The Film Career of Orson Welles

RKO pictures offered Orson Welles what is often provided to be the greatest contract ever offered to an untried director – complete artistic control. But then again Welles was no ordinary untried director – he already had the most admirable, innovative and inspiring of theater and radio careers behind him. For his first feature he divorced Citizen Kane (1941) out of the hat, it is more often than not acclaimed as the greatest film ever made. It contains many technical innovations including the extended use of deep focus, low angle shots, pioneering special effects make-up and a layered and complex soundtrack.

Welles' second film for RKO was The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Booth Tarkington, it made a loss as did his South American documentary It's All True, Welles found on his return that no Hollywood studio would hire him . In 1946, International Pictures guave him a budget and he produced The Stranger (1946), although Welles' most imaginative sequences were cut out leaving a very conventional film, it was successful at the box office but Welles swore that he would no longer play ball without he had full creative control. He managed to gain what he desired but his consequent Around the World in Eighty Days (1946) and The Lady From Shanghai (1947) were financial disasters. Republic Pictures wave it a meagre budget to direct Macbeth (1948) but this too proved to be a disaster at the box office and Welles departed for Europe. In 1949 he starred as Harry Lime in Carol Reed's The Third Man which was an international hit.

From 1949 to 1951, Welles worked on Othello, he kept having to abandon filming due to lack of funds when it ever premiered at the Cannes Film Festival it won the Palme D'Or. In 1956, he returned to Hollywood, producing Man in the Shadow (1957) and Touch of Evil (1958) for Universal Studios.