Actor for Hire: The Other Side of Orson Welles

Beginning work on what would be his final narrative feature (the only recently completed and released The Other Side of the Wind), the iconic and ever iconoclastic director Orson Welles declared that if John Huston didn’t accept the lead role, then he himself would take it on. Like Huston, Welles was as accomplished an actor as he was a filmmaker; his inherent creative resourcefulness informed his formidable versatility as a performer. He had started acting as a teenager, treading the boards in Ireland; he was still a teen when, back in the U.S., he made his mark on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet (as the fiery Tybalt) and on the radio. At age 23, he made the cover of Time Magazine, for his own Mercury Theatre troupe’s staging of Heartbreak House. His striking physical presence, thunderclap voice, and ability to jacknife between domineering and vulnerable coalesced when he starred in his seismic 1941 debut feature as writer/director, Citizen Kane. While the impetus for Welles’ subsequent gallery of acting roles was increasingly to bankroll his own projects, it also afforded creative collaborations that yielded marvelous performances. This retrospective samples four decades of Welles’ film appearances for other directors, from rewarding star turns to scene-stealing supporting roles.

Past Screenings