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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

THE AUCTION OF ORSON WELLES

                                             
The daughter of Orson Welles lives in Sedona.  Her name is Beatrice, she is 59 years old, and is the offspring of Welles and his third and last wife, Paola Mori. 

Beatrice has decided to auction off several items from Welles’ estate because she thinks they would be better off in the hands of those who appreciate Welles’ work rather than gathering dust in a museum.  Since she lives in Sedona, I assume she is not destitute and selling the stuff just to get some dough.  Her reasoning makes sense too.  I’m sure there are still many Orson Welles fans around who will appreciate his mementos.

There may be some who never heard of Orson Welles.  For those who fit that category, it’s all right since Welles died in 1985 at age 70 and I realize that for many younger movie fans, nothing happened before their lifetimes.  They are still mesmerized by Donnie Walberg and Leonardo DiCaprio.

I admit that Welles was an acquired taste for many but he did enough in his lifetime to gain fame and produce a lot of great films.   He also scared the hell out of a lot of people on Halloween night, October 30, 1938 when he and his Mercury Theater players did a radio version of H. G. Wells’ sci-fi classic, “The War of the Worlds.”  Most of the six million who tuned into that broadcast knew it was a spoof but enough thought it was real enough to cause quite a stir.

If I was to choose some favorite films by Welles I would start with probably his greatest:   “Citizen Kane” (1941).  Although William Randolph Hearst’s name is never used in the film, Charles Foster Kane showed a remarkable resemblance to Hearst while Dorothy Comingore resembled his lover, actress Marion Davies. 

Booth Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942) is another fine Welles’ film with a great cast consisting of Agnes Moorehead, Welles (as narrator), Joseph Cotten and other stars of the day.  Unfortunately, after Welles completed the film and was working on another project, his studio (RKO) sweetened the ending of that film which was a big mistake.

In 1949, Welles starred in “The Third Man” which may have been his best acting role as the evil Harry Lime.  The use of a zither for the background music is haunting and adds a lot to the suspense.  A beautiful and young Alida Valli isn’t hard on the eyes either.  She was quite a dish!

In 1958, “Touch of Evil” was released and portrayed Welles as an aging, blustering, crooked police officer in a small Mexican border town (actually filmed in Venice, California).  Welles is outstanding among a cast that includes Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston in the unbelievable role as a Mexican narcotics officer!

Even if Ms Welles is selling out for the money, I doubt if her father would mind.  Orson Welles once said: “I am essentially a hack, a commercial person.  If I had a hobby, I would immediately make money on it or abandon it.”                                                          


Orson Welles (R) and Joseph Cotten in "The
Third Man" (1949)