70 (passed away Oct. 10th, 1985)
May. 6th, 1915
Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA
Guest TV Roles
Himself - Host
Himself - Presenter
His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was nine) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr. Maurice Bernstein.
In 1931 he graduated from the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois; he turned down college offers for a sketching tour of Ireland. He tried unsuccessfully to enter the London and Broadway stages, traveling some more in Morocco and Spain (where he fought in the bullring). Recommendations by 'Thornton Wilder' and 'Alexander Woollcott' got him into Katherine Cornell's road company, with which he made his New York debut as Tybalt in 1934. The same year he married, directed his first short, and appeared on radio for the first time. He began working with 'John Houseman' and formed the Mercury Theatre with him in 1937.
In 1938 they produced The Mercury Theatre on the Air, famous for its broadcast version of "The War of the Worlds" (intended as a Halloween prank). His first film to be seen by the public was Citizen Kane (1941), a commercial failure losing RKO $150,000, but regarded by many as the best film ever made. Many of his next films were commercial failures and he exiled himself to Europe in 1948. In 1956 he directed Touch of Evil (1958); it failed in the U.S. but won a prize at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. In 1975, in spite of all his box-office failures, he received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1984 the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honor, the 'D.W. Griffith' Award. His reputation as a film maker has climbed steadily ever since.
- Wrote his novel "Mr. Arkadian" during an extended stay with 'Laurence Olivier' (qv) and his wife 'Vivien Leigh' (qv). Welles was appearing at Olivier's St. James Theater in London at the time.
- Died the same day as 'Yul Brynner' (qv).
- On 30 October 1938, he directed the Mercury Theatre On the Air in a dramatization of "War of the Worlds", based on 'H.G. Wells' (qv)' novel. Setting the events in then-contemporary locations (The "landing spot" for the Martian invasion, Grover's Mill, New Jersey, was chosen at random with a New Jersey road map) and dramatizing it in the style of a musical program interrupted by news bulletins, complete with eye-witness accounts, it caused a nationwide panic, with many listeners fully convinced that the Earth was being invaded by Mars. The next day, Welles publicly apologized. While many lawsuits were filed against both Welles and the CBS radio network, all were dismissed. The incident is mentioned in textbook accounts of mass hysteria and the delusions of crowds.
- Has the distinction of appearing in both the American Film Institute and British Film Institute's #1 movie. For AFI it was _Citizen Kane (1941)_ (qv). For BFI it was _The Third Man (1949)_ (qv). Welles shares this distinction with 'Joseph Cotten (I)' (qv), who also stared in both "Kane" and "Third Man".
- He died only two hours after being interviewed on _"The Merv Griffin Show" (1962)_ (qv) on October 10, 1985.
- Told 'Peter Bogdanovich' (qv) that, as a practicing magician, he became adept at the old carny trick of fortune-telling, but he became so good at it that it scared him. He was worried that he'd come to believe he actually DID have the power to tell the future, like the self-deluded fortune tellers known as a "shut eye."
- When execs at RKO couldn't decide on greenlight-ing _Citizen Kane (1941)_ (qv), Orson asked for film equipment and a small crew released so he could spend the mid-way time doing test shots. Not wanting their New-York-import to grow cold with the RKO deal, they granted the request ... Orson proceeded to shoot actual scenes of the movie. By the time execs realized what he had done, Orson had many key scenes complete. They green-lit _Citizen Kane (1941)_ (qv) ... Already having financed the picture, unknowingly.
- He was awarded 2 Stars on the HOllywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 1600 Vine Street and for Radio at 6652 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.