Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu

Overview

Possibly only an actor and director as deeply familiar with the theater as Simon Callow, and as determined as he to capture the protean Welles whole, could have written this biography, of which The Road to Xanadu is the first volume. For here, brilliantly located in its historical and social setting, is the entire, magnificent, unbelievable story—the prodigious childhood; the dynamic young man in New York, in some ways still a boy, in others a profound theatrical innovator; the fraught partnership with John ...
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Overview

Possibly only an actor and director as deeply familiar with the theater as Simon Callow, and as determined as he to capture the protean Welles whole, could have written this biography, of which The Road to Xanadu is the first volume. For here, brilliantly located in its historical and social setting, is the entire, magnificent, unbelievable story—the prodigious childhood; the dynamic young man in New York, in some ways still a boy, in others a profound theatrical innovator; the fraught partnership with John Houseman; the groundbreaking triumphs of the Mercury Theatre (such as the all-black Macbeth and Welles's modern-dress Julius Caesar) and its disasters (equally fascinating); and finally Hollywood and Citizen Kane, even today regarded by many as the finest film ever made, the work of a twenty-three-year-old with no previous experience in the medium. Callow's lively account of the making of Kane is surely the best we are likely to have, as authoritative about the practical details of filmmaking and directing as about the odd creative relationship between Welles and writer Herman Mankiewicz. Written with verve and balanced affection, drawing upon an abundance of fresh research and hitherto unpublished material, The Road to Xanadu succeeds wonderfully in penetrating the smoke screen of legend Welles threw up around himself, to reveal a life that is even more extra-ordinary in fact. As a man and an artist, Orson Welles was outsize - vivid, energetic, unpredictable, and never less than entertaining. It is Simon Callow's achievement to have produced a book about him that is just the same.

If anyone can properly be called larger than life, it is Orson Welles. His career was spectacular--publicity-ridden, brilliantly inventive, and controversial. From first to last, Orson Welles was a star. Now, in the first of two volumes, actor/writer/director Simon Callow captures this chameleon genius, vividly showcasing Welles as man and artist (with photographs).

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Actor/director Callow (Being an Actor, St. Martin's, 1992) offers the first of two volumes on the life of Orson Welles, covering through the release of Citizen Kane. Callow's stated goal is to put Welles into the context of his times. He's also extremely skeptical at taking his self-promoting subject at his word, which places Callow at odds with previous Welles chroniclers Barbara Leaming (Orson Welles, Viking, 1985) and, to some extent, Peter Bogdanovich (This Is Orson Welles, LJ 11/15/92). This is by far the best-written and most balanced biography of the elusive Welles, though its massively detailed descriptions of his theater work will leave some readers behind (the author originally set out to cover only that aspect of Welles's career). Recommended for most film collections in public and academic libraries.-Thomas Wiener, editor, "Satelite DIRECT"
Booknews
A biography of the larger-than-life theater and movie actor, director, and producer, covering his prodigious childhood, his partnership with John Houseman, and his theatrical success and failures, and focusing on the making of Citizen Kane. Includes b&w photos, and listings of stage productions, radio broadcasts, and films. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Zom Zoms
/*Starred Review*/%% This is a multi-book review. SEE the title "Stone" for next imprint and review text. %%
From Barnes & Noble
Never one to shy away from publicity, Orson Welles was nearly always delighted to accommodate the legions of interviewers, profilers, and biographers clamoring after his "story." Early in his career he courted and wooed the press shamelessly, happily doling out tidbits to reporters, who were just as happy to gobble them up. Yet when he died, he left behind more questions than answers. So thoroughly had he embroidered, exaggerated, and invented the details of his life that no one knew where the truth ended and the myth began. This first in a proposed two-volume biography examines Orson Welles through the people and events he tried so hard to remove from his own self-invented history. Penetrating the smoke screen of legend, the author reconstructs Welles's youth in New York, his troubled partnership with John Houseman, the triumphs and disasters of the fledgling Mercury Theater of the Air, and the crowning success of his life: the one and only Citizen Kane. Black-and-white photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670867226
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Pages: 656
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 2.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Callow is an actor, director, and writer. He has appeared on the stage and in many films, including Four Weddings and a Funeral. His other books include Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu, Shooting the Actor, and Being an Actor.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Orson Welles and the Art of Biography
Ch. 1 Kenosha 3
Ch. 2 Chicago 16
Ch. 3 Todd 35
Ch. 4 Ireland/Jew Suss 72
Ch. 5 Hiatus/Everybody's Shakespeare 112
Ch. 6 Wonder Boy of Acting/Romeo and Juliet 142
Ch. 7 Woodstock/Romeo and Juliet Again 155
Ch. 8 Houseman/Panic 193
Ch. 9 FTP/Macbeth 216
Ch. 10 Horse Eats Hat/Doctor Faustus 246
Ch. 11 The Cradle Will Rock 288
Ch. 12 Mercury 308
Ch. 13 Caesar 322
Ch. 14 Shoemaker's Holiday/Heartbreak House 344
Ch. 15 Theatre of the Air 370
Ch. 16 War of the Worlds/Danton's Death 399
Ch. 17 The Campbell Playhouse/Five Kings 418
Ch. 18 Hollywood/Heart of Darkness 457
Ch. 19 Mank 482
Ch. 20 Shooting Kane 507
Ch. 21 Waiting/Native Son 540
Ch. 22 Release 560
The Stage Productions 579
The Radio Broadcasts 580
The Films 584
References 585
Bibliography 611
Acknowledgments 615
Index 619
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