Synopses & Reviews
At twenty-five, Orson Welles (1915-1985) directed, co-wrote, and starred in Citizen Kane
, widely considered the best film ever made. But Welles was such a revolutionary filmmaker that he found himself at odds with the Hollywood studio system. His work was so far ahead of its time that he never regained the wide popular following he had once enjoyed as a young actor-director on the radio.
Frustrated by Hollywood and falling victim to the postwar blacklist, Welles departed for a long European exile. But he kept making films, functioning with the creative freedom of an independent filmmaker before that term became common and eventually preserving his independence by funding virtually all his own projects. Because he worked defiantly outside the system, Welles has often been maligned as an errant genius who squandered his early promise.
Film critic Joseph McBride, who acted in Welles's legendary unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind, provocatively challenges conventional wisdom about Welles's supposed creative decline. McBride is the first author to provide a comprehensive examination of the films of Welles's artistically rich yet little-known later period. During the 1970s and '80s, Welles was breaking new aesthetic ground, experimenting as adventurously as he had throughout his career.
McBride's friendship and collaboration with Welles and his interviews with those who knew and worked with the director make What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? a portrait of rare intimacy and insight. Reassessing Welles's final period in the context of his entire life and work, McBride's revealing portrait of this great film artist will change the terms of how Orson Welles is regarded.
"With Welles, all roads lead to Citizen Kane, and it's there that many of his troubles began, McBride (Orson Welles; Steven Spielberg: A Biography, etc.) asserts in his lengthy examination of the famed filmmaker's career. Labeled a communist by the vengeful publisher William Hearst, Welles found himself blacklisted in the industry. He left for Europe, later writing in Esquire that he 'chose freedom.' He produced only two movies during the eight years he spent abroad, but McBride asserts that his expatriate period resulted in tremendous growth as an independent filmmaker. Much of the book revolves around the saga of Welles's unfinished Hollywood satire, The Other Side of the Wind, which the author worked on. Instead of fully exploiting the insider angle, McBride instead comes across as a name-dropper, constantly reminding the reader of his relationship with his subject. McBride's passion for film (Welles's films, specifically) and his closeness with the director provide enough insider material to satisfy Welles fans and film buffs, though readers with a casual interest may want to look elsewhere." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Personal and passionate." Los Angeles Times
"McBride, a marvelous critic and biographer, has written a lively portrait of Welles-as-independent-artist....Invaluable." Bookforum
"McBride is heartfelt in his advocacy, and the book continues to compel throughout." Sight & Sound
"Welles fans essentially, all serious cinephiles will find McBride's heartfelt defense of the director indispensible, though heartbreaking." Booklist
"McBride has charted a course through the smoke for all future scholarship (and, one prays, film restoration). Twenty-first Century Welles research begins here." Jonathan Lethem
"This is an extremely important book." Martin Scorsese
About the Author
Joseph McBride is an internationally known film critic and historian. His fifteen books include biographies of Steven Spielberg, John Ford, and Frank Capra and two previous studies of Orson Welles. He lives in Berkeley, California.