Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to

Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane It s hard not to be interested in the young Orson, especially for one who enjoyed the unequal appearances of the old Orson The book does a good job of describing his progress, although his character remains partially hidden in the shadows I guess Orson would have enjoyed that but the reader may wish fordepth. From BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week Orson Welles, the defining wunderkind of modern entertainment, gets his due in a new biography of his early years including his first forays in theatre and radio before his groundbreaking move to Hollywood.Episode 1 A star is born in Kenosha.Episode 2 Orson gets his first professional acting job at the Gate Theatre, Dublin.Episode 3 A 20 year old white actor from the Midwest is the surprise appointment to direct Macbeth for the Negro Unit.Episode 4 Until O From BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week Orson Welles, the defining wunderkind of modern entertainment, gets his due in a new biography of his early years including his first forays in theatre and radio before his groundbreaking move to Hollywood.Episode 1 A star is born in Kenosha.Episode 2 Orson gets his first professional acting job at the Gate Theatre, Dublin.Episode 3 A 20 year old white actor from the Midwest is the surprise appointment to direct Macbeth for the Negro Unit.Episode 4 Until Orson, no one wanted to produce Marc Bernstein s pro labour opera The Cradle Will Rock, with its clear left wing union sympathies Enthralled with Bernstein, Orson with his partner John Houseman, commit to a Broadway run But as the hot subject of unionisation rages across the nation, the Federal Theatre Project is made to take drastic action.Episode 5 Welles and Houseman agree on a Halloween Eve adaptation of The War Of The Worlds What could possibly go wrong Written by Patrick McGilliganRead by Jack KlaffAbridged and produced by Karen RoseA Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.http www.bbc.co.uk programmes b06tqsbz This book is contains part of a the career of the great George Orson Welles, born May 6, 1915, a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, but the family moved to Chicago in 1918 The first 66 pages tell about his ancestry The Wells or Welles family arrived on the Mayflower says the book, though I have traced my connection to Orson to Priscilla Mullins, his 8th great grandmother who did arrive on the Mayflower and is my 12th cousin 9 times removed.Orson did attend school in the 4th grade when he was 10 This book is contains part of a the career of the great George Orson Welles, born May 6, 1915, a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, but the family moved to Chicago in 1918 The first 66 pages tell about his ancestry The Wells or Welles family arrived on the Mayflower says the book, though I have traced my connection to Orson to Priscilla Mullins, his 8th great grandmother who did arrive on the Mayflower and is my 12th cousin 9 times removed.Orson did attend school in the 4th grade when he was 10 years old in Madison, Wisconsin and lived then on the corner of State and Francis Streets His first published photograph appeared on February 19, 1926 in the afternoon edition of the Capital Times He was already a boy genius By May 26 he had run away from Madison and took the train to Chicago Orson s mother had died already on May 10, 1924 By age 16 Orson was acting professionally in Ireland.By 1938 Orson s Mercury Theatre was doing The War of the Worlds on radio and created a great deal of panic for those who were taking it seriously that the Martians had landed in New Jersey By 1940 Orson was preparing what many considered the greatest film of all time Citizen Kane.That where the main part of the book ends, skipping to October 9, 1985 when Orson appeared for about the 50th time on the Merv Griffin show The next morning he was found dead on the floor.A lot happened between pages 69 and 706, covering littlethan 25 years of Orson s life You d have to read other books to get most of what happened in the years between 1940 and 1985, but this is a very good place to start Orson is one of my earliest heroes and still is one This was a glorious journey through the first twenty five years of Orson Welles life though I was surprised and delighted to discover that the last chapter was an account of his last day About a third of a way into the book, I found myself lamenting my lack of drive and ambition and becoming bitter about the wasted hours I spend fast asleep Whatever about Welles being a genius or a child prodigy, I was absolutely gobsmacked at his capacity for work I m finding it hard to recall a single This was a glorious journey through the first twenty five years of Orson Welles life though I was surprised and delighted to discover that the last chapter was an account of his last day About a third of a way into the book, I found myself lamenting my lack of drive and ambition and becoming bitter about the wasted hours I spend fast asleep Whatever about Welles being a genius or a child prodigy, I was absolutely gobsmacked at his capacity for work I m finding it hard to recall a single example from his teens or early twenties but he was writing editing directing acting in plays while working on other plays, thinking about other plays, getting involve in radio plays, running a theatre with John Houseman simultaneously, or something like that He was a grafter of phenomenal capabilities who lived off a quick snooze every now and then And he didn t lick if off the ground, his mother, an accomplished pianist, and social activist, shared his drive, filling her days with as many and varied interests as she could The book ultimately ends as filming begins on Citizen Kane but provides a fascinating account of the preparations made by Welles before he was ready to shout Action For anyone interested in theatre or film, I highly recommend this as I learned a lot about writing for the stage and screen I didn t want to finish reading this but I know who to read next as McGilligan generously soaks his text with references to the other Welles biographers, including Simon Callow, and their books A bloody wonderful read Voluminous account of the meteoric rise of mega talent Orson Welles and the bumptious imprint of his outsized persona on Broadway and Hollywood Here, Welles, like Citizen Kane, is many people, some familiar precocious prodigy, workaholic visionary, thunderous tyrant and some foreign way faring illustrator, struggling playwright, loving husband So detailed is this study that even the most devout Wellesians will uncover some new Rosebuds eg that Kane was originally conceived as a mus Voluminous account of the meteoric rise of mega talent Orson Welles and the bumptious imprint of his outsized persona on Broadway and Hollywood Here, Welles, like Citizen Kane, is many people, some familiar precocious prodigy, workaholic visionary, thunderous tyrant and some foreign way faring illustrator, struggling playwright, loving husband So detailed is this study that even the most devout Wellesians will uncover some new Rosebuds eg that Kane was originally conceived as a musical A splendid book on Orson Welles.It starts a little slowly, with a lot of material about his parents, but what makes this book valuable is that it looks at Welles early career with a sympathetic eye Unlike Simon Callow s The Road to Xanadu We get to marvel at the inventiveness and energy of Welles, and, in another nice touch, McGilligan takes Welles seriously as a writer.The book takes us up to the first day of shooting on Citizen Kane and then leaps to the last day of Welles life In A splendid book on Orson Welles.It starts a little slowly, with a lot of material about his parents, but what makes this book valuable is that it looks at Welles early career with a sympathetic eye Unlike Simon Callow s The Road to Xanadu We get to marvel at the inventiveness and energy of Welles, and, in another nice touch, McGilligan takes Welles seriously as a writer.The book takes us up to the first day of shooting on Citizen Kane and then leaps to the last day of Welles life In a way, this is the kind of biography Welles would have liked fun, focused on the accomplishments, and not scolding or looking for the hidden flaw that would spoil everything I learned some things about Welles I never knew, and I found this book most enjoyable Decidedly and unashamedly pro Welles, this is just stunning one of those long books that don t feel dragged out at all Very entertaining, to the point, and honest as to Welles faults as McGilligan navigates the evolution of Welles abilities, culminating in the production of Kane Excellent work. Orson Welles all his appetites were outsized food, alcohol, female companionship, work, play, disputes, loyalty Larger than life, indeed Pat McGilligan pays homage to Welles with a fittingly massive biography The subtitle, if somewhat ponderous, accurately describes the subject matter The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane A poignant coda covers Welles last day on earth, but otherwise, all roads indeed lead to Citizen Kane There may be an assumption that Kane was t Orson Welles all his appetites were outsized food, alcohol, female companionship, work, play, disputes, loyalty Larger than life, indeed Pat McGilligan pays homage to Welles with a fittingly massive biography The subtitle, if somewhat ponderous, accurately describes the subject matter The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane A poignant coda covers Welles last day on earth, but otherwise, all roads indeed lead to Citizen Kane There may be an assumption that Kane was the apotheosis of Welles career that sor less conventional wisdom, not necessarily Pat s view, at least as expressed here It s fair to say, I think, that Kane is a work of unquestioned genius So, then, taking Welles career to Kane and no farther sharpens the question of how much of Welles trajectory to that point can be apportioned to genius, and how much to luck Wisely, Pat leaves that conclusion to the reader Welles was preternaturally mature, at least in the sense that at an early age he could comfortably relate to high functioning, successful adults who seemed to treat him as a near equal Combine that with the boy s unadulterated love for performance, including staging plays, Shakespeare in particular, and you simply take as given a genius for language and social intelligence without caring what his scored IQ might have been As for luck, great artists tend to make their own, don t they The recently orphaned Orson takes off for Ireland as an adolescent and in the course of his travels, manages to befriend some of its most celebrated actors and land stage roles of his own Luck, or exploiting opportunities we mere mortals would have missed I won t belabor the point while On the Road to Kane, Welles invariably found himself in the right place at the right time, and just maybe that s because he was himself the uniquely right person to recognize and seize the opportunity the typically blinkered individual would have missed Many philosophers, from Lefty Gomez to Napoleon, have expressed a preference for being lucky rather than good Better lu I d prefer to see it as a function of, the better you are, thethat luck seems to come your way Welles made his own luck, I d say.A word on Pat s writing, which is a sheer pleasure to read Pat has a genuine knack for finding the right word, the precise adjective, the witty epigram Orson s maternal great grandfather led a quiet tick tock, tick tock existence and looked like a clock of a man John G Ives s progress toward prosperity was also metronomic And Delores Del Rio, who frequently served as a tabula rasa for the men in her life, enjoyed listening to Orson almost as much as he enjoyed listening to himself And Alcoholism usually brought out Orson s sympathy it reminded him of his father and of John Barry too and alcoholism allowed him to rationalize all manner of outrageous behavior Mank iewicz was like a writer s Barry In a Sports Illustrated column, Tom Verducci employed a Latin phrase to describe the incomparable Vin Scully eloquentia perfecta Communication of the highest order Seems aptly applied to Young Orson Combine that with Pat s infectious enthusiasm for his subject and an apparent encyclopedic knowledge of the history of dramatic arts film, theater, radio and you ve got a book I can t recommend highly enough.Welles career didn t end with Kane, of course, and his subsequent filmography would be the envy of all but a handful of the best directors There smaterial to be mined, in other words, not least an exploration of why Welles is thought to have had a failed career true only if measured against the impossible standard of helming the greatest film ever at an impossibly early age But Pat doesn t evince any intent to play Robert Caro to LBJ s Orson Welles That s OK, Pat s attained near perfection with this account of Welles early life One minor error The photographic plate displaying several of Welles putative love interests, mixes up Tilly Losch and Vera Zorina For that matter, the actual picture of Losch doesn t really do her justice she was quite stunning and it s easy to see how Welles would have been so smitten by her Consider this little vignette Shortly after the war, Welles was invited as the guest of honor to a celebrity dinner in Vienna The post war mood among the guests was somber According to Jaglom, one guest reportedly said, Vienna is not what it used to be Something has gone out of Vienna Welles tartly replied, Yes The Jews Welles had run across and worked with many Jews in New York and Hollywood of course and his legal guardian was Jewish as well , but none were from Vienna, at least none that appear in the book Except Tilly Losch I thank my 8th grade English teacher for awakening my avid interest in THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and Orson Welles Radio play WAR OF THE WORLDS We listened to the play in class, then she challenged us to do our own play on a cassette,and she played it in the class, if you did onewhich my nephew and I did together I still have the tape somewhere I became of fan of his,and his moviesand I ve enjoyed the talents of Orson for years I had a friend mention that he had bought this I thank my 8th grade English teacher for awakening my avid interest in THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and Orson Welles Radio play WAR OF THE WORLDS We listened to the play in class, then she challenged us to do our own play on a cassette,and she played it in the class, if you did onewhich my nephew and I did together I still have the tape somewhere I became of fan of his,and his moviesand I ve enjoyed the talents of Orson for years I had a friend mention that he had bought this book as a Christmas gift,and I was intrigued I downloaded it on my NOOK, and while reading it I listened to the play again My son gave it to me for a gift several years ago on cd I haven t seen CITIZEN KANE in many many years I am thinking that I need to get a copy somewhere or see if I can find it online to watch I had recently watched both TOUCH OF EVIL and THE THIRD MAN Orson was not afraid to be his own person, to be free to experience on the stage, on the radio,and in Hollywood He had many failures, but pulled himself up by his bootstraps,and kept forging forward He made many friends,and many enemies, but he was a success, and quite a character to boot If you have any interest in him,and his life, I highly recommend this book It read pretty quick considering it was quite long The writing was free flowing,and interesting to say the least Experience Orson On the centennial of his birth, the defining wunderkind of modern entertainment gets his due in a groundbreaking new biography of his early years from his first forays in theater and radio to the inspiration and making of Citizen KaneIn the history of American popular culture, there is no dramatic story no swifter or loftier ascent to the pinnacle of success and no tragic downfall than that of Orson Welles In this magisterial biography, Patrick McGilligan brings young Orson into focus as never before He chronicles Welles s early life growing up in Wisconsin and Illinois as the son of an alcoholic industrialist and a radical suffragist and classical musician, and the magical early years of his career, including his marriage and affairs, his influential friendships, and his artistic collaborationsThe tales of his youthful achievements were so colorful and improbable that Welles, with his air of mischief, was often thought to have made them up Now after years of intensive research, McGilligan sorts out fact from fiction and reveals untold, fully documented anecdotes of Welles s first exploits and triumphs, from starring as a teenager on the Gate Theatre stage in Dublin and bullfighting in Sevilla, to his time in the New York theater and his fraught partnership with John Houseman in the Mercury Theatre, to his arrival in Hollywood and the making of Citizen Kane Filled with intriguing new insights and startling revelations including the surprising true origin and meaning of Rosebud Young Orson is a fascinating look at the creative development and influences that shaped this legendary artistic genius


About the Author: Patrick McGilligan

Patrick McGilligan is the author of Clint one of America s pre eminent film biographers He has written the life stories of directors George Cukor and Fritz Lang both New York Times Notable Books and the Edgar nominated Alfred Hitchcock A Life in Darkness and Light His books have been translated into ten languages He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top