Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life

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9780571211647: Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life
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A fresh, provocative look at one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of film by "one of our most acute cultural critics" (Paul Fussell)

Orson Welles was a metamorphic man, a magical shape-changer who made up myths about himself and permitted others to add to their store. On different occasions, he likened himself to Christ--mankind's redeemer--and to Lucifer--the rebel angel who brought about the fall. His persona compounded the roles he played--kings, despots, generals, captains of industry, autocratic film directors--and the more or less fictitious exploits with which he regaled other people or which they attributed to him. Hailed in childhood as a genius, he remained mystified by his own promise, unable to understand or control an intellect that he came to think of as a curse; and he ended his days shilling wine and performing magic tricks on talk shows. At times, he saw the collapse of his early ambitions as a tragedy; in other moods, he viewed his life as a humbling comedy, and settled down--like another favorite character, Shakespeare's Falstaff --to eat, drink and be irresponsibly merry.

Rather than producing another conventional biography of Welles, Peter Conrad has set out to investigate the stories Welles told about his life--the myths and secret histories hidden in films both made and unmade, in the books Welles wrote and those he read. The result takes us deep into Welles' imagination, showing how he created, then ultimately destroyed himself.

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About the Author:

Peter Conrad is the author of numerous works of criticism, including The Hitchcock Murders (Faber, 2001) and Modern Times, Modern Places. Since 1973, he has taught English at Christ Church, Oxford.

From Publishers Weekly:

With his passion for self-invention and his fascination with larger-than-life heroes, legends and charlatans of literature, Orson Welles-filmmaker, actor, magician-"lived a life of allegory," writes Conrad in his interpretive biography. The author of two previous books of film criticism, including one on the work of Alfred Hitchcock, Conrad draws parallels between Welles and the characters he played, revealing how the errant genius was the architect of his own mythology. Orphaned at 15, Welles reinvented himself as an art-worshipping student of Shakespeare, a playwright, he insisted, who spoke the language of the common man. His own cinematic manifestations, including the irrepressible Charles Foster Kane, were, according to Conrad, studies in his own attempt to measure his various personas. Each chapter is dedicated to a character doubling as Welles's alter ego: Faust, Falstaff, Harry Lime from The Third Man, Kane and others in whom Welles found and lost himself. At times the book veers into ponderous explications of Welles' various endeavors, but, with depth and scrupulous detail, it offers a portrait of the enigmatic artist as both cosmically gifted and insufferably self-indulgent. Even his tumultuous marriage to Rita Hayworth seemed an exercise in mythmaking, as Welles transformed the earthy beauty into an ethereal blonde goddess for The Lady from Shanghai. Yet, as the book incisively points out, despite his many incarnations, Welles remained a complex mystery to himself. While filming Don Quixote, Conrad recalls, Wells dubbed the voices of both Quixote and Sancho, identifying intellectually with the former and physically with the latter. "As the imitator of all his fictional selves," writes Conrad, Welles was a confused and reckless genius, capable of great darkness and great light.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780571209781: Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life

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ISBN 10:  0571209785 ISBN 13:  9780571209781
Publisher: Faber & Faber, 2003
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9780571209934: Orson Welles: A Life in Movies

Faber ..., 2004
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