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Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind Hardcover – April 21, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Supremely entertaining ...[and]... an early contender for this year's best book about Hollywood.” ―Hollywood Reporter

“Meticulously researched.” ―The Washington Post

“Highly entertaining.” ―New York Post

“In Josh Karp's excellent new book, you get a sensitively rendered and panoramic depiction of that famous megalomania. Welles is as ripe a subject as any to depict Hollywood hubris, but Karp's lively tone keeps him on a balanced, human level. There's no shortage of hilarious anecdotes here. A-” ―Entertainment Weekly

“Josh Karp applies enthusiastic scholarship, with vivid narrative writing and just the right touch of can-you-believe-this-stuff? marvel.” ―The New York Times

“Fascinating...an in-depth account. [A] wonderful book.” ―Wall Street Journal

“Karp's propulsive chronicle of the botched production is a hall of fun-house mirrors. Welles's improvised pastiche, begun in 1970, would star John Huston as a brilliant, egotistical director laboring to finish a masterpiece before dying at the age of 70. Fifteen years later, Welles himself died at 70, his masterpiece unfinished - which was far from the end of a story as gripping, probably, as the still-unseen movie.” ―New York Magazine

“Karp's conversational tone yet unerring attention to detail make this an essential book on Welles...an intimate, humorous, and staggering tale. This is easily one of the most enjoyable and informative books about Welles ever published.” ―Library Journal (starred review)

“What became of The Other Side of the Wind, that crazy movie that took up the last 15 years of the life of Orson Welles? Karp puts that question to rest with this hilarious and sobering saga of one of the greatest films never finished. Luckily, there's nothing unfinished in Karp's retelling. He follows every story, dollar and last legal battle in full detail. Whether the film sees a 2015 release on the anniversary of Welles' birth, as was speculated as of late last year, we at least have Karp to thank for the next best thing.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A fascinating story, much more than your typical making-of book.” ―Booklist

“Riveting, wildly entertaining.” ―Vulture

“Everything Welles ever did was a kind of adventure: The Other Side of the Wind--a film made up as it went along--was perhaps the greatest, maddest adventure of all. Josh Karp's absolutely riveting book recreates the whole tragic, comic enterprise, creating an unforgettable portrait of a middle-aged Welles thrashing around as only a frustrated genius could thrash around, in quest of an ever-elusive dream of film, assembled from a hundred thousand fragments of spur-of-the-minute inspirations. Like some semi-mythic warlord, Welles lays about him, bullying, terrifying, charming, lying, cheating, cajoling, manipulating, destroying, creating in pursuit of a goal he himself barely understands. Orson Welles's Last Movie is a massive contribution to Welles scholarship, and an unputdownable read.” ―Simon Callow, author of Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu and Orson Welles: Hello Americans

“If you're writing a biography of a movie, especially one by Orson Welles, it's not such a great idea to compete with your subject, unless you're sure you can pull it off. Happily, Karp does. This is the most entertaining film book I've read in years--informative, funny, and least expected, freshly researched. Orson would have loved it.” ―Peter Biskind, My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles

“Like the best Hollywood stories, Josh Karp's entertaining book veers between slapstick and tragedy, and is filled with larger-than-life characters who are charmed and doomed by their own hopefulness and cynicism, charisma and buffoonery. With wit and insight, Karp has made a valuable contribution to the enduring legend of Orson Welles, and proved once again that in the movie business, improbability may be the one enduring truth.” ―Julie Salamon, author of The Devil's Candy and Wendy and the Lost Boys

“Josh Karp has written a Hollywood epic as grand as any shot by Frank Capra, Preston Sturges or Orson Welles. In the end, this book is about more than a movie that was never quite finished. It's about an industry, an era and the artistic process. Funny and profound, too weird and heartbreaking to believe--Karp has added an indelible chapter to the literature of show biz.” ―Rich Cohen, New York Times bestselling author of Monsters, The Avengers, and Tough Jews

“A maverick director, shady dealings, and the Iranian revolution make up the often incredible true story behind The Other Side of the Wind. Packed with revealing first-hand accounts, Orson Welles's Last Movie recounts the making and downfall of the ill-fated comeback of the film industry's most talented prodigal son.” ―Ray Kelly, Wellesnet.com

About the Author

JOSH KARP is a journalist and writer who teaches at Northwestern University. His first book, A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever, won best biography of 2006 at both the Independent Publisher Book Awards and the Midwest Book Awards. Karp is also the author of Straight Down the Middle: Shivas Irons, Bagger Vance and How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Golf Swing. His writing has appeared in Salon, The Atlantic, and Newsweek among others.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (April 21, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250007089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250007087
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's all true. Orson Welles's Last Movie is terrific. For fans of Welles (and they are multiplying every year, especially in this centennial of Welles' birth), the book is a remarkable look at how Orson tried to put together a movie that would make him relevant to the new form of film making of the late 60's and early 70's. He did it by being Orson Welles, who was always an innovator of film shots, set-ups and characters.

Karp has tied all the history of this unreleased film together, showing Welles' process and progress along the way. He sorts through the tangled web of Welles' finances, which is not easy (Welles had been financing his own films through his acting work for decades), and introduces us to the Shah of Iran's brother-in-law, various lawyers, Canadian arts reps and a delightful reappearance from Suzanne Cloutier, who played Desdemona in Welles' great film of Othello (nearly four years in the making and which was mainly finished by Welles through funding from his acting work).

Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Other Side of the Wind is very enjoyable, witty and revealing, all at once. There are plans afoot to bring it to the screen later this year; it appears all the tangled web of ownership has been resolved and piecing together the remaining elements of the film is taking place. I've seen some of the footage of the movie (Welles showed several clips at the AFI Tribute in 1975, hoping for end money which never came) and the scenes are wonderful. It will add more to the legend of Welles and this book will hold a permanent place on any Welles fan's bookshelf.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book falls into three distinct parts. The first part, mercifully short, is a framing device narrated by Welles himself as if Karp were channeling the script for SUNSET BLVD. This part is poorly executed and completely unnecessary.

The second part is problematic for Welles aficionados (who let's face it are the only people likely to pick up this book in the first place). It's merely a re-hash of all the gossip, innuendo and mythology surrounding the unfortunate history of Welles, his career, and the film in question. Some of the biographical material sounds all to familiar and hardly worth including. The stories and myths present a rather unfocused picture of Welles which makes it difficult to find a rational for the problems with the film. And Karp is a bit to coy with references to some anonymous sources which call the stories into doubt.

But the third part is worth the price of admission. Karp untangles and illuminates the thoroughly bizarre financial arrangements that have caused much of the delay in this film being seen by the public. The rumor is the film will now be shown in this Welles' centenary year but, especially after reading this third section, I and undoubtedly a lot of other Welles fans will be skeptical until we are actually in a theater with the lights going down and the reels unspooling.

A final note that was out of the author's hands. The digital version of this book is done very poorly. No index, very poor citation methodology (you're advised to use the search feature), all of which undercuts the value of this book as a work of scholarship or journalism
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This movie has been as much of a source of fascination to me as the lost Jerrry Lewis trainwreck, "Day the Clown Cried." Only, in this case, I think the film we've been deprived of is close to genius, even if it's been left unfinished. To me, the greatest part of the book are the sections where Karp is describing the actual making of the movie; you get caught up in Welles' creative process just as much as those working on the set (often under horrible stress and for little or no money) did. I will agree with another review that said the (very short) framing device of Welles narrating this tale from beyond the grave is incredibly weak and unnecessary, but it's gone in a flash and doesn't linger over the rest of the book. You may get lost as I did in the final third of the book, in which the various schemes and dreams to get the film financed, finished and released (as recently by Showtime back in 2010) get so complicated your eyes glaze over, but the fact remains that Welles simply did everything in his power NOT to complete this film - and I suspect that his mistress, who took over the rights upon his death, was given explicit orders to also continue to throw up roadblocks. Fascinating, complex portrayal of the ultimate flawed genius, as well as compelling looks at Peter Bogdanovich, John Huston, Rich Little (yes, Rich Little - his introduction to Huston is priceless), and the unsung long-suffering "hero" of this book, Gary Graver.
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Format: Hardcover
So in this sad, silly, savage world one evening back in 1942 some pinheads in Pomona at a previewing of Welles' second film THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS laughed and some were bored and some walked out and all of this negativity made the RKO studio heads tremble in their sweaty seats. They didn't know that this was like showing a sunset to a blind person. So what happened? The beginning of the end of Welles' career as a film director began, that's what. Going to South America at the behest of the government tore up even more track and helped derail Welles considerably further. The brutal end result of the mass incomprehension confronting the Maestro was akin to Michelangelo not getting his blocks of marble or Da Vinci being deprived of his paint and corpses or Paganini his violin. And nowadays in the popular mind, the major thing remembered - if he is remembered at all! - is the tragic waist of Welles and not the truly tragic waste of him. Yes, he lost the freedom of playing with the biggest electric toy train set ever - his real Rosebud - and he scrambled after money from continent to continent just so as to make the movies in his mind and he knew and felt the waste, I'm sure, of his youth and years and talent and treasures. But...truthfully...the waste is ours. We will never see Orson Welles' life of Christ, his take on Cyrano, Don Quixote, his unmolested Ambersons, his Moby Dick and so many other dreams that turned to nightmares in the harsh light of daytime reality. And we will probably never see his final work, which is the subject of this tragicomic book.

The myth of Welles "fear of completion" of his various film projects is a risible one. Here is a man who against all odds battled bravely and passionately to give the world his vision via a handful of films.
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