At the End of the Street in the Shadow: Orson Welles and the City

At the End of the Street in the Shadow: Orson Welles and the City

by Matthew Asprey Gear
At the End of the Street in the Shadow: Orson Welles and the City

At the End of the Street in the Shadow: Orson Welles and the City

by Matthew Asprey Gear


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The films of Orson Welles inhabit the spaces of cities—from America's industrializing midland to its noirish borderlands, from Europe's medieval fortresses to its Kafkaesque labyrinths and postwar rubblescapes. His movies take us through dark streets to confront nightmarish struggles for power, the carnivalesque and bizarre, and the shadows and light of human character.

This ambitious new study explores Welles's vision of cities by following recurring themes across his work, including urban transformation, race relations and fascism, the utopian promise of cosmopolitanism, and romantic nostalgia for archaic forms of urban culture. It focuses on the personal and political foundation of Welles's cinematic cities—the way he invents urban spaces on film to serve his dramatic, thematic, and ideological purposes.

The book's critical scope draws on extensive research in international archives and builds on the work of previous scholars. Viewing Welles as a radical filmmaker whose innovative methods were only occasionally compatible with the commercial film industry, this volume examines the filmmaker's original vision for butchered films, such as The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and Mr. Arkadin (1955), and considers many projects the filmmaker never completed—an immense "shadow oeuvre" ranging from unfinished and unreleased films to unrealized treatments and screenplays.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231173414
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 02/16/2016
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Matthew Asprey Gear is an honorary academic at Macquarie University, Sydney. He has lectured in film studies and screenwriting and is the founding coeditor of Contrappasso magazine. Visit

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction 1

Prelude: A Nuisance in a Factory: Hollywood: 1939-48, 1956-58 13

Welles's U.S.A.

1 The Decline and Fall of the Lincoln Republic 21

2 An Empire Upon an Empire: Citizen Kane (1941) 33

3 The Darkening Midland: The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) 49


4 Darkness and Fear: The Early Anti-Fascist Thrillers 77

5 The Raucous Raggle-Taggle Jamboree of the Streets It's All True (Unfinished, 1942) 99

6 Ratline to Main Street: The Stranger (1946) 125

7 Port to Port: The Lady from Shanghai (1947) 145

8 The Border: Touch of Evil (1958) 163

9 Return to the Periphery: The Other Man (unproduced, 1977) 181

Interlude: A Free Man is Everywhere: Europe & Beyond: 1947-55, 1958-85 193

Postwar Europe

10 Skies and Rubblescape: Mr. Arkadin/Confidential Report (1955) 203

11 Lost in a Labyrinth: The Trial (1962) 225

Immortal Stories

12 To Adore the Impossible 243

13 In The Land of Don Quixote 257

Index 283

What People are Saying About This

Jonathan Rosenbaum

A valuable contribution to Welles studies - well researched, highly readable, and full of fresh insights.

Catherine L. Benamou

A timely book that pushes past many debates dotting the beaten path of Orson Welles criticism to consider the representation of the city, both as a physical location and an imaginary social space, in his film oeuvre. It considers incomplete and overlooked as well as unproduced works that have survived in script form; the result is a historically grounded, globally conscious study that urges us to consider the importance of the built environment in Welles's mises-en-scène, as well as his abiding concern with the politics of modernization.

James Naremore

Well researched, informative, and enjoyable to read—an original, thoughtful commentary on Welles and modernity.

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