70 (passed away Oct. 10th, 1985)
May. 6th, 1915
Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA
Guest TV Roles[none found]
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.
- Was voted the 2nd Greatest Film Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
- 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.
- Father, with 'Virginia Nicholson' (qv), of Christopher (b. 1937).
- 'Frank Sinatra' (qv) was the godfather of one of his daughters.
- 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."
- Wanted to make films of two literary masterpices, 'Herman Melville' (qv)'s "Moby Dick" and 'Joseph Heller' (qv)'s "Catch-22", but had to be satisfied in having supporting roles in the films made of the two books by 'John Huston (I)' (qv) and 'Mike Nichols (I)' (qv).
- When he signed on to direct _Touch of Evil (1958)_ (qv), instead of reading the book on which it was based, a pulp novel named "Badge of Evil," he completely changed an early draft of the script.
- A bootleg tape of a short-tempered (and foul-mouthed) Orson Welles arguing with a recording engineer during a voice-over session has been widely distributed. It was used as the basis for an episode of the cartoon show _"Pinky and the Brain" (1995)_ (qv), with The Brain reading cleaned-up verions of Orson's rantings (the episode's title, "Yes, Always", is taken from one of Orson's complaints). Ironically, the actor who plays The Brain, 'Maurice LaMarche' (qv), dubbed the voice of the actor who portrays Orson Welles in _Ed Wood (1994)_ (qv).