Magician: the Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles

Magician: the Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles
ADVERTISEMENT

Review

There's no such thing as a dull anecdote about Orson Welles (who would have turned 100 in 2015), especially when it is related in stentorian tones by the man himself. Consequently, Chuck Workman's documentary is stuffed with fascinating details about the stage, radio and screen achievements of the wunderkind who never quite fulfilled his potential. Insights into the private and psychological sides of things aren't quite as acute, however. For those unfamiliar with tales about the Gate and Mercury Theatre companies, the 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast, the clashes with RKO in the 40s over Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, and the lengthy nomadic period that resulted in Welles becoming the accidental godfather of independent cinema, this is a fine place to start. Workman has uncovered numerous rare clips of Welles and key collaborators such as Robert Wise and John Houseman to go alongside interviews with the likes of Peter Bogdanovich and Steven Spielberg. He also makes amusing use of extracts from films like Woody Allen's Radio Days and Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles, in which the great man features as a semi-fictionalised character. Numerous Welles profiles exist, but this wide-ranging chronology makes a fitting centenary tribute.

Summary

A profile of the actor, director, screenwriter and playwright, making use of archive interviews and clips from his stage, screen and radio work.
Documentary Arts