Orson Welles
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Orson Welles

RKO 281

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About Him

Living… in Hollywood, where he moved from New York. He charmed his way through town from the Brown Derby to the Copacabana, from Pacific Palisades to the Hollywood Hills. He even charmed those rival maidens of Hollywood gossip, the well-coiffed chroniclers of the dream factory: Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.

Profession… actor, director, and writer. Orson came from radio and immediately signed the greatest contract in Hollywood history. His deal enables him to produce, write, direct, and star in his own projects with budgets of up to $500,000 a picture. Most importantly, in his view, the studio “just paid the bills” while he had total control over shooting the movie and the finished project. As Orson brags, “John Ford doesn't have a deal like that. Cecil B. DeMille doesn't have a deal like that. No one has a deal like that!”

Interests… battling powerful publishing czar William Randolph Hearst, who's trying to kill Citizen Kane (which is arguably based on his life) before it even makes it to theatres. Gripes Orson, “He's nothing but a hypocrite. He preaches morality every day in his sordid little papers for everyone else in the world but he lives openly with his mistress… When you own the largest publishing empire in the universe you assume you can do whatever the hell you want. Not this time.”

Relationship Status… single, and open for applicants. Orson enjoys women immensely. He has breakfast with Hedda and dinner with Louella. He enjoys visiting all the nightclubs and dancing. When you're everywhere about the town, women want to know you. And Orson’s never been shy about letting himself be known.

Challenge… living up to the hype. They're laying bets over on the RKO lot that this supposed great deal will end up with him never doing a picture. After RKO boots him, maybe another studio will try to pick him up cheap. In the end, he’ll have to put butts in the seats – get people into the theaters – in spite of Hearst. Popcorn and Pepsi first, art second.  But Orson wants it all, and he thinks Citizen Kane can be the film to bring him both (more) power and respect.

Personality… prodigious. As Orson not-so-humbly says, “I'm the Boy Wonder. I've been a genius since the moment I was born.” This has resulted in his great ambition, all of which has been fulfilled up until now. Welles hasn’t known failure yet. To find it on this film would be devastating.

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