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My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles Hardcover – July 16, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; F First Edition, 1st Printing edition (July 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805097252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805097252
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When his first film, Citizen Kane, was released, Welles had already achieved fame in theater and radio. He followed Kane with several masterpieces, including The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and Touch of Evil (1958) and was famous as Harry Lime in The Third Man (1949). By the 1980s, his films already classics, he hadn’t made a new film in nearly a decade, making it impossible to get funding for future projects, which led to lending his voice to wine commercials. Dining frequently with filmmaker Henry Jaglom, Welles allowed him to record their conversations. These recordings reveal Welles, the raconteur, as he recalls lovers (Rita Hayworth, Lena Horne); disses actors and directors (John Houseman, Joan Fontaine, Chaplin); tells outlandish stories (Carole Lombard’s plane was shot down by Nazi agents in America); and bemoans lack of respect from his peers. He is unguarded in his comments, revealing a vain, prickly personality, uncompromising and brilliant. Film buffs will find Welles’ commentary endlessly fascinating, though the director’s fans might be saddened to see him as a washed-up has-been. A worthy addition to the Bogdanovich, Leaming, and Callow accounts of Welles. --Ben Segedin


"Welles was obviously uninhibited by the invisible tape recorder. The book is a trove of classic-era Hollywood gossip, but if it were only that, it would be, at best, candy. Instead, it’s a treasure, both as a portrait of the artist and as a copious record of his ideas—it is, in fact, a key source for understanding Welles, the director and the man."
The New Yorker

"If you love old movies, My Lunches with Orson is like being handed a big tin of macadamia nuts — you just keep devouring it."

"Riveting...This is Welles riffing uninhibitedly on his life and times, lurching from mischief to melancholy...I defy anyone not to feel moved by the narrative arc of greatness laid low by its own luminosity."
Financial Times

"Enthralling...loaded with hilarious digressions and old showbiz tales related by Welles with hugely articulate relish."
The Hollywood Reporter

"My Lunches with Orson offers the experience of sitting in on a particular historical-c ultural moment. Read with your Netflix on hand, as Welles’s wealth of knowledge inspires re-viewings of both his own films and those of his favorite actors like Buster Keaton and Carole Lombard."
The Christian Science Monitor

"A wonderfully fluid peek into Welles’s mind. Rich with acerbic observations about cinema, theater, filmmakers, actors, politics and the essence of storytelling, My Lunches With Orson might be the elephantine storyteller’s last great work."

"What makes My Lunches With Orson appealing is the piquancy of the much younger, skinnier [Jaglom] taking on the Sisyphean job of reviving the Falstaffian outcast."
The New York Times Book Review

"If it wasn’t bad enough that I—and every other director—have to compete historically with Orson as a filmmaker, now we have to compete with him as a pure storyteller and a true raconteur, a man whose breadth of knowledge and experience may never be equaled again in this industry. The good news is that his declamations on every subject are alternatively penetrating, illuminating, shocking, rude, funny, true, or all of the above. I read this in one sitting; I can’t imagine anyone doing otherwise."
—Steven Soderbergh, director of Side Effects

"It’s time to add another line of adjectives to our descriptions of Orson Welles. In this remarkable collection of conversations, we come upon Welles the conversationalist provocateur who can’t open his mouth without saying something outrageously funny, fiercely opinionated, and always off-center about the men and women he claims to have known, played with, worked for, slept with, been courted and betrayed by, and admired or detested (often simultaneously) during his half century in show business. I laughed so hard I had an asthma attack."
—David Nasaw, author of The Patriarch

"We don’t often get close to a legend, but here we have lunch with one week by week, in the last years of his life. Welles’s conversations with Henry Jaglom glitter with memory, intelligence, and malice, and above all offer a magnificent act of self-impersonation: Orson Welles playing Orson Welles."
—Michael Wood, author of Film: A Very Short Introduction

"When Henry Jaglom sent me the galleys, I was skeptical about their entertainment value. But as soon as I picked them up, I was hooked. Welles was an ornery, sometimes unpleasant genius, but his opinions on just about everything and everyone were unvarnished. You can almost hear the silverware clinking and the waiters delivering lunch as the likes of Richard Burton drop by to pay their respects… For those not fortunate enough to have Hollywood running through their family tree, this book may be the next best thing."
—Ralph Gardner Jr., The Wall Street Journal

Customer Reviews

And if you are an Orson Welles fan in general, then you will enjoy reading this book.
It's an interesting read for the most part, and gives insight to the complexities of Orson Welles and his talent.
Alan Beggerow
It's okay if you don't like the acting of Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Joseph Cotten, or Jennifer Jones.
J. Friday

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Hopp VINE VOICE on May 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
People who have read Peter Bogdanovich's THIS IS ORSON WELLES will want to read this book, too. Less a series of intentional interviews, it is, as the title tells, transcriptions of informal table talk at lunch. Welles insisted that the tape recorder be out of sight so that the conversations could be as unselfconscious as possible, and the results are nothing if not candid and opinionated--but also stimulating and insightful. Anyone who has seen an interview with Welles knows what a spellbinding talker he was, and every one of the book's 27 chapters verifies this, nearly every one of the 286 pages. The conversations all come from the last three years of Welles's life.

The overall picture that we get is mostly personal. As one might expect in lunching with a friend, there's gossip, personal opinions, remarks about his current projects, even comments on mid-80's current events (the death of Tennessee Williams, the fear of catching AIDS from casual contact). Sometimes other people (Richard Burton, Jack Lemmon) drop by their table (Welles is rude to Burton, kind to Lemmon). A representative snippet from the book is these sentences about Welles's friend from the Forties, the actress Carole Lombard. He tells Jaglom that Lombard swore freely in an age when the daily discourse was more reserved: "My God, she was earthy. She looked like a great beauty, but she behaved like a waitress in a hash house. That was her style of acting, too, and it had a great allure." The gossip of the first two sentences becomes in the last sentence a smart point about Lombard's art. That happens a lot in the book, as I suppose it could at the lunch tables of America every day: what starts off as dishing dirt transforms into something intelligent.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Steve Schwartz VINE VOICE on June 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For years, actor/director Henry Jaglom hung out with film legend Orson Welles, not only having lunches, but hustling for him and his projects. With Welles's consent, Jaglom taped their conversations by means of a tape recorder hidden in Jaglom's bag.

Unlike filmmakers Hitchcock and Ford, for example, Welles was never able to parley his genius for making some of the best films to come out of Hollywood (or anywhere else) into a flourishing career. Early on, he got tagged by the screw-ups of others -- studio executives, jealous colleagues, government cultural bureaucrats in Europe, small-minded know-it-alls in general -- as a man who could never finish anything, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. The word on Welles, as well as his corporal image of self-indulgence, made it difficult and finally imossible to get financing for any project. At the time of his death, he had 19 scripts, many complete, a few not, including what might have been a great King Lear. It's definitely our loss, but there's always the next witless movie franchise (Fast and Furious XXI, for example) all too available to take up brain space. I never really understood why some billionaire wouldn't just give him 5 mil to make a film, even if the project turned to powder. It still would have been money better spent than on a giant party in the Bahamas catered by the trendiest celebrity chef and adorned with ice sculptures.

Unlike many who called Welles a friend, Jaglom actually went out of his way to be of practical service to Welles's career, shopping Welles's scripts and even casting him in Someone to Love, Welles's last film appearance. Why, especially when most people were more than willing to accept Welles as a talentless sprawl (Welles had passed "obese" decades before) of failure?
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Webster TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've always liked Hollywood gossip, mostly because the participants take themselves so very seriously, while the stakes are so very low. This book provides plenty of it, and Orson Welles personality really comes through, better I think than a more formal interview could have provided.

Presented as transcribed lunchtime conversations with his friend Henry Jaglom, these dialogues are very funny and insightful - not laugh-out-loud, but entertaining. Welles doesn't self-censor because he knows he'd be long-gone if the contents were revealed, and so he is. John Houseman, Laurence Olivier, and many others come in for a thrashing.

But it also works because Welles doesn't seem to take himself that seriously, as he casually dismisses many directors, producers, and stars of his era - while also giving plenty of credit. This book provides a reader an interesting walk-through of Welles' moviemaking experience and also his personal life - and Welles' honesty makes it clear there were many disappointments in both, which he's happy to discuss to Jaglom (who gives as he good as he gets, which makes the conversations much more interesting than sitting across from some sycophant).

It is melancholy that "Citizen Kane" comes up so much - as you'd expect. But it was 40 years old at the time of these interviews, and it's sad that no other Welles movie came close to it's impact or creative success, which Welles recognizes. It's not that he didn't have plenty of other projects, just that he knew lightning would never strike like "Kane" again. His discussions of other projects almost seem like busy work, more than any kind of true effort.

Welles died at 70 in 1985 - and career-wise, he was mostly irrelevant by then - he was a legend, but not current.
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My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles
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