Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios

Overview

Revealing the facts rather than the myths behind Orson Welles's Hollywood career, this groundbreaking history fills in the gaps behind the drama of one of the most well-known American filmmakers. Exploring why Welles's films, as released, never matched his youthful masterpiece Citizen Kane, this historical investigation delves into the enemies that hounded him, his unwaning faith in his audience, and the brilliance of his films—before they were butchered by the studios. Based on shooting scripts, schedules, ...

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Overview

Revealing the facts rather than the myths behind Orson Welles's Hollywood career, this groundbreaking history fills in the gaps behind the drama of one of the most well-known American filmmakers. Exploring why Welles's films, as released, never matched his youthful masterpiece Citizen Kane, this historical investigation delves into the enemies that hounded him, his unwaning faith in his audience, and the brilliance of his films—before they were butchered by the studios. Based on shooting scripts, schedules, internal memos, interviews, articles, lectures, and personal correspondence, this work creates a concrete picture of his struggles and successes. This heartbreaking tale brings to life the intelligent, perceptive, and passionate man who, for all his failings as a person, was utterly uncompromising in his art.

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Editorial Reviews

Budd Schulberg
While Heylin's prose is only workmanlike, with an occasional lapse in grammar, we aren't looking for Lionel Trilling here. We're looking at the most meticulous champion Orson Welles has ever had. For those of you who are scholars of Welles, amateur or pro, or simply wondering what in the world happened to him after his astonishing debut with ''Citizen Kane,'' this is the book for you.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Using shooting scripts, shooting schedules, internal studio memos, private correspondence to and from Welles, and the director's interviews and public lectures, Heylin re-evaluates the circumstances under which Welles produced the six movies he made for Hollywood studios, from 1941's Citizen Kane through 1958's Touch of Evil. The depth of Heylin's research on Welles's consistent workaholic approach to his art, especially his examination of a 58-page memo Welles wrote to Universal after it dismantled Touch of Evil, aids Heylin in arguing against the claim put forth in other Welles bios that his work declined after Citizen Kane due to his own egotism and excess. Heylin's is the most well-researched and evenhanded refutation of this line of thought published to date, and shows in detail how Welles "was undone by real people, with real motives"-most notably Columbia studio head Harry Cohn, who cut The Lady from Shanghai from 155 to 86 minutes. Heylin (Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry; Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited; etc.) persuasively argues that Welles did indeed make masterpieces after Citizen Kane, but that audiences never got to see them because of continual intervention from Hollywood studio bosses who "had no idea what [Welles] was doing, and why he was taking so long to do it." 12 b&w photos. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Undeniably the creator of a great oeuvre (e.g., Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Touch of Evil), director Orson Welles is invariably regarded as a genius manqu because of the films he never got to finish. In fact, he is almost as well known for the films he did not complete. Heylin, the author of several books about the music industry (e.g., Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited), argues that Welles was the victim of interference and downright hostility from the Hollywood studios dating back to 1941's Kane. Drawing on archival records, including studio memos and interviews, Heylin analyzes Welles's major films and details what he considers the ongoing betrayal of the director's work by supposed friends and foes alike. In his view, all the major films would have been near masterpieces in their original form but were sabotaged by heavyhanded editing and the quest for economy at the expense of quality. The author is so passionate about what he considers the injustices done to Welles that he allows himself numerous asides in which to vent his spleen. The result is just another in a long string of books on the great director-no doubt there will be more. Recommended for cinema collections.-Roy Liebman, formerly with California State Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556526206
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/30/2006
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Clinton Heylin is the author of Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited, Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions, Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry, Can You Feel the Silence: Van Morrison, The Da Capo Book of Rock & Roll Writing, and No More Sad Refrains: The Life and Times of Sandy Denny.

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