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Orson Welles, laziness, arrogance

I don't think much of the new Orson Welles documentary, They'll Love Me When I'm Dead. It's the kind of cutesy-ootsy filmmaking Welles would have loathed, with the drop-ins from other sound sources finishing sentences and whatnot. Not that you are trying to placate your subject by deploying an aesthetic they'd find favor with when you make a documentary, but it just strikes me as tacky film making. And it adds nothing new. There is nothing here that a person reasonably well read in Welles should not have known many times over. People are lazy with Welles, because people are lazy with everything. More than ever.


A friend and I were discussing this the other day when he asked if I sent my radio stuff around to stations and TV outlets to get a full-time gig, because it's not like how it might have been before, when someone could hear someone, be blown away by them, and reach out and say, "Hey, want to be our weekend person" or "We'd love to feature you on the show," or "There's a new time slot opening up here." Nothing works that way now. Everything is nepotism or cronyism. (Or the giving of jobs along racial and gender lines.) And you have to be deep under the covers for that to happen. Alastair Sim went into the movies because he was bored and some neighborhood kid said, "Can you come act in a play us kids are doing at my parents' house, we need someone who looks old," and someone in the theatre was there, in this family's living room, and boom he gets jobs, then he's in movies. Easy. The Boston Globe review of The Other Side of the Wind was also lazy. The reviewer said that Welles was arrogant. This means you know nothing about Welles.


This guy busted his ass after a system kicked him out, taking any part he could, no matter how humiliating, to make his own films. (And I've seen all of those films he acted in or narrated. Do you have any idea how debasing some of those parts were? He didn't need the money to live. He needed the money to make films, because a bigoted, corrupted system wouldn't let him play in their reindeer games. And he tried to do what he could, he fought.) An arrogant person doesn't do that. A person committed to their genius does, a person who cares about other people, about the world, because they can help it, they can help them, via that genius. Welles shot Macbeth in a crazily short amount of time, faster than any other director could, because that was the only way it could have happened, and at a shitty, two-bit studio at that. Not what an arrogant person does. If you think he purposely did not finish films, you have no clue what you're talking about. Welles made The Stranger to the marching orders he was given, to make money. What he did to try and finish pictures like Othello would have wrecked someone else. He wasn't sitting around being fanned by hot women who took turns going down on him as he read his own press clippings. He was always on the go, lugging a suitcase of pulp thrillers with him because they gave him comfort. There was nothing arrogant about this man.


True, he couldn't stand morons, but he was even fairly tolerant, outwardly, with that. Read his letters. Read what he says about your heart being God's little garden, "Obediently yours," etc. But hey, why be good at your job if you don't have to be, right? And it seems like no one is good at their jobs now, just about. But so long as no one complains, who cares, right? Why have standards, why be competent, why be skilled? Just come in, do what you do, get paid, go to your nice house in the suburbs, get some awards that have nothing to do with merit, do it again tomorrow, have lots of vacations, add nothing to society, mislead people who really don't care if they're mislead and can't tell anyway, and sometimes carp about the state of everything via emojis on Facebook to show that you're one of the good ones. (Bringing up politics often also helps with this, and you can also use it to cover up the fact that you're a human cesspool in the rest of your life, if you are indeed a human cesspool.) Welles literally died while he was working on a screenplay for a film that would most likely never get made. That is something an arrogant person would never do. An arrogant person sits back and always expects things to come to them, to be given to them. Arrogant people don't hustle. Arrogant people don't work on when anyone else would have given up.


I am rushing out the door and have had to write this quickly as I need to spit this mouthwash out of my mouth--something I tend to do oh-so-charmingly on the sidewalk outside--but here are some Welles clips that are more worth anyone's time. If I could, I would have included the documentary that Welles made that's an extra on the recent Othello Blu-ray. It's transfixing. But, so are the Sketch Book broadcasts.