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Orson Welles:

The Wunder Kid

Brad Partington
10/07/12
Dram151

There hasn’t been much man like Orson Welles. He was a boy who traveled the world at a young age and became a star of theatre in London at the age of 15. He shocked America with his War of the Worlds broadcast on radio, as well as delivering one of the greatest films thought by many of all time. Orson Welles was a man of vision and passion. He strived to make films he believed in, even though some of his films had been cut and reedited by studios, much to the disliking of Orson Welles. For a man who only made 13 films, he crafted some of Hollywood’s best. These gems included such greats as Touch of Evil, Journey into Fear, and the all-time great Citizen Kane. Dripping in detail and a true treat to watch, Citizen Kane was Orson Welles first film in Hollywood, a film that would set the tone for generations to come and inspire directors everywhere. Not only was he a great actor, Welles had the ability to get inspiring performances from the actors he worked with. His directing was imaginative and defied the natural form of storytelling and presenting new ways stories can be told. His unique use of cameras and editing established his greatness behind the camera. Orson Welles unique talent behind and in front of the camera propelled his successful career. Exploring some of his work specifically Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil and Chimes at Midnight,

Citizen Kane is regarded as the best film of all time. Just recently it was overtaken by another great director’s work Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. For years and years it was voted by peers, critics, and fans as the greatest film of all time. The film which was the first of Orson’s 3 picture deal from RKO studios. A deal that included final say in casting, final script approval as well as final cut. These stipulations were unheard of in Hollywood back then, and were especially even more rare for a man who hadn’t even made a feature film before. Orson wrote, directed and acted in this masterpiece, rare feat for actors or directors during this time. The story of the life of Charles Foster Kane, a self-made newspaper magnate who abuses his power, loses his friends, and ends his life alone an full of regret, had been based in part on the life of William Randolph Hearst. The movie gets a lot of praise from its innovative camera work and editing styles. Many film critics attribute the camera work in Citizen Kane as paramount to its success and with good reason. The use of deep-focus photography and the attention Welles paid to mise-en-scène are both at the root of the praise Citizen Kane has garnered; these two aspects are fundamentally tied together.  For example, Louis Giannetti points out that, “… the deep-focus in Citizen Kane is more flamboyant than Wyler’s use of this technique.” (1) The use of deep-focus, which allowed everything in the shot to be in detailed focus, brought a new element to the screen. It allowed for very rich and detailed backdrops and made the audience seem like they were right there in the shot. This type of camera work really seem like the audience was seeing a moving painting. Early in Orson teachings at the Todd school for boys, he not only honed his acting but as well developed his love for visual arts. He was a good painter, and this really helped with the crafting of Citizen Kane.  While Highman devotes several pages to Welles’ theatrical experiences in the five years he attended Todd, he states only briefly, “…he painted excellently (his chief ambition was to be a painter), and he sketched and caricatured with great style.”(3) This passion for art and sketching really helps a director get a sense of the feel and look of a film or scene. This must have been great help to a new director looking to craft his own vision. A lot of the scenes in Citizen Kane feel like paintings, epic large works with detail abound. Scenes like in the snow as he was a child. The shot of the hilltop he is...
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