Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (10/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 100 minutes.
OK for Children.
Orson Welles is one of the more fascinating figures in a Hollywood
history filled with fascinating figures. Director Chuck Workman has done
a wonderful job bringing this talented manís story to the screen. One of
the best movies of the 21st Century was Me and Orson
Welles (2008) which looked at the pre-Hollywood period of his life
when he was The Shadow on radio and producing shows in New York.
This film looks at his entire life, telling something of his childhood
and proceeding apace throughout his entire life, including his fall from
grace after writing, directing, and starring in Citizen Kane when
he was 25 years old and then abandoning the final work on The
Magnificent Ambersons (1942) to film a documentary in South America
at the behest of the U.S. government, leaving final cut to film editor
Robert Wise (who also edited Citizen Kane) who some, including
Welles, feel emasculated the film. RKO was not pleased. This, when added
to the fury of William Randolph Hearst over Citizen Kane, made
Orson persona non grata in Hollywood.
But he kept going and this film shows that he did a lot of good work
after those films (like The Third Man, 1949 that led to a radio
show starring Welles, and Touch of Evil, which he directed and
starred in and has become a noir classic). Workman interviews lots of
Wellesí contemporaries, including directors like Henry Jaglom and Peter
Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar with whom he lived for the last 19 years of his
life, and his daughter Christopher.
There are also clips of Orsonís appearances on talk shows, like Merv
Griffin, in his later years. A friend of mine, the late Laddie Marshack,
who was an editor for TV Guide among other things, appeared on the same
show with him once and she told me that during one of the breaks she
looked at him and saw fear in his eyes throughout the break, belying the
graceful, relaxed impression he always made on these shows.
Interestingly, he died in 1985 at 70 years of age two hours after a live
TV interview with Merv Griffin, an excerpt of which is shown in the
This is an absorbing, riveting look at a complex man who has become a