Thursday, June 7, 2012

(30) Stars of Summer - Day 7: Orson Welles

Today's (30) Stars of Summer is the only man to appear in both Citizen Kane and Moonlighting. Don't correct him. It sickens him.

You know the deal by now. Here are the rules. Check out this list of all the month's actors with links to what's available on Netflix Instant. If you're not a Netflix subscriber, maybe this will help.

Day 1: Jimmy Stewart
Day 2: Catherine Deneuve
Day 3: Christopher Lee
Day 4: Bette Davis
Day 5: Nicolas Cage
Day 6: Diane Keaton

Orbilus! Look! It's Unicron!


  1. The Stranger (1946)
    Directed by and starring Orson Welles, as the least German Nazi ever, hiding in a small town in Connecticut after the war. Edward G. Robinson is the detective determined to ferret him out, and Loretta Young is his new bride, unaware of her husband's past. The parts that drag are balanced by nail-biting sequences, including the most harrowing clock tower finale since Back to the Future (um, that happened BEFORE BttF, o'course. Time travel is confusing.)

  2. Touch of Evil(1958)
    Part 2 of Classic Movies Shannon Hasn't Seen Until Now.
    A great film noir directed by Welles who also plays the corrupt cop who crosses path with Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh when a murder happens across the U.S./Mexican border. If you can get pass Heston's dicey performance as a Mexican, this is a great thriller. Welles takes what could of been a one-note villain and makes him complex and surprisingly sympathetic. The scenes with Welles and Marlene Dietrich are fascinating to watch.

    1. Which of the three versions (theatrical, extended and the director's cut based on
      Welles' famous memo) of "Touch of Evil" did you see? All three work, but the non-theatrical versions have more of what works than the cut-a-little-too-close-for-comfort-and-dumped-by-Universal version everybody saw before the restorations.

    2. It was the director's memos cut. It was on TCM awhile back and I put it in my DVR. I knew about the multiple cuts and after seeing this version I'm curious to see the studio cut.

    3. ^^^ Good for you! :-)

      JOURNEY INTO FEAR (1943)

      The much lesser-known film from Welles' RKO days (credited to other writers/director but suspiciously feeling like an Orson picture, especially the creative credits straight out of "Kane" and "Ambersons") has him playing a "Dictator"-like Turkish buffoon playing keep-away with the Nazis by helping an American engineer (co-writer Joseph Cotten in full-on Holly Martins mode) be one step ahead of his pursuers. Way too short (68 min.), low-budget and nonsensical (as were many non-military WWII pulpy flicks of the time) but with a memorable turn by Dolores del Rio in a leopard costume (ay, caramba! :-O) and a pretty cool building-ledge climax. Again though, the movie's most memorable feat is that it feels like a Welles movie even though technically he only appeared in it for a few glorified minutes.

  3. The Muppet Movie

    A bit of a cheat since Welles only has one line (in one of approximately 17,000 celebrity cameos), but the movie is so endlessly entertaining that I couldn't help but use the game as an excuse to watch it again. Pure magic all the way through...they totally deserve that "Rich & Famous" contract.

    One of these days I'll watch The Magnificent Ambersons, I swear!

  4. The Trial (1963)

    One of the most successful interpreations of a nightmare put to film. Anthony Perkins is Joseph K, arrested and tried for a crime never explained to him. Welles directs and lends support in the role of his defender. Perkins was a criminally underrated actor who didn't get many opportunities after "Psycho", and he shines here.

    Discriminating audiences will be put off by the film's disjointed nature and bizaare sense of humor, but in the right frame of mind it packs a real jolt. Interestingly, this is the only film Welles directed aside from Kane that was not altered in any form from his vision.

  5. Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report) (1955) - Another Orson Welles movie taken away and recut over and over. There are SEVEN different versions of this; though I watched what it supposedly the closest to Welles' vision (Criterion's "comprehensive version"), it's hard to form a concrete opinion of the movie without investigating further. Good filmmaking and labyrinth plotting, but it's been done better even by Orson Welles himself. Apparently, this needs six more viewings.

  6. Jane Eyre (1943)

    Welles plays the brooding Rochester in this adaptation of the Bronte novel. Somewhat curiously, he gets billing above Joan Fontaine, who is the title character! The film is quite good, and Welles finds the sardonic wit in his character, which keeps him from being merely a sour ass. Be warned - the first section (with Jane as a child) is heartbreaking. Look for a very young Elizabeth Taylor in those scenes.

  7. Really, how could I not watch Citizen Kane? Everyone always talks about the new filmic techniques invented for the movie, or the struggle to get it made, or how it's unofficially based on Hearst or any number of other real people, but me? I just get drawn into the story. If you can get around the years of baggage the movie carries with it, it's a great drama. (Also, Ebert's commentary is movie dork heaven.)

  8. The Third Man (1949): Probably the best looking black-and-white movie I've ever seen. Welles' scenes are great (the Ferris wheel bit in particular). Too bad we have to wait so long to finally see him. I loved it.

    I can't get that tune out of my head!