Tag: Orson Welles

MOVIE REVIEW | The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “The specifics of a movie like this don’t matter, watching great direction of great performances is more than entertaining enough.”

Shanghai 1
“Maybe I’ll live so long that I’ll forget her. Maybe I’ll die trying.”

The career of Orson Welles is a study in peaks and valleys.  With his debut movie, he gave us Citizen Kane, widely regarded as the greatest movie of all time.  WithThe Magnificent Ambersons, he may have topped it, but studio meddling means the awesome version we have isn’t as good as the phenomenal version he wanted to make.  Decades of Welles‘ career was littered with money grab slumming to fund passion pieces, many of which were never even completed.  His career is full of stories like this one, from the IMDB trivia page… ”

“According to Orson Welles, this film grew out of an act of pure desperation. Welles, whose Mercury Theatre company produced a musical version of Around the World in 80 Days, was in desperate need of money just before the Boston preview. Mere hours before the show was due to open, the costumes had been impounded and unless Welles could come up with $55,000 to pay outstanding debts, the performance would have to be cancelled. Stumbling upon a copy of If I Die Before I Wake, the novel upon which this film is based, Welles phoned Harry Cohn, instructing him to buy the rights to the novel and offering to write, direct and star in the film so long as Cohn would send $55,000 to Boston within two hours. The money arrived, and the production went on as planned.”

According to IMDB trivia, this is the story of how Welles ended up making The Lady from Shanghai. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #1. Citizen Kane (1941)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Kane 1
“You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in… 60 years.”

If you’re ever worried about feeling a little cocky, a little too good about yourself and your accomplishments, just remind yourself of this; Citizen Kane was Orson Welles’ first movie… Oh, and he was only 24 when he made it. Citizen Kane is number one on this AFI list of the greatest movies of all time. Citizen Kane has occupied the top spot and those close to it on a many a list of the greatest movies of all time. And Citizen Kane is a movie that I have never heard anyone contrarian enough to dispute its place atop those lists. You know why? Because Citizen Kane might just be the greatest movie of all time.


Opening in the 40s, Charles Foster Kane (Welles) dies alone, feebly uttering “rosebud” as his final words. When a newsreel is compiled detailing Kane’s life, it’s decided that a blow by blow biography of his greatest hits isn’t enough. This man loomed too large of America for too long, and his real story needs to be told. Deciding that discovering the truth behind who or what rosebud is, journalist Jerry Thompson (William Alland) is dispatched to interview those who knew Kane best. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Third Man (1949)

third-man

“Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs – it’s the same thing.”

Orson Welles was such a formidable figure in Hollywood, such a large presences, so imposing in everything he did, that even when he’s not a central, creative force behind a movie, it still becomes known s as an Orson Welles movie.  Welles didn’t direct The Third Man.  Welles didn’t write The Third Man. Welles isn’t the main character of The Third Man.  In fact, he doesn’t even appear until after the half way mark, and even then, is in maybe 20 minutes of The Third Man.  Yet, if you goggle this movie, or ask someone who’s seen it, I guarantee Orson Welles will be one of the first things mentioned.  But if it’s not an Orson Welles movie, what is The Third Man?


In post WWII Vienna, the city has been divided into four zones, each controlled by a different allied nation.  America, Russia, Britain and France all have their own, heavily guarded sections.  But instead of creating more regulation, these overly fortified areas that try to keep separate from each other only create more cracks for the underworld to flourish in.  When American Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) arrives at the invitation of and promise of work from his of his friend Harry Lime (Welles), he learns that Lime was killed when hit by a car just a few days earlier. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** Chimes at Midnight (1965)

chimes-at-midnight-movie-poster-1965-1020676002

“There lives not three good men unhanged in England, and one of them is fat and grows old.”

I don’t know much about Shakespeare, but I do know that Orson Welles was a big fan. And since Orson Welles is undisputedly one of the greatest film makers in the history of the medium, I had to ensure some of his adaptations of the playwright were included  when I decided to tackle Shakespeare Week.  I also like the idea of going in totally blind on a Welles adaptation of a Shakespeare play I’d never even heard of, Chimes at Midnight.


This is the story of the man who would be King Henry V (Keith Baxter as Prince Hal).  It’s also the story of the man who at different times would play the part of his mentor, friend, foil, and victim of betrayal, Sir John Falstaff (Welles).  It turns out that the reason I’d never heard of this play, is because Chimes at Midnight isn’t a Shakespeare play.  It’s several.  With story elements from Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, Richard II, Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor, the story opens on a very fat, very weary Falstaff, preparing to reminisce. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** Othello (1952)

Othello

When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.

Even though he busted out of the cinematic gate with a debut that is widely regarded as the greatest movie of all time, poor old Orson Welles didn’t have the smoothest of Hollywood careers.  Some movies flopped, some were taken away from him, and bankruptcy loomed more than once.  But even amongst his checkered resume, this one stands out as one of the rockiest.  Shot over three years, shutting down whenever he’d run out of money…  Using stolen sets and costumes from other movies shooting at the same time…  Forcing Welles to take pay cheque roles in other movies so he could finance this himself…  Orson Welles’ take on William Shakespeare’s Othello seemed doomed to fail, or worse, never even see the light of day.


A black Moor amongst white Italians, the 14th century isn’t the most racially tolerant time for a character like the titular Othello (Welles).  But he’s been so good in war for the Venetians, that they have taken him in and given him a not insubstantial amount of social standing.  Not enough for him to get away with wooing the daughter (Suzanne Cloutier as Desdemona) of the local Senator (Hilton Edwards as Brabantio), but he does it anyway.  Brabantio is pissed, but even more so is one of Othello’s underlings, Iago (Michael MacLiammoir). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***BOND WEEK*** Casino Royale (1967)

Casino Royale

“You can’t shoot me! I have a very low threshold of death. My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time”.

When I decided I was going to do a James Bond theme week, there was one movie that intrigued me the most, one that I was most interested in seeing. Not because it has a reputation as being the best, but because it’s the black sheep, the red headed step child, the most often dismissed of the series. I don’t know if it’s even officially a part of the James Bond series. But from all reports, it’s the weirdest, silliest, and possibly worst entry in the franchise. It’s Casino Royale. Not the new millennium Daniel Craig Casino Royale that made the series more culturally relevant than it had been in decades. But the 60s Casino Royale that is, well, I’m not sure what it is.


David Niven is Sir James Bond, a long retired spy with no interest in abandoning that retirement. But when the heads of MI6, the CIA and the KGB realise they’re losing too many spies to sexcapades and general promiscuity, they beg the chaste Bond to return to the field. You see, in this version, James Bond is a prude. That’s a joke, ‘coz in the other Bond movies, he’s always on the job. Get it? Anywho, he’s eventually convinced to get back into the spy game and has so much success, he’s made head of MI6. His first decree as boss is to name all agents James Bond 007, and train them to resist the feminine wiles of the dolly birds they will inevitably face in the field. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Poster - How Green Was My Valley_01
For the last 70 odd years, Citizen Cane has dominated almost every ‘best of all time’ movie list.  If not in the number one spot, it’s almost always very close.  But back in 1941 when Orson Welles’ masterpiece came out, it wasn’t even considered the best movie of that year.  That honor went to John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley.

It’s turn of the century Wales, and the Morgan family, along with seemingly everyone else in their village, relies on the local coalmine to make their living. Narrated by the adult version of the youngest Morgan, How Green Was My Valley revolves around the 10 or 12 year old Huw Morgan, played by Roddy McDowell.  He worships his father (Donald Crisp) and can’t wait to join him and his five adult brothers working in the mine.  They’re taken care of by his mother (Sara Allgood) and sister (Maureen O’Hara).

The mine threatens to cut their wages.  The mine punishes them for unionizing.  The mine kills a brother.  Huw is crippled at one stage.  His sister ends up in a loveless marriage.  His sister is secretly in love with the local priest.  Huw’s brothers regularly leave to seek their fortune in America.  Kids at school beat him up.  Kids in the mine beat him up.  Basically, the world drops a big old steamer on Huw and his family roughly every four to six minutes.

But oh how they preserver.  This is a story of family, loyalty, pride and good old Welsh fortitude.  And because it was made in 1941 when subtly was a scarce commodity and film makers rarely thought to ad any sub to their text, How Green Was My Valley wears its themes proudly on its sleeve.

The Welshness of it was a bit of a shock.  All I knew before watching it was that How Green Was My Valley was directed by John Ford.  With John Wayne classics like The Searchers and The Man who Shot Liberty Valance on his resume, the name John Ford makes me automatically think of westerns.  Even the title, How Green Was My Valley sounds like it could be a western.

The other thing about Ford’s involvement that surprised me as the movie went along, was its sentimentality and sweetness.  Besides the above mentioned westerns, I think the only other movie I’ve seen of his is The Grapes of Wrath. And all of those have a definite streak of cynicism that I just never saw in How Green Was My Valley.

Is it better than Citizen Cane?  I can’t see single reason why any sane person would ever say yes to that.  But I can see why How Green Was My Valley was at least in contention that year.  It’s a big, easily digestible, easily relatable melodrama about a likeable family who you want to see make it through the constant travails the world throws at them.  Simple, but also effective.

How Green Was My Valley
Directed By – John Ford
Written By – Philip Dunne