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. Continue reading →

Christmas Traditions: Lionel Barrymore as Ebenezer Scrooge

A Christmas Carol 1938

A couple weeks ago I had the great opportunity to see two classic Christmas movies on the big screen thanks to the wonderful people at Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events. Many theaters throughout the country were showing a double feature of A Christmas Carol (1938) and Christmas in Connecticut (1945), and thankfully one of my local theaters was participating, a treat that doesn’t happen too often in my small’ish community.

Last time I was able to see an old movie on the big screen was when I made a 5 1/2 hour round trip drive to see Vertigo (1958) when the Landmark Theatres chain was showing it in select cities a year or two ago. Is that dedication to my passion for old movies or what? :-) Thankfully this time, my drive was only 10 minutes each way. Not bad!

Ben Mankiewicz from Turner Classic Movies introduced both of the movies in the Christmas double feature, and in his introduction to A Christmas Carol, I learned something new (thanks Ben!) – that before the much loved Charles Dickens classic came to the screen, Lionel Barrymore performed the role of Ebenezer Scrooge on a radio version of the story. He first performed it in 1934, making this year the 80th anniversary of its debut, and listening to the subsequent years’ broadcasts with Barrymore reprising his role became an annual tradition for families across America.

A special performance was aired live on Christmas Eve in 1939 as part of the CBS Campbell Playhouse radio program. Narrated by Orson Welles, the program also featured music which was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann. You can listen to a recording of that 1939 broadcast including all the original commercials at the Internet Archive website.

A Christmas Carol 1984

And speaking of annual traditions, I have one of my own that I started many years ago that fittingly includes viewing A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve night. However, the one I watch is the one from 1984 starring George C. Scott. My tenth grade English teacher shared her affinity for that version with us in class, and it has been my favorite ever since. As much as I love old movies, it still beats out the 1938 and 1951 versions for me even though I enjoy both of those as well.

My tradition has been to watch two Christmas themed episodes of Little House on the Prairie and then A Christmas Carol (1984) with all the lights off in my house except for those on my Christmas tree. I’ve missed very few years since I started, and I plan on doing it once again tonight. I can’t wait!

If you and/or your family will be partaking in a special holiday tradition this year, I hope you enjoy it as much as I will mine! I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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The Great Villain Blogathon – Orson Welles as Harry Lime

Spoilers Ahead: Although I don’t go very deep into the plot of the movie The Third Man (1949), some of my comments may reveal key plot twists and bits of dialogue that could detract from your enjoyment of the movie if you have yet to see it.

This post is part of the Great Villian Blogathon hosted by Ruth of Silver ScreeningsKaren of Shadows & Satin, and Kristina of Speakeasy. Please visit any of those wonderful sites to read more posts about great movie villains.

Sometimes an actor or actress will appear in a movie for just a short amount of time but will still make an enormous impact that is felt for a long time afterward. There may be no better example of this than the appearance of Orson Welles in The Third Man (1949).

Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man

Although he doesn’t appear until a little over an hour into the film and only appears in a few key scenes, his character of Harry Lime is considered by many to be one of the most fascinating and mysterious movie villains of all time. And I know I’m not alone in thinking his first appearance in the film was one of the most “electrifying” in movie history.

One look at the expression on his face may be all you need to see to understand just how devious yet charismatic Harry Lime was. In his review of the movie, Roger Ebert described the entrance this way, “The sequence is unforgettable: the meow of the cat in the doorway, the big shoes, the defiant challenge by Holly, the light in the window, and then the shot, pushing in, on Lime’s face, enigmatic and teasing, as if two college chums had been caught playing a naughty prank.” Continue reading →

Classic Movie Actors from Wisconsin, Will Your State Be Next?

Do you have any “rituals” that you like to do before or after you watch an old movie? One of the first things I like to do after watching an old movie is go to imdb.com (Internet Movie Database) and look up information about the actors and actresses that appeared in the movie.  For some reason I am fascinated by finding out things like when they were born, when and how old they were when they died (or if they are still alive, which always makes me happy to see), how they died, and how many times they were married.

One thing that has really been standing out to me lately is that several well known classic movie stars were either born in my home state of Wisconsin or had a very close association with the state at one time.  I know that may not mean much to anyone that doesn’t live here, but I guess it just stuck out to me because when I think of glamorous movies stars, being from Wisconsin is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. :-) No offense to the wonderful state that I love.

Following is a list of a few of the actors and actresses that were born in Wisconsin along with a few interesting facts about them:

Orson Welles

Born:  May 16, 1915 in Kenosha, WI

Died:  October 10, 1985 (aged 70)

Was married three times including once to the beautiful actress Rita Hayworth, with whom he starred in the movie The Lady from Shanghai

Known for the Movies: Citizen Kane, The Lady from Shanghai, The Third Man, Touch of Evil Continue reading →