The Orson Welles Centenary: Studying His Life and Career

Orson Welles in Citizen Kane

Ever since I wrote about Orson Welles’ portrayal of Harry Lime in the movie The Third Man (1949) for the Great Villain Blogathon last year, I’ve had the intention of studying both his life and career in more depth. For some reason, he has always been someone who greatly intrigues me, probably in part because of the many discussions I’ve heard regarding the movie Citizen Kane (1941).

You know the ones, the debate over whether or not Citizen Kane is the greatest movie ever made or if Orson Welles was a genius who should be revered. I guess you could say I’m somewhat neutral in the debate about the movie itself. I’ve seen it a few times and really enjoyed it and appreciate many aspects of it.

It’s not necessarily a personal favorite and I don’t feel qualified to say whether it’s the greatest ever, but I don’t really have anything bad to say about it either. I do appreciate the important part it plays in the history of filmmaking and plan to watch it several more times in the future. How I feel about the genius of Orson Welles is yet to be determined as I further my research.

Events Celebrating the Orson Welles Centenary

With next month being the 100th anniversary of the birth of Orson Welles (he was born on May 6, 1915), this seemed like the perfect time to start a short study of his life and career, especially because I plan on attending a special event in his birthplace, Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Citizen Welles Society of Kenosha has several events planned throughout the month of May, and the day I plan on attending, events will include a screening of the movie The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) as well as a discussion by film historian and author Joseph McBride.

OrsonWelles by Joseph McBride

McBride is considered the foremost Welles expert in the world and is the author of two books about him, “What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career” and simply “Orson Welles” which I am currently in the process of reading.

I figure the more I know about Orson Welles, the more I will be able to appreciate the discussion or heck, even participate in it if I’m brave enough to speak up. I’m a huge introvert so that’s not always easy for me especially if it’s in the midst of a big crowd or in the presence of an expert on the subject, but I’ll try my best. :-)

Orson Welles Daughter's BookAlong with Joseph McBride’s book, I am also reading the book “In My Father’s Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles” by his daughter Chris Welles Feder. I’m only a few chapters into each, but I am really enjoying both of them already.

Together they are providing a nice mix of  insights into the personal and professional sides of Orson Welles. I also plan to watch several movies starring and/or directed by Welles in preparation for the event.

There have already been several events this year celebrating the centenary of Orson Welles, but there are many more scheduled for the next few months. If you’re a fan of Welles and would like to see if there are any events in your area, the site has a listing of past and future centenary celebrations and film festivals.

I was excited to also just discover that a documentary called Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles was released last year. It looks fascinating, and I can’t wait to watch it. You can view the trailer here.

If you have attended any of the events that have already taken place or plan to attend one that’s coming up, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. If you are a blogger or reporter and have written a post or article, feel free to provide the link.


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  1. Ray Kelly says:

    Wonderful piece. The first book I read on Orson Welles career was by Joe McBride. His work is essential. And “Magician” is a terrific introduction to Welles’ career. Fell free to join us on the Wellesnet Message Board or out Facebook page, where I posted a link to your site.

  2. Ginny says:

    Thank you so much Ray! I will be sure to visit both of those pages.