Orson Welles - full of country goodness and green pea-ness
February 18, 2008 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Get me a jury and show me how you can say "in July" and I'll… go down on you. Orson Welles, famed for his acting and directing in such classics as Citizen Kane, also spent his later years doing occasional voiceover work for commercials -- most famously, this spot for Findus Frozen Peas.

His critiques of the dialog and line readings that the producers ask of him end with him leaving the studio in disgust. The moment has been parodied by Pinky and the Brain (this clip with the original Welles audio over the animation) and The Critic. Here's a full transcript.
posted by MsMolly (65 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also a fun read: From Rosebud to Unicron - "A little known fact about Orson Welles is that for his last role he played a Transformer"
posted by wfrgms at 8:19 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"In your depths of your ignorance, what is it you want? Whatever it is you want, I can’t deliver it because I just don’t see it."

I think I will have this placed on really nice plaques and give one to each of my dissertation committee members.
posted by oddman at 8:22 AM on February 18, 2008 [14 favorites]


If this isn't a double, I'll eat my Findus Frozen Peas.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2008


The Pinky and the Brain clip really brings it to life.
posted by bluejayk at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott, it seemed strange that it hadn't been posted before to me too, but if it's a double it eluded my searching skills.
posted by MsMolly at 8:39 AM on February 18, 2008


I find Welles' reduced circumstances later in his life endlessly depressing. But it cheers me to know he remained an imperious bastard to the end.

I think voiceover outtakes are really interesting, as I generally find voiceover work to be the most impersonal form of acting. You don't see the actor, each line can be separately recorded, and the audio is assembled to fit some frozen video element. Voiceover actors are extremely talented, but the end result is often so perfect that it lacks a certain humanity. These Welles links are great, because they really show his talent, despite/in spite of the context.

And with that, I hereby derail this thread from the sublime Welles to the absurd Thurdercats outtakes, which I think are a riot (NSFW, as Liono has a filthy mouth).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


"Mrs. Smith's Peas, even more delicious when your dead"
posted by khaibit at 8:44 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


This was one of the first tracks I ever ran across on Napster. A singular track, both depressing and hilarious and full of goosd wholesome snark that young MeFites need to grow healthy and strong.
posted by not_on_display at 8:44 AM on February 18, 2008


Okay, this is ancient, but maybe it's never been FPPed to MeFi before.

Maybe the enormously entertaining Buddy Rich Tour Bus Tapes have never been posted either. Those of you who've never heard these, and don't know what a pathological asshole he was, check 'em out!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2008


It's been linked in comments before, but not as an FPP, it looks like.

And Welles is right, you can't say "In July." But I'm not paying off his bet if he's proved wrong.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:46 AM on February 18, 2008


I thought it was a double at first too, but it isn't: some of these were just posted in comments to this recent thread.
posted by jrb223 at 8:46 AM on February 18, 2008


AHHH the French Champagne...
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:47 AM on February 18, 2008


Admiral Haddock, typically the voices are recorded first and then the animation is done to match the voice work. The audio isn't assembled to match the video except that it may be edited and pared down to fit within the program's time constraints, before animation starts.
posted by Evstar at 8:51 AM on February 18, 2008


Yes, always.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:51 AM on February 18, 2008


Whenever Welles says "It's fermented in the bottle", I always want to add "AND SO ARE YOU!"
posted by pxe2000 at 8:57 AM on February 18, 2008


Both Brain and The Critic's Welles were performed by voice god Maurice LaMarche. Here he is working both sides of the frozen peas bit live.
posted by Iridic at 9:01 AM on February 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


"This is a lot of shit, you know that?"

I love this clip, and the clip TrialByMedia linked to. Thanks for the post.
posted by cog_nate at 9:11 AM on February 18, 2008


Oh - and who could forget Welles' appearance on Christmas with Liberace?
posted by Iridic at 9:14 AM on February 18, 2008


I was staggered when I first found reference to this online. Because, of course, as a child I was a regular watcher of Pinky and the Brain and I had seen the short, which was called Yes, Always. I was maybe twelve. It was one of the more bizarre episodes if you didn't know the context. Mildly funny but just...strange. Then years later on the internet I see the clip of Orson Welles and my jaw fucking drops. I frantically search for the Pinky and the Brain clip, find it, and watch it five times in a row in a state of utter amazement. It makes me want to go back to all my childhood cartoons and see what else they were saying that went straight over my head.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


and who could forget...

I love this. IT'S HIS FAULT.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2008


So good.
posted by 1 at 9:31 AM on February 18, 2008


If I understand his criticism right, Welles is wrong. Example:

"Before July, the peas are good but they have not reached their ultimate ripeness. In July, they bring tears to the eyes of grown men."
posted by DU at 9:44 AM on February 18, 2008


We know a little place in the American Far West, where Charlie Briggs chops up the finest prairie-fed beef and tastes…

That is a lot of shit. "Chops up the finest beef?" Jesus Christ, you're talking about the process of chopping up flesh in an advertisement? For fuck's sake, that's revolting.

That's like...
"There's a little place in the badlands of South Dakota where Sam Smotherton carefully slices the jugular of his finest, fatest pigs and hangs their delicious carcasses by their hind quarters until all the blood has drained, leaving nothing but succulent swine meat, ready for your dinner table."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:45 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


And DU, the appropriate word in that case would be BY July. And it would still be a wretched example.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:47 AM on February 18, 2008


No, they aren't good BY July. On June 31st they are still subpar. They are good IN July, i.e. starting on July 1st.

And he didn't ask for a good example, he said there was "no possible way".
posted by DU at 9:51 AM on February 18, 2008


you're talking about the process of chopping up flesh in an advertisement? For fuck's sake, that's revoltingdelicious.

FTFY
posted by grouse at 9:56 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


the appropriate word in that case would be BY July,

or EVERY july
posted by shmegegge at 9:57 AM on February 18, 2008


On June 31st they are still subpar.

On June 31st, they are PEAS FROM THE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE!!! [cue Theremin]
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:02 AM on February 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


I took freshman audiocraft at NYU and my professor would bring these in when we scored well on quizzes. He took such joy in playing the Welles "in the" bit because he simply loved, roughly quoting him here, "the way you can actually hear everyone in the booth just kissing his ass the entire time."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is hilarious, I can't believe I've never seen it before. (Having been wasting time on the internet for OH SO MANY YEARS now).

It makes me want to go back to all my childhood cartoons and see what else they were saying that went straight over my head.

Comic books are fun for that, too. Grant Morrison throws in a shit-ton of Smiths/Morrissey lyrics where you'd least expect them, which cracks me up because my boyfriend the Morrissey-hater never realizes which ones are direct quotes unless I point them out. (As I did with the latest Doom Patrol trade paperback).

I also like making crazy 80s references at work to confound my younger business partner. When she was on a Crystal Light drinking kick (seriously -- eww), and defended it thusly: "But I like Crystal Light!", I said: "Why? because you believe in you?"

Oh, bad 80s commercials! I miss you so!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:04 AM on February 18, 2008


The phrase, "We know a certain fjord in Norway, near where the cod gather in great shoals," makes me giggle like Bojangles Robinson every time I hear it.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 10:04 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"They're filled with green peaness."
posted by anazgnos at 10:08 AM on February 18, 2008


No, they aren't good BY July. On June 31st they are still subpar. They are good IN July, i.e. starting on July 1st.

Actually, by isn't quite correct, but not for the reason you state. "By July" means they won't be good until July, so your June 31st statement isn't correct. But "by July" doesn't convey that they won't be good come August 1st, which "in July" does encompass.

Still, it's terrible English. And that "chopping up the flesh and tasting it" thing is just... blech.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:10 AM on February 18, 2008


Thanks for the clarification on the animation voiceovers--I had always thought voice recording came last, like ADR or something.

Coincidentally, "succulent swine meat" was my nickname all throughout high school. Those were heady days, let me tell you.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:13 AM on February 18, 2008


I wonder if I could get Maurice Lamarche to read the lyrics of Cake's "Frank Sinatra" as Welles:

"We know of an ancient radiation that haunts dismembered constellations, a faintly glimmering radio station."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:21 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Crumb-crisp coating. Mm. Crumb-crisp coating.
posted by bokane at 10:43 AM on February 18, 2008


During July?
posted by Gungho at 10:46 AM on February 18, 2008


I didn't know that Orson Welles was the dad on The Brady Bunch.
posted by Justinian at 11:11 AM on February 18, 2008




Thanks for the clarification on the animation voiceovers--I had always thought voice recording came last, like ADR or something.

occasionally it does happen post-animation. Evstar is correct regarding animation created from scratch; however, in the magical land of adapting animation for US audiences, the actors record to existing picture. which means that scripts must be rewritten to match the "flap", or animated mouth movement.
posted by dubold at 11:15 AM on February 18, 2008


And Welles is right, you can't say "In July."

Welles directed Shakespeare plays when he was still in his teens, which means he had decades of experience about the proper way to read a line. I can certainly understand his lack of patience with a not-so-bright voiceover "director."
posted by jonp72 at 11:31 AM on February 18, 2008


Whatever his flaws, Orson Welles was a brilliant man. Writer, director, actor. His voiceover work shows great appreciation in nuance and tone.
The man clearly, however, knew nothing about expressing aggression.

Threatening to blow someone as a form of ultimatum, really, is not much of a threat.
“You want a piece of me? I will go DOWN on you motherfucker! I will french you to completion if you mess with me, man.”
“Whoa man, calm down. Last thing I want is a blowjob. It’s cool. Just don’t purse your lips at me anymore.”
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 11:39 AM on February 18, 2008


Maurice LaMarche, for the uninitiated, is the go-to guy when the voice of Orson Welles is required. He voiced Welles in The Critic, The Simpsons and Tim Burton's Ed Wood (dubbing over Vincent D'Onofrio), as well as voicing The Brain in full-bore Welles mode. Truly a voice god.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:41 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


A follow-up to Smallpox's comment: "They're even better when you're dead!"
posted by grouse at 11:52 AM on February 18, 2008


Always have loved this bit of recorded audio phenomena. I positively abused these in my late-night radio heyday. Also, the Animaniacs were adult cartoons with just enough veneer to get them on network television in the afternoon. My roommate and I would watch them in drunken amazement. Such was the life of a philosophy undergrad.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:11 PM on February 18, 2008


The way I see it, if you hire someone like Orson Welles to voice your pea commercial, you pretty much let him do it HIS way. Why would you want to pay for Orson Welles and then have him sound like someone who was not quite Orson Welles?

If you want to micromanage every emphasis and every utterance, then pay your local radio DJ $50 and have him read it 20 times and take your pick.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:14 PM on February 18, 2008


I might go my entire life before understanding what was meant by the line "Here, under protest, is beef burgers."

Who is protesting what, and why?
posted by bryanjbusch at 12:37 PM on February 18, 2008


They had us listen to this back when I was a stripling taking Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson. It was the beginning of our first vocal performance class, actually. Thinking back, that's a pretty bizarre way to start a voiceover class. Hm.
posted by Shepherd at 12:57 PM on February 18, 2008


Oh, and design8r, Welles is sick to death of these people and their stupid ads and he would rather not be doing any of them; he is hence doing the beef ad "under protest."
posted by Shepherd at 12:58 PM on February 18, 2008


"Under protest" is something of a legal term, design8r. It signifies that you're performing a certain duty only to discharge some unjust obligation, and that you intend to seek damages or further compensation for it as soon as the business is complete.

Welles deploys the phrase as an impressive way to say "so beneath my dignity. So, so, so far beneath my dignity. Can you believe this, Posterity? Orson Welles. Beef burgers. Christ."
posted by Iridic at 1:05 PM on February 18, 2008


Hi, this is Barry White... FUCK THIS SHIT!

Mmm, sexy, sexy outrage and frustration.
posted by dgaicun at 1:08 PM on February 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


As a complete novice who got to direct recording sessions featuring some established voice-over actors, I knew that:

1. As Ynoxas said, you step the hell back and let the professionals do their work. Sure, you might go back and try to get them to do some "alternate" readings, because "the client's going to want it." But if Orson Welles, even in the depths of his alcoholism, can't find a way to do it, maybe that's a sign it shouldn't be done. Take what you can get and move on.

2. This tape is my nightmare. The VO people I worked with were unbelievably nice, unbelievably talented, and made my job much easier than it by all rights should have been. I was the expendable one in the room, and we all knew it. If they'd wanted to pull something like Welles pulls, I don't know what I would have done.
posted by PlusDistance at 1:15 PM on February 18, 2008 [3 favorites]




Today, voices are done first. Witness The Magic 7, an animated movie whose latest rumored completion and release (of many) is this coming December, starring JOHN CANDY, who's been dead for coming on 15 years now.

Candy recorded his stuff in the early 90s along with the rest of the cast, including Madeline Kahn (who's also dead) Michael J. Fox, Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones. I don't know what the problem is with this movie, but it's killed more production companies than you can shake a stick at. But all those names with their voice work already done. Every time it dies, another producer comes along who thinks they can get it finished and they'll have this ultra-cool thing.

But, that said, in the days before digital editing, might it have been done differently? Because it sure sounds to me like they're recording to already edited film in that argument over exactly when to say July. Wells wants it to be over the snow and the directors apparently have it over the big plate of peas.
posted by Naberius at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2008


So, is Orson overthinking a plate of peas?
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:58 PM on February 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I miss Mr. Welles.
posted by batmonkey at 2:11 PM on February 18, 2008


This is one of those things, like Public Image Ltd.'s appearance on the Tom Snyder show, that I saw parodies of and references to for years without ever seeing the original or really knowing what was being parodied. It's an interesting phenomenon, where something is so widely parodied and referenced that the references eclipse the original. Is there a word or phrase to describe that?
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:32 PM on February 18, 2008


Is there a word or phrase to describe that?

Not that I know of. I propose it be referred to as an "Orson".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 PM on February 18, 2008


This is one of those things, like Public Image Ltd.'s appearance on the Tom Snyder show, that I saw parodies of and references to for years without ever seeing the original or really knowing what was being parodied. It's an interesting phenomenon, where something is so widely parodied and referenced that the references eclipse the original. Is there a word or phrase to describe that?

Yes indeed. It's called the Weird Al Effect. I mean, do you remember who Greg Kihn was? Yeah, I thought so.
posted by jonp72 at 6:36 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I mean, do you remember who Greg Kihn was?

I do, actually, though mostly because I once read one of his horror novels. It was rather better than I expected.
posted by Iridic at 6:53 PM on February 18, 2008


Blessed be SCTV and their compulsive need for willful obscurity: John Candy nailed this back in 1981 during the SCTV Christmas Special, as well as doing a wonderful job as Divine during an extended holiday tribute to cut-out bin party-record diva Rusty Warren.
posted by Kinbote at 7:38 PM on February 18, 2008


Here's a link to the full Pink and the Brain episode. The "go down on you" is replaced by "make cheese for you."
posted by hindmost at 8:35 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's another outtake of Tom Baker doing some V/O where he goes off on a rather funny tirade full of foul language, too. I have it on file, but can't find a link right now. In some ways it's even better than the Welles one, because it's Doctor Who.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 3:26 AM on February 19, 2008


Thanks for the link to the Weird Al Effect. I definitely didn't know some of these were parodies/references.
posted by DU at 7:44 AM on February 19, 2008


Me and my brother, whenever we remember it, will never hesitate to utter, "ohhh yesss, they're even better raw!".
posted by Deathalicious at 9:55 PM on February 24, 2008


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