RKO 281

Synopsis: Coming to Hollywood as a celebrated boy genius featuring a spectacular career arc in New York including his radio hoax War of the Worlds, Orson Welles is stymied on the subject for his first film. After a dinner party at Hearst Castle, during which he has a verbal altercation with William Randolph Hearst, Welles decides to do a movie about Hearst. It takes him some time to convince co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz and the studio, but Welles eventually gets the script and the green light, keeping the subject very hush-hush with the press. The movie is about an aging newspaper publisher who controlled his enemies as ruthlessly as he controlled his friends; and whose mistress was destined for fame. When a rough cut is screened, Hearst gets wind of the movie's theme and begins a campaign to see that it is not only never publicly screened, but destroyed.
Genre: Biography, Drama
Director(s): Benjamin Ross
Production: HBO Video
  Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 13 wins & 27 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
86 min

"During the shooting of CITIZEN KANE, did you have the sensation of

making such an important film?"

"I never doubted it for a single instant."

Interview with Orson Welles. 1966.

Pleasure is worth what you can afford to pay for it

William Randolph Hearst. 1924


In the ebony shadows of a large room we can make out corners and edges,

moldings and cornices; the phantoms of decaying Victorian wealth

floating like disembodied ghosts in the darkness.

It is May 6, 1924 The harsh flare of a match being struck

A shadowy male figure lights a series of nine candles on a birthday

cake. Beyond the cake we can see a bed.

On the bed lies a woman in her early forties. She is ashen and sickly.


The shadowy male figure finishes lighting the candles, blows out the

match and disappears as the woman peers into the darkness.


Come into the light.. Come into the light

A nine-year-old boy steps into the light.

She pulls him close and whispers:


Never stand in the shadows --




You are made for the light, Orson Now you must blow

out your candles. But you must always remember, the

cake itself is nothing. The flame, the lights, that

is where your future lies. You must have a dream. A

great dream worthy of you.

The boy immediately spins to the cake and blows out the candles. A

moment of darkness. He turns back to the bed. The woman and the bed are

gone, faded into darkness.

The solemn young lad stares and stares into the darkness

And then, magically, the faint glimmer of twinkling stars fill his huge

dark eyes.

NEWSREEL The flickering images of an old newsreel, circa 1940

Under the MGM logo we see the title: BOY WONDER WOWS HOLLYWOOD!

The first image after the title is the imposing figure of ORSON WELLES,

climbing down from an airplane and surveying the world at his feet.

Welles is 24 years old and somewhat handsome. Welles seems rather

uncomfortable in his own body, as if it could not possibly contain his

vast passions and appetites.

Orson Welles is man who tears his way through life with incendiary

energy. He is at once inspiring and ferocious; visionary and coldly

ambitious. He is part artist, part fraud and all showman.

A sonorous voice accompanies the newsreel. The voice is always grand,

occasionally sardonic.


He came to the town of magic and dreams a flashing

star blazing through the firmament of illusion. And

he promised to devour the world in a single gulp. He

was 24 years old and his name was George Orson

Welles. Sound the trumpets! Unfurl the banners,

Hollywood! The Boy Wonder has arrived!

Images of Welles as a baby and his early life fill the screen: Welles

in a crib; as a pampered schoolboy; at dance class; drama club; dressed

up for a magic show. As we hear:


He made his debut on the world stage in Kenosha,

Wisconsin, on the 6th of May, 1915. And on the 7th

of May he spoke his first words, and unlike other

children who say commonplace things like "momma" and

"poppa", he proclaimed "I am a genius!"

At three the genius was reciting Shakespeare and at eight he had taken

up cigars and highballs and was learning magic from the knee of the

great Houdini.

Images of Welles' early theatrical career: the young man playing

impossibly old parts; vaudeville magic shows; various regional

theaters; endless tawdry rehearsal rooms

Then images of Welles and JOHN HOUSEMAN in New York: the great,

bustling city; Welles at work with John Houseman on a script; Welles

directing a play. As we hear:


So how could the magic of the stage not call to

this adventurous lad? Unstoppable and resolute, the

Boy Wonder journeyed into the world of the legit

theater. After a peripatetic beginning he found

himself at last in New York where he joined forces

with theatrical producer John Houseman under the

august auspices of the WPA Federal Theater.

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John Logan

John David Logan (born September 24, 1961) is an American playwright, screenwriter, film producer, and television producer. more…

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Submitted by aviv on January 31, 2017

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