The second volume of Simon Callow's brilliant, definitive biography of Orson Welles.
The reason for the decline of Orson Welles's career is a hotly debated issue, but decline it certainly did. When 'Citizen Kane', his first film, opened in 1941, Welles was universally acclaimed as the most audacious filmmaker alive. But instead of marking the beginning of a triumphant career in Hollywood, the film still regularly voted the greatest ever made proved to be an exception in Welles's life and work. He found it increasingly impossible to function within Hollywood's system. Project after project foundered, either abandoned incomplete - as with his ambitious Brazilian epic 'It's All True' - or, as in the case of virtually every other film he made in America, being released in very different form from the one he intended. Finally, in 1947, he left America for Europe where for the best part of twenty years he lived in self-imposed exile, occasionally and briefly returning to stage a play, make a film or shoot a television drama.
In close and colourful detail, 'Hello Americas' examines the years from 'Citizen Kane' to 'Macbeth' in which Welles's Hollywood film career came apart. It offers a scrupulous analysis of the factors involved, revealing the immense and sometimes self-defeating complexities of Welles's temperament as well as some of the monstrous personalities with whom he had to contend. At the same time, the book gives full weight to the almost bewildering range of his activities beyond Hollywood: his serious but doomed attempts to be a radio comedian and stage magician, his flamboyant and financially disastrous endeavour to revive spectacular theatre single-handedly, his newspaper columns, the political activities into which he so passionately flung himself. And of course the films, as fascinating as they were flawed: 'The Magnificent Ambersons', 'Journey Into Fear', 'The Stranger', 'The Lady From Shanghai'. The thread that runs through this apparently incoherent blur of activity is an often frustrated engagement with his native land, its faults, its dreams, its popular arts, its history. But by 1947, he had said all that he had to say to his fellow citizens; it was Goodbye Americans for two decades of endlessly experimental and innovative but essentially European work.
- Publication Date:
- 03 / 11 / 2003
- 242 x 161mm