GERMAN
MUSIC: "The Third Man Theme" by Anton Karas
SHE SPEAKS GERMAN
SHE SPEAKS GERMAN
CAR HORN BEEPS
FOOTSTEPS RUNNING AWAY
Yes, you were saying about it being rare
for directors to be very fond of actors
and I was saying that Carol Reed...
Nobody ever loved acting more than he did.
He was passionately interested
in his actors and in the process of acting...
without the remotest feeling
that he was imagining himself in that position
or imposing himself. He was the real actor's director.
His joy was in your work,
not in seeing something of his come to life.
He was exceptional in that case.
-Did he invite your collaboration...?
Yes, he invited everybody's collaboration, as I do.
That's why I loved working... His style was so much like mine
in the respect that he wanted
any suggestion he could get.
I can tell you scenes in...
pictures of mine that were suggested by members of the crew.
Anybody can make a suggestion.
That doesn't mean they get to have it in the picture,
but if it's good, it goes.
And he welcomed it.
At an earlier time,
when I was being interviewed in another language,
I gave the impression that I'd somehow
co-directed my scenes
and that's not true.
I never meant to say that or give that impression.
however, to a large extent, the author of...
the dialogue of Harry Lime.
Including the "cuckoo clock" and all that kind of stuff.
Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful.
What the fella said... In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias
they had warfare, terror, murder
and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci,
and the Renaissance.
In Switzerland they had brotherly love -
they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce?
The cuckoo clock. So long, Holly.
But that is what I do when I act in other people's pictures.
I never argue about the direction
but I usually come up with a rewritten scene.
That's the headache they have to put up with.
Then if they don't like it I'll go back to the other,
but I go back home at night
and write the next day's scene and hope they'll take it instead of what it is.
But I never would tell a director,
"Would you do that?" or something, unless they asked me.
Do directors often tell you how to do things when you're acting?
Oh, yeah, sure.
I had one director in England
who was wonderful.
About halfway through every take he'd say, "Cut."
There'd be a long silence and I'd look at him.
I'd say, "How would you like me to do it?"
"Just do it again."
So we'd do it again and then there'd be this... "Cut."
We went through the whole picture like that
and I never knew what was giving him this pain.
Have you found yourself turning down really substantial parts
because you wanted to get on with directing?
No, I haven't been offered them.
I would have sold my soul to play the Godfather, for instance.
But I never get those parts...
offered to me, at all.
Why have you accepted
so many parts, no matter how well you may have done them in the end...
-..that were basically from bad scripts?
I have to live in the...
If you're going to try to finance movies and live,
you have to earn your money somehow.
Most of my movies have been movies I didn't want to make.
I've never done a movie that I disapproved of...
The last star part that I was offered was Caligula.
And I refused it on moral grounds.
And yet there I would have been playing
the leading part in a 8 million-dollar picture.
It would have been nice to do that
but I didn't even have a moment's doubt about not doing it.
The same thing would be
for a political reason or anything like that.
I've turned down a lot of things for those kind of reasons.
But no GREAT parts.
I haven't had any great parts offered me,
only a few good ones, in all these years.
They hire me when they have a really bad movie
and they want a cameo that'll give it a little class.
So every time I do one of those things,
I chip off something more from me as an actor.
You're in liquidation when you do that.
That's why I hope to avoid it
now it looks as though I have a chance...
KNOCKS ON CHAIR
..to direct a couple of more movies
and I've got a couple of good parts I've written for myself.
-It's the only way I know how to get them.
-Nobody else will.
Yes. I played all the great parts in the theatre by running...
You know, there's an old Yiddish saying, in the Yiddish theatre,
that the star's the man who owns the store, you know?
So some of my stores have been rather small establishments
but I was the star...
because I owned it.
I think I made essentially a mistake
in staying in movies,
but it's the mistake I can't regret because
it's like saying, "I shouldn't have stayed married to that woman
"but I did because I love her."
"I would have been more successful if I hadn't been married to her."
I would have been more successful if I'd left movies immediately.
Stayed in the theatre, gone into politics, written anything.
I've wasted the greater part of my life
looking for money and trying to get along,
trying to make
my work from this terribly expensive paint box,
which is a movie.
And I've spent too much energy on
things that have nothing to do with making a movie.
It's about 2% movie-making
and 98% hustling.
It's no way to spend a life.
Do you feel that's going to go on?
I'm going to go on being faithful to my girl. I love her.
I fell so much in love with making movies
that the theatre lost everything for me.
I'm just in love with making movies.
If he'd never made a movie after Citizen Kane,
Welles would still have gone down in cinema history
but that love of film-making was with him to the very end.
Three years after that interview, at the age of 70,
he died from a heart attack at his home in Hollywood.
The man who made the perfect picture when he was 26
was found at his typewriter, where he'd been working on a new script,
doing what he loved best, right up till his final moment.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
A retrospective look at television appearances made over the years by the legendary Hollywood actor and director Orson Welles, capturing the milestones and highlights of his life and career. Narrated by Sylvia Syms.