Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Notes to Tomorrow Night's "Evening with Orson Welles"

Its a collection of three short films by or starring the old master himself, Orson Welles.
"Lord Mountdrago"(1955)Welles plays the stuffy British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who is somehow haunted in his dreams by a living colleague he once humiliated. Welles was living in England at the time and this weird mixture of comedy (a party sequence lurches into goofy delirium) and ghost story was pretty typical of the acting work he was doing at the time. The scipt is based on a short story by W. Somerset Maugham.
"The Return to Glennescaul" (1951) is narrated by Welles and was directed by his two acting mentors Hilton Edwards and Michael MaccLaimoir of Dublin's Gate Theater. It was apparently shot during one of the many breaks in the filming of Welles' "Othello" and may represent a payoff to MaccLaimoir who was playing Iago in said film and dealing with the film's chaotic production history. As such this is a neat little ghost story, we've heard it all before and it even forms the crux of a "Growing Pains" episode. However it was rare for the artistic leadership of the Gate Theater to go in for of any type films so it remains a novel curio in the Welles videography.
"The Fountain of Youth" A chance guest appearance by Welles on "I Love Lucy" led to a hook up with Desi Arnaz who financed this pilot to a never produced Welles anthology series. As such it is a return to the sort of intimate storytelling effects that Welles pioneered on radio with the Mercury Theater of the Air. Although one suspects the emphasis with this program would be more on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" type shock stories and the like rather than the radio programs classical adaptations.
Welles pretty much reinvents television cinematography here, he make extensive use of close ups, freeze frames and dissolves on minimal sets...and by ghod it works!
A great pity that the program was never produced, it marks Welles as an innovator in film, radio and television.
We will also be screening some theatrical trailers from Welles' film career, running the gamut from his own productions to the amiable hackwork he did for the money.

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