Photo by Tom Taylor

A Month of Orson Welles

October is always Orson Welles month for me. The 30th of the month is obviously the anniversary of the infamous 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast. And on October 10, 1985, Welles died at the age of 70. Those are both valid enough reasons, but neither is the main one that explains why I am doing this.

October 1985 was the month I became a major Orson Welles fan. But my interest in Welles was not prompted by his death. Instead, it was put into motion by the publication of a semi-authorized biography of Welles at around this same time. A college professor of mine named Barbara Leaming wrote a biography of Welles with the subject's full cooperation. It was more out of curiosity over a favorite professor's work rather than any sort of driving interest in Welles that led me to pick up the book. (A lengthy preview in the New York Time Sunday Magazine tipped me to its forthcoming publication.) Sure, I knew Welles from Citizen Kane, his TV commercials, and his appearances as a famous celebrity on various Dean Martin roasts and the Merv Griffin show, as well as the perpetrator of the aforementioned War of the Worlds broadcast, but not really much else. Leaming's book proved to be the gateway drug that quickly turned me into a Welles obsessive. (Leaming went on to carve out a career as a celebrity biographer, though I remember her as an enthusiastic and somewhat eccentric film professor from my days at Hunter College, who passion for film was very infectious.)

By a stange coincidence, it was around the time of the Leaming's book's release that Welles passed away. And the media attention brought a bit of a focus on Welles' past work that was not so readily available in those pre-Internet, pre-Amazon days. I was living in Philadelphia at the time and the local PBS station broadcast Touch of Evil. I recorded it and watched that VHS tape over and over again, until the point where I almost wore it out. That fall, a local University screened Mr. Arkadin. I also saw Welles' version of Macbeth around that time, though I don't recall how I came upon it. At any rate, it was the fall of Orson Welles for me those 27 years ago.

And since then, October and Orson Welles have gone hand-in-hand.

I should also mention here that I first heard a recording of the Welles' radio production of War of the Worlds when I was 15 years old, and have listened to it on around Halloween every year since--my first Welles' related October tradition.

So, with October upon us, I have decided to dedicate the blog to Mr. Welles for the next 31 days. I am going to try to post at least one item every day, though it may prove to be a challenge next week when I am traveling to New York for four days. We'll see. The entries may be in the form of a single image or film clip, or some link to an article or maybe even just a quote. I'm not going to put too many demands on myself with this project or it will never get done.

And there you have it. The opening shot of a month long project. We'll see where this goes.

posted by Jim Chadwick @ 11:55 PM,


At 6:38 AM, Blogger Roland said...

Great entry, Jim. I'm a huge fan of War of the Worlds, have been since I did a "report" on it in middle school! :)


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Jim Chadwick is a native New Yorker who has been living in southern California for the past 20 years. Jim has worked in comic books, publishing, toys and video games for way longer than he'd care to admit. That's because he is way older than he would like to be.

Jim is an editor for DC Comics, working out of the company's west coast office in Burbank, California. But if you came here looking for industry dirt, forget it. I like my job and I'd like to keep it. While I may sometimes talk about comics, this is mostly dedicated to my other interests.

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The title of the blog comes from an old Elvis Costello song that originally appeared on the album (and I can say "album" because I originally bought it on vinyl) called Blood and Chocolate. It's not my favorite Elvis song (though I like it a lot), but I chose it because in the lyrics, the subjective speaker is telling someone that they are now going to have to essentially shut up and listen to what he has to say. Which seemed kind of appropriate to the nature of blogging.

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