John Landis, "the asshole from Animal House"
September 7, 2019 8:30 AM   Subscribe

A bold artist acts first and thinks later. In the case of Orson Welles, one of the boldest artists produced by 20th-century America, that habit also found its way into his speech. This became especially true in the interviews he gave later in life, when he freely offered his opinions, solicited or otherwise, on the work of his fellow filmmakers. The man who made Citizen Kane didn't hesitate to roast, for instance, the European auteurs who ascended after his own career in cinema seemed to stall, and whose work he elaborately satirized in the posthumously released The Other Side of the Wind. His considered remarks include the following: "There's a lot of Bergman and Antonioni that I'd rather be dead than sit through." No, Orson, tell us what you really think.(Via)
posted by growabrain (29 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's a grain of truth in all those criticism. However, it's interesting that most of his opinions are things I thought while half-way through a given movie, before completely changing my mind by the end (Antonioni, in particular). Perhaps Welles never made it to the end of a movie.
posted by acrasis at 8:57 AM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


later in life

Well wasn't he drunk all the time, by this point?
posted by thelonius at 9:02 AM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


A lot of these are from my lunches with Orson which is a truly fantastic book
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 AM on September 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


Orson verbally punching John Landis in the balls so hard it might begin to explain Max Landis

Not that there's any excuse for Max Landis but this made me laugh out loud.
posted by octothorpe at 9:10 AM on September 7, 2019 [15 favorites]


From the links at the bottom of the second article - Citizen Kane reviewed by Jorge Luis Borges
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:17 AM on September 7, 2019 [6 favorites]


Welles considered montage/editing to be the heart of film-making. No wonder he didn't like Antonioni's long deliberate takes. That being said, the Antonioni parody scenes in The Other Side of the Wind were some of my favorite bits from that movie.

I feel this article shows him a bit out of context. He gave other interviews where he's much more nuanced in his opinions:

"I don't like to dwell on things. It's one of the reasons I'm so bored with Antonioni - the belief that, because a shot is good, it's going to get better if you keep looking at it. He gives you a full shot of somebody walking down a road. And you think, 'Well, he's not going to carry that woman all the way up that road.' But he does. And then she leaves and you go on looking at the road after she's gone."

In "This is Orson Welles", his book length interview with Bogdanovich, he actually asked to have a number of those critical opinions deleted because he didn't want to hurt other directors:

Here follows a full reel of tape in which Orson attacks a number of filmmakers whose work he detests. This material was very colorful indeed, but the following letter from Orson which I received soon after he was sent the typed transcript of this day's work, leaves me no choice in the matter:

Dear Peter,

How do you like having another director lick into you? It hurts, doesn't it? You tell yourself that you are angry, but the truth is that you are hurt. I know I am. A bad word from a colleague can darken a whole day. We need encouragement a lot more than we admit, even to ourselves. There's quite enough poison floating in the Hollywood air as it is, why add to the pollution?

Of course, I hate those movies we were talking about the other day, but I don't hate the men who made them. Or want to distress them even a little bit. You told me on the phone it was very funny when I said that [name deleted] ought to be put in jail. Well, let's commute the sentence. The book doesn't need it.

Always remember that your heart is God's little garden.

Your's ever,
Louis Mae [sic] Alcott

He was, like most great artists, a complicated guy.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:22 AM on September 7, 2019 [34 favorites]


Not terribly relevant to the content, but whenever I read speech by Wells it comes out in the Maurice Lamarche Wells voice; the Brain voice, essentially, but he’s done it on many shows.

I... watch more cartoons than classic cinema these days.
posted by mellow seas at 10:29 AM on September 7, 2019 [13 favorites]


Considering how ridiculous almost everything Wells says it’s better to make the voice a little fun and goofier anyway.
posted by mellow seas at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yes, always.
posted by gauche at 10:53 AM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


> Of course, I hate those movies [...], I don't hate the men who made them.

Except I guess for the part where he literally says "I hate Woody Allen" :)

Also, if I was a director, I'm sure I'd rather be on that particular hit list than be left out and ignored...
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 10:54 AM on September 7, 2019


This is the person who made Touch of Evil.

He's allowed to vent on other film makers.

That is all.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:56 AM on September 7, 2019 [13 favorites]


hmmm. Brings to mind something somebody else said recently about somebody else.

"I don't like what he's saying, which doesn't mean he isn't f***ing right."
posted by philip-random at 11:46 AM on September 7, 2019 [7 favorites]


> Considering how ridiculous almost everything Wells says it’s better to make the voice a little fun and goofier anyway.
posted by mellow seas

or with melodic accompaniments
posted by pantsrobot at 12:19 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Not terribly relevant to the content, but whenever I read speech by Wells it comes out in the Maurice Lamarche Wells voice; the Brain voice, essentially, but he’s done it on many shows.

I haven't watched a cartoon in 20(?) years and this is still true for me.
posted by seraphine at 1:28 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, Lamarche also dubbed the voice of Welles in Ed Wood.
posted by Omon Ra at 1:35 PM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


Before Maurice Lamarche, the premiere Orson Welles voice imitator was Paul Frees, a voice actor from Mel Blanc's generation best known for Ludwig VonDrake and Boris Badenov, and who got to direct one movie in the '50s titled "The Beatniks" that became an episode of MST3K. Into the '60s, his largest source of income was doing Welles' voice, including "narrating" much of Disneyland's original Tomorrowland attractions. It was said that during Orson Welles' declining years, the one person he despised the most was Paul Frees. But no interviewers were particularly interested in Orson's opinion of cartoon voice actors.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:40 PM on September 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, Lamarche also dubbed the voice of Welles in Ed Wood .

Yes, Orson Welles was such a character that it takes two actors at a time to play him.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:48 PM on September 7, 2019 [13 favorites]


Before Maurice Lamarche, the premiere Orson Welles voice imitator was Paul Frees, a voice actor from Mel Blanc's generation... Into the '60s, his largest source of income was doing Welles' voice, including "narrating" much of Disneyland's original Tomorrowland attractions.

And nowadays, there's a voice actor by the name of Corey Burton, who does such a good imitation of Paul Frees that he has a regular gig at the Disney Parks whenever they need to update or add something to one of Paul Frees's original narrations (such as the holiday overlay to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion). It's the circle of life...
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:54 PM on September 7, 2019 [6 favorites]


I recently watched The Other Side of the Wind, and the only parts I found interesting were the film-within-a-film sequences that satirized Antonioni. The rest was turgid, disjointed, mannered and inexplicable. I hated it. And it was so LONG.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:29 PM on September 7, 2019 [1 favorite]


I didn't mind it for the alcohol sodden takedown it was of whatever the hell was going on in behind-the-scenes Hollywood at the time. But I didn't watch it all in one go, just kept coming back to it for some reason or other. Netflix is good for that, I find, watching a movie like you read a book -- a few pages at a time.
posted by philip-random at 2:42 PM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


Duke Ellington in his autobiography, Music Is My Mistress, never seemed to say a bad word about anyone. He describes an encounter with Orson Welles in which Welles came up to Duke after one of Duke's shows to give him about twelve unsolicited notes of advice. Duke said every suggestion was genius.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:03 PM on September 7, 2019 [14 favorites]


Meh, I'm an irrational Welles defender even though he's completely out of my wheelhouse (middlebrow symbols of genius, not for me). For comparison, his "roast" of Jimmy Stewart (watch, or skip, to the end, if you must).
posted by praemunire at 6:01 PM on September 7, 2019 [5 favorites]


For a little balance one of the most endearing things I've seen of Welles is his interview with Andy Kaufman.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:16 PM on September 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


“During my almost thirty years as a professional film critic, I’ve developed something of a sideline — not so much by design as through a combination of passionate interest and particular opportunities — devoted to researching the work and career of Orson Welles.” Orson Welles as Ideological Challenge
posted by The Whelk at 7:48 PM on September 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


That letter to Bogdanovich redeems an awful lot. "Always remember that your heart is God's little garden" could have come from Fred Rogers.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:02 PM on September 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


I have exactly two obsessions, socialism and Orson Welles and they come together in the comment he made when Cradle Will Rock was being floated as a production in the early 80s that it was “maybe too politically direct “ and that Rupert Everett was slated to play him which he opposed cause “I was a froggy youth”.
posted by The Whelk at 8:31 PM on September 7, 2019 [9 favorites]


I mean, I would cut him slack for the rest of time for his entrance in The Third Man, which I would put up in my personal pantheon with Omar Sharif's first appearance in Lawrence of Arabia (but which, unlike that sequence, relies heavily on the actor's ability to directly engage the camera).
posted by praemunire at 8:52 PM on September 7, 2019 [9 favorites]


I think that of all my FPPs, these comments are the most interesting
posted by growabrain at 1:57 AM on September 8, 2019 [3 favorites]


I found The other Side of the Wind to be next to unwatchable on the first try, but of all of his botched and unfinished works, this is the one I think can least be blamed on him, as none of the editing was done while he lived. And as much as he’s known for crafting inimitable camera shots, the true mark of an Orson Welles film was always the editing - a skill which he valued over all others and often compared to making music. And if there’s one thing glaringly missing from The Other Side of the Wind, it is the music.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:04 AM on September 8, 2019


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