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Orson WellesOrson Welles

maker of "the greatest film ever made"

George Orson Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on May 6, 1915. His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a concert pianist. As a child, Orson showed talent as a pianist, painter, and magician. His mother died when he was nine years old, after which he traveled the world with his father. His father died when he was fifteen years old, after which he became a ward of Chicago physician Dr. Maurice Bernstein. After graduating from the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois, in 1931, he turned down college offers to take a sketching tour of Ireland. He then tried unsuccessfully to enter the London and Broadway stages. He finally got into Katherine Cornell's road company, after being recommeded by Thornton Wilder and Alexander Woollcott. He made his New York debut as Tybalt in 1934.

In 1937, Welles and fellow actor John Houseman formed Mercury Theatre, which staged a number of plays between 1937 and 1941.

Welles first achieved nationwide recognition on Halloween night in 1938, when his Mercury Theatre on the Air aired H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" over the radio. Broadcast as a music program being interrupted by "live news breaks," the radio play terrified thousands of Americans who, despite occassional messages that they were listening to a dramatic production, believed that Earth was actually being invaded by Martians.

The first Welles film to be seen by the public was Citizen Kane (1941). Although the film lost RKO $150,000, it is now considered by the American Film Institute as the best film ever made. In 1948, after several more box-office failures in America, he went to Europe, where he made a few films before coming back to the United States.

Orson Welles died of a heart attack on October 10, 1985, in Hollywood, California. His cremains were buried inside an old well on the rural property of retired bullfighter Antonio Ordóñez, in Ronda, Malaga, Spain

Theater
directorial credits only

Macbeth (1936)
Horse Eats Hat (1936)
Doctor Faustus (1937)
The Second Hurricane (1937)
The Cradle Will Rock (1937)

Mercury Theatre Productions
Caesar (1937)
The Shoemaker's Holiday (1938)
Heartbreak House (1938)
Too Much Johnson
(1938)
Danton's Death (1938)
Five Kings (1939)
The Green Goddess (1939)
Native Son (1941)

The Mercury Wonder Show (1943)
Around the World (1946)
Macbeth (1947)
The Blessed and the Damned (1950)
Othello (1951)
The Lady in the Ice (1953)
Moby Dick: Rehearsed (1955)
King Lear (1956)
Chimes at Midnight (1960)
Rhinoceros (1960)

Radio

Les Miserables (1937)
The Mercury Theater on the Air (1938) [including the infamous "War of the Worlds" broadcast]
The Campbell Playhouse (1938-1940)
Orson Welles Show (1941-1942)
"His Honor the Mayor," as part of The Free Company (1941)
Hello Americans (1942-1943)
Ceiling Unlimited (1942-1943)
Orson Welles' Almanac--Mobil (1944)
This is My Best (1945)
Orson Welles Almanac--Lear (1945-1946)
Mercury Summer Theater (1946)
The Adventures of Harry Lime (1951-1952)
The Black Museum (1952)

Movies

The Hearts of Age (1934) -- writer, director, actor
Too Much Johnson
(1938) -- writer, producer, director, actor, editor
Swiss Family Robinson
(1940) -- uncredited off-screen narrator
Citizen Kane
(1941) -- writer, producer, director, actor
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) -- writer, uncredited producer, director, voice
Journey Into Fear (1943) -- uncredited writer, uncredited producer, director, actor
Jane Eyre (1944) -- uncredited producer, actor
Tomorrow Is Forever (1946) -- actor
The Stranger (1946) -- uncredited writer, director, actor
Duel in the Sun (1946) -- voice
Monsieur Verdoux (1947) -- developer of idea
The Lady from Shanghai (1947) -- writer, producer, director, actor
Macbeth (1948) -- uncredited writer, producer, director, actor
The Third Man (1949) -- uncredited writer, actor
Black Magic (1949) -- uncredited director, actor
Prince of Foxes (1949) -- actor
The Black Rose (1950) -- actor
Le Petit monde de Don Camillo (1952) -- voice
The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952) -- uncredited writer, producer, director, actor
Trent's Last Case (1952) -- actor
L' Uomo, la bestia e la virtù (1953) -- actor
Si Versailles m'était conté (1954) -- actor
Trouble in the Glen (1954) -- actor
Three Cases of Murder (1955) -- actor
Napoléon (1955) -- actor
Mr. Arkadin (1955) -- writer, producer, director, actor, editor
Moby Dick (1956) -- actor
Man in the Shadow (1957) -- actor
The Long, Hot Summer (1958) -- actor
Touch of Evil (1958) -- writer, director, actor
The Vikings (1958) -- uncredited voice
The Roots of Heaven (1958) -- actor
High Journey (1959) -- voice
Compulsion (1959) -- actor
Ferry to Hong Kong (1959) -- actor
David e Golia (1960) -- director of his own scenes, actor
Crack in the Mirror (1960) -- actor
Austerlitz (1960) -- actor
La Fayette (1961) -- actor
King of Kings (1961) -- uncredited voice
Tartari, I (1961) -- actor
Cronaca familiare (1962) -- uncredited voice
No Exit (1962) -- uncredited director
Le Procès (1962) -- writer, director, actor, editor
Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963) -- actor
The V.I.P.s (1963) -- actor
A King's Story (1965) -- voice
La Fabuleuse aventure de Marco Polo (1965) -- actor
Campanadas a medianoche (1965) -- writer, director, actor
Paris brûle-t-il? (1966) -- actor
A Man for All Seasons (1966) -- actor
The Bible: In the Beginning (1966) -- uncredited writer
Casino Royale (1967) -- actor
The Sailor from Gibraltar (1967) -- actor
I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name (1967) -- actor
Oedipus the King (1967) -- actor
Tepepa (1968) -- actor
Vienna (1968) -- writer, director
The Immortal Story (1968) -- writer, director, actor
House of Cards (1968) -- actor
Kampf um Rom I (1968) -- actor
Vienna (1968) -- producer
Kampf um Rom II -- Der Verrat (1969) -- actor
The Southern Star (1969) -- actor
12 + 1 (1969) -- actor
Bitka na Neretvi (1969) -- actor
Is It Always Right to Be Right? (1970) -- voice
The Golden Honeymoon (1970) -- writer, producer, director, actor
The Deep (1970) -- writer, producer, director, actor
The Kremlin Letter (1970) -- actor
Start the Revolution Without Me (1970) -- narrator
Catch-22
(1970) -- actor
Waterloo (1970) -- actor
Freedom River (1971) -- voice
London (1971) -- writer, director, actor
Malpertius (1971) -- actor
A Safe Place
(1971) -- actor
La Décade prodigieuse
(1971) -- actor
Get to Know Your Rabbit
(1972) -- actor
The Other Side of the Wind (1972) -- writer, director, editor
Treasure Island (1972) -- writer, actor
Necromancy (1972) -- actor
Ein Unbekannter rechnet ab (1974) -- voice
Vérités et mensonges (1974) -- writer, director, editor
Voyage of the Damned (1976) -- actor
Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1977) -- voice
Some Call It Greed (1977) -- voice
Hot Tomorrows (1977) -- voice
Grande attacco, II (1978) -- voice
Filming "Othello" (1978) -- writer, director
The New Media Bible: Book of Genesis
(1979) -- narrator
The Muppet Movie (1979) -- actor
The Double McGuffin (1979) -- voice
The Greenstone (1980) -- voice
Tajna Nikole Tesle
(1980) -- actor
The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (1981) -- actor
History of the World: Part I (1981) -- voice
Filming "The Trial" (1981) -- producer, director
Slapstick (Of Another Kind)
(1982) -- voice
Butterfly (1982) -- actor
Trick or Treats (1982) -- consultant
Hot Money (1983) -- actor
Where Is Parsifal? (1983) -- actor
The Enchanted Journey (1984) -- voice
The Spirit of Charles Lindbergh (1984) -- writer, director

post-humous releases
Transformers: The Movie
(1986) -- voice
Someone to Love (1987) -- voice
Don Quijote de Orson Welles (1992) -- writer, director
It's All True (1993) -- director
The Big Brass Ring (1997) -- writer
The Hearts of Age (1997) -- writer
Moby Dick (1999) -- writer, director
The Hitch Hiker (2004) -- voice

Television

"Omnibus" (1953, 1 episode) -- actor
King Lear
(1953) -- actor
Moby Dick Rehearsed
(1955) -- writer, director, actor
"The Orson Welles Sketchbook" (1955) -- writer, director, host
"Around the World with Orson Welles" (1955) -- writer
"Ford Star Jubilee" (1956, 1 episode) -- actor
Orson Welles and People
(1956) -- writer, producer, director
Portrait of Gina
(1958) -- writer, director
The Fountain of Youth
(1958) -- writer, director, designer, host/narrator
An Arabian Night
(1960) -- storyteller
"In the Land of Don Quixote" (1964) -- producer, director, editor
The Merchant of Venice
(1969) -- writer, director, actor
Upon This Rock
(1970) -- actor
"The Name of the Game" (1970, 1 episode) -- narrator
"Night Gallery" (1971, 1 episode) -- narrator
The Man Who Came to Dinner
(1972) -- actor
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
(1975) -- voice
NBC: The First Fifty Years -- A Closer Look
(1976) -- writer
It Happened One Christmas
(1977) -- voice
A Woman Called Moses
(1978) -- voice
"The Orson Welles Show" (1979) -- director
Shogun
(1980) -- voice
Tales of the Klondike
(1981) -- voice
"Magnum P.I." (1981 and 1983, one episode each season) -- voice of Robin Masters
Wagner e Venezia (1982) -- voice
"Orson Welles' Magic Show" (1985) -- writer, producer, director

Awards

Academy Awards (Oscars)
1942 -- Best Writing, Original Screenplay -- Citizen Kane (shared with Herman J. Makiewicz)
1971 -- Honorary Award for superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures
American Film Institute, USA

1975 -- Life Achievement Award
Cannes Film Festival
1952 -- Grand Prize of Festival -- The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (tied with Due soldi di speranza)
1959 -- Best Actor -- Compulsion (shared with Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman)
1966 -- 20th Anniversary Prize -- Campanadas a medianoche
1966 -- Technical Grand Prize -- Campanadas a medianoche (tied with Skaterdater)
David di Donatello Awards
1983 -- Luchino Visconti Award
Directors Guild of America, USA
1984 -- D.W. Griffith Lifetime Achievement Award
French Syndicate of Cinema Critics (Critics Award)
1964 -- Best Film -- Le Procès
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Motion Picture -- 1600 Vine Street
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
1978 -- Career Achievement Award
National Board of Review, USA
1985 -- Career Achievement Award
Peabody Awards
1959 -- Peabody Award -- The Fountain of Youth (TV)
Radio Hall of Fame
inducted 1988
Venice Film Festival (Golden Lion Awards)
1970 -- Career Golden Lion

Wives and Children

Virginia Nicholson -- November 14, 1934 - February 1, 1940 (divorced) -- 1 son, Christopher
Rita Hayworth -- September 7, 1943 - December 1, 1948 (divorced) -- 1 daughter, Rebecca
Paola Mori -- May 8, 1955 - October 10, 1985 -- 1 daughter, Beatrice (sole heir of his estate)

Trivia

Welles maintained membership in the Magicians' Union and regularly practiced sleight-of-hand magic in case his motion picture career ever came to an abrupt end.

He is the only actor to have appeared in both the American Film Institute and British Film Institute's #1 movie -- Citizen Kane for AFI, The Third Man for BFI.


Internet Movie Database www.imdb.com/name/nm0000080
Wellesnet www.wellesnet.com

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  The Robinson Library > Linguistics, Languages, and Literatures > Motion Pictures

This page was last updated on 05/26/2016.

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