Orson Welles

Playwright, Film director

1915 – 1985

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Who was Orson Welles?

George Orson Welles was an American actor, director, writer and producer who worked in theater, radio and film. He is best remembered for his innovative work in all three media, most notably Caesar, a groundbreaking Broadway adaptation of Julius Caesar and the debut of the Mercury Theatre; The War of the Worlds, one of the most famous broadcasts in the history of radio; and Citizen Kane, consistently ranked as one of the all-time greatest films.

After directing a number of high-profile productions in his early twenties, including an innovative adaptation of Macbeth and The Cradle Will Rock, Welles found national and international fame as the director and narrator of a 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds performed for the radio anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It reportedly caused widespread panic when listeners thought that an invasion by extraterrestrial beings was occurring. Although these reports of panic were mostly false and overstated, they rocketed Welles to notoriety.

His first film was Citizen Kane, which he co-wrote, produced, directed, and starred in as Charles Foster Kane. Welles was an outsider to the studio system and directed only 13 full-length films in his career. While he struggled for creative control in the face of studios, his films were heavily edited and others remained unreleased. His distinctive directorial style featured layered and nonlinear narrative forms, innovative uses of lighting such as chiaroscuro, unusual camera angles, sound techniques borrowed from radio, deep focus shots, and long takes. He has been praised as a major creative force and as "the ultimate auteur." Welles followed up Citizen Kane with critically acclaimed films, including The Magnificent Ambersons in 1942, and Touch of Evil in 1958.

Famous Quotes:

  • I hate it when people pray on the screen. It's not because I hate praying, but whenever I see an actor fold his hands and look up in the spotlight, I'm lost. There's only one other thing in the movies I hate as much, and that's sex. You just can't get in bed or pray to God and convince me on the screen.
  • I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.
  • Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that's printed about him.
  • My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.
  • I don't say we all ought to misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could.
  • Ecstasy is not really part of the scene we can do on celluloid.
  • I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won't contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.
  • The ideal American type is perfectly expressed by the Protestant, individualist, anti-conformist, and this is the type that is in the process of disappearing. In reality there are few left.
  • The laws and the stage, both are a form of exhibitionism.
  • Hollywood is the only industry, even taking in soup companies, which does not have laboratories for the purpose of experimentation.

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Born
May 6, 1915
Kenosha
Also known as
  • George Orson Welles
  • G.O. Spelvin
  • O.W. Jeeves
  • Orson Wells
  • Welles
Parents
Siblings
Spouses
Children
Religion
  • Catholicism
Nationality
  • United States of America
Profession
Education
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Todd Seminary for Boys
Died
Oct 10, 1985
Hollywood

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

Citation

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"Orson Welles." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 2 Dec. 2021. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/orson_welles>.

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