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Comment: Condition: Very good condition., Very good dust jacket. Slightly yellowing pages. / Binding: Hardback. / Publisher: Faber & Faber / Pub. Date: 2003-10-22 Attributes: Book / Stock#: 2043814 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 1st edition (October 22, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571209785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571209781
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,212,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With his passion for self-invention and his fascination with larger-than-life heroes, legends and charlatans of literature, Orson Welles-filmmaker, actor, magician-"lived a life of allegory," writes Conrad in his interpretive biography. The author of two previous books of film criticism, including one on the work of Alfred Hitchcock, Conrad draws parallels between Welles and the characters he played, revealing how the errant genius was the architect of his own mythology. Orphaned at 15, Welles reinvented himself as an art-worshipping student of Shakespeare, a playwright, he insisted, who spoke the language of the common man. His own cinematic manifestations, including the irrepressible Charles Foster Kane, were, according to Conrad, studies in his own attempt to measure his various personas. Each chapter is dedicated to a character doubling as Welles's alter ego: Faust, Falstaff, Harry Lime from The Third Man, Kane and others in whom Welles found and lost himself. At times the book veers into ponderous explications of Welles' various endeavors, but, with depth and scrupulous detail, it offers a portrait of the enigmatic artist as both cosmically gifted and insufferably self-indulgent. Even his tumultuous marriage to Rita Hayworth seemed an exercise in mythmaking, as Welles transformed the earthy beauty into an ethereal blonde goddess for The Lady from Shanghai. Yet, as the book incisively points out, despite his many incarnations, Welles remained a complex mystery to himself. While filming Don Quixote, Conrad recalls, Wells dubbed the voices of both Quixote and Sancho, identifying intellectually with the former and physically with the latter. "As the imitator of all his fictional selves," writes Conrad, Welles was a confused and reckless genius, capable of great darkness and great light.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

Orson Welles achieved early, revolutionary success with "Citizen Kane," only to follow that film with nearly half a century of false starts and compromised productions. The great, self-sabotaging Welles remains one of cinema's lasting enigmas. Conrad doesn't attempt a standard biography; instead he considers the man through the archetypes on which he drew as an actor and director—Falstaff, Don Quixote, Faust. It's a brilliant way to explore this mercurial prodigy who conceived of his life in mythic terms and (the other side of this coin) told frequent lies about it. Conrad, an Oxford don whose books include an unconventional study of Hitchcock, writes with erudite agility, making excursions into Romantic poetry, Shakespeare, and the history of radio and film. The result is an idiosyncratic monument to Welles, one that both explains and amplifies the legend.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Samerdyke on July 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I thought this was a very interesting book on Welles. It is not a conventional biography. Peter Conrad covers Welles' career by looking at the various archetypes that Welles played/embodied/wrote about during his career: boy genius, Faust, Falstaff, etc.

It takes a while to get used to the book. Making a judgment after five minutes is a mistake. Once you get into Conrad's groove, leaping from Welles' radio work to stage, to movies in the space of a chapter makes sense. He shows how echoes of "Citizen Kane" recur in later Welles' projects, and how unrealized things like "Heart of Darkness" influenced the projects Welles was able to pull off.

The best thing about the book was that it covered all of Welles' career, instead of saying: "And after RKO took 'Magnificent Ambersons' away, Welles became a big fat loser." Conrad shows there was a consistency and throughlines in Welles' disrupted career.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on November 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Entertaining glimpse into a big man's many personalities. Conrad's schema is sweet: each chapter takes an established archetype and then shows the many ways in which Orson Welles seemed to try out each role and alter it as he saw fit.

Welles seems corny, as though he actually believed that he was bigger than life, but ultimately Conrad saves Welles from himself and his own delusions of grandeur.

One of the roles is "Everybody." There was a decidedly essentialist streak to Orson Welles, and when he directed Eartha Kitt as Helen in his version of Faustus, she was confounded when he told her his directorial rules, that she was required to play "every woman at every age in every historical time period." Sometimes Conrad plays the game a little too wellm he could cut himself he's so clever, as when he notices that the Mercury Shakespeare Welles edited was originally published as "Everybody's Shakespeare." But even as this example shows, it's telling all the same, and says something about Welles that I had never thought of before, and I don't expect any previous writer on Welles has either.

There's a chapter on "Mercury" (aha, thought of one already!), on "Prospero," on "Quixote," on "Peter Pan," "Kurtz," "Falstaff," and chapters on such vaguer archetypes as the "Lord of Misrule," the "Sacred Beasy," the "Renaissance Man," each chapter packed with dozens of insights and more than your ordinary share of whimsy.

If you're up for making the trip, this could be a valuable book. If not, you might find it too rich, like Jack Horner pulling plum after plum out an impossibly greasy pie.

PS, all the archetypes are very male, I wonder if Conrad considered any female archetypes for surely Welles tried these on too?
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7 of 16 people found the following review helpful By wylib on June 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm a librarian, and I threw this book away after five minutes. Conrad is the kind of author who tries to find some significance in comparing (Welles' made-up term) "pan-focus" with aspects of the god Pan. The book was filled with this sort of unrelenting BS word-play and devoid of any real research or insights. "Despite the System" offers a far better return of time and money for the Welles fan.
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