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Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles Hardcover – June 1, 1996


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Hardcover, June 1, 1996
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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Alfred a Knopf; First Edition edition (June 1996)
  • ISBN-10: 0614957060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0614957068
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,142,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

During Orson Welles' tumultuous honeymoon in Hollywood 1939-1942, Thomson writes, he achieved "glory, but ruined himself; the one was not possible without the other." In this sweeping tribute to the man said to have "more genius than talent," Thomson chronicles the events that transformed Welles from Hollywood's bad boy into one of the most influential and enduring filmmakers. The accounts of Welles' intellect only serve to contrast with the self-destructiveness of his post-Kane years, and Thomson's analysis shows that Citizen Kane loomed over the actor-film maker, not just as an achievement he could never equal, "but as an underground presaging of his own destiny." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Welles is certainly enjoying a boom; soon after the first volume of Simon Callow's Orson Welles (Forecasts, Nov. 20, 1995) comes this study by the author of The Life of David O. Selznick and A Biographical Dictionary of Film. Thomson does not pretend to have done vast scholarship or delved extensively into original sources. As a boy in England, he says, he fell under Welles's spell, and his book is a sort of vast, almost novelistic examination of the showman's rich and ultimately deeply frustrating life; it is an attempt to come to terms with the fascination Welles continues to exert, although it is generally agreed that his last 40 years were an anticlimax. Determined to be compulsively readable, Thomson indulges in highly tendentious asides, interrupts himself with questions he imagines his publisher asking and works in chunks of scenes from Welles's movies and snippets from the interviews the star tirelessly gave all his life. The result is a vivid patchwork, a swift, impressionistic take on Welles that is also an often moving tribute to his oblique mix of genius and charlatanism. Not by any means the only book on Welles to read, but a stimulating and diverting one, with some unusual judgments: that his Macbeth, for instance, is better than his Othello, and that the late F for Fake is a neglected masterwork. Illustrated. 50,000 first printing.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Too bad he blew it on cringe-inducing, pretentious, smug prose.
brian edward caulley
The author is too involved with his own thoughts instead of sticking to the facts in an objective manner.
Babeur
Thomson book is excellent for the effort he makes to reconstruct this strange and tragic man.
J. A Magill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I told a co-worker that I was reading a book on Welles, she said, "Wow, that must be interesting...he was such a mysterious man." And this book definitely is interesting. Instead of reverting to the dry, analytical narrative that most biographies use, the author uses an effervescent, almost poetical descriptive voice, as well as employing an imaginary dialogue with an inquiring editor. The dialogue technique is used sometimes to escape the pitfalls of libel suits (as someone to "suggest" that so-and-so may have homosexual, etc.) as well as to explore multidimensional interpretations of film.
This technique could be distracting, but it isn't. Instead it's compelling, and it gives voice to the reader in an interesting way.
Now, on to the content...this book was a fine portrait of Orson, detailing his early success, blazing masterpiece, debilitating failure, and strange downward slide. It examines Welles with both adoration and horror -- how could someone with so much talent burn so brightly and then burn out?
Scenic analysis of some films are an added bonus, and prove almost as illuminating as biographical details. These film crit moments aren't too heavy for the amateur, but they also won't bore a seasoned scholar. (ALthough if you haven;t seen "Citizen Kane" before you pick this up, you really should go rent it first...and even if you know it well, as I do, you might want to still rent it because the book does explore it with regards to Welles psyche, and it is very helpful to have scenes fresh in your mind.)
This talks about Welles's personal life, but refrains from idle gossip. It emphasizes the *human* struggle in Welles and illuminates the myth without diminishing the pleasant mystery.
Highly recommended for theater & film buffs as well as people with a good taste for a tragic story.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Babeur on January 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
David Thomson thinks he's some kind of superior being and criticizes in a pompous and condescendent manner everything Welles ever did. He's one of those people who think that Welles never achieved anything after Kane. He wonders if he was even really responsible for Kane? He states that Welles did not write any of the script (false), that Greg Toland was director of photography while Robert Wise was responsible for the editing. SO what did Welles do? He directed! Apparently, that's not enough to make Kane his movie, his masterpiece, among others. Well if movies were only based on photography, scripting and editing, then why would directors be needed?

Thomson insults Welles in every paragraph; he hammers him over and over, relentlessly. He focuses on the less successful aspects of his life and exaggerates them. He ridicules him, makes fun of his weight, says he's egotistical, a liar, a misogynist, an unfaithful friend, a machiavellic mischievous man who uses people, cheats on his wives, dates married women, eats like a pig and stuffs his face with anything he could find (he talks a lot about that), a pretend genius or would be genius who thinks he's the victim of evil Hollywood moguls. What other bad things could be said about Welles? Basically, any insult or evil thought you would ever have towards your worse enemy would not match up to the way Thomson writes about Welles.

Welles is not the only target of the author's wrath towards famous people. Any dead actor that was a friend or acquaintance of welles is also treated unkindly, as for the ones who are still alive, Thomson refrains himself from making a judgement. What a coward! Dead celebrities are such easy targets to criticism aren't they?
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By jenbird on February 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was so looking forward to reading this book, but it turned out to be not at all what I expected. Perhaps I'm too used to a more conventional style of biography, but I found "Rosebud" hard to get through. As fascinating a person as Orson Welles was, parts of this book were still slow going. The author constantly interrupts the narrative with "dialogues" between himself and...himself? The publisher? An imaginary reader? It's hard to say, and seems to be used mostly to insert his own presence into the biography, and to do an end run around any potential libel.

Other unnecessary bits include a whole chapter of this dialogue between the author and his imaginary friend as they watch the first few minutes of "Citizen Kane," and another entire chapter about how the author became a fan of Welles. This is supposed to be a biography of Orson Welles, not a book about how David Thomson feels about Orson Welles, and how Thomson has taught "Citizen Kane" in his class for years, blah blah blah. Every time Welles' own story gets interesting, Thomson pops up to remind you he's there. Ideally, a reader shouldn't be bombarded with the presence of the author in a biography.
There is some interesting information, but the book as a whole is not put together very well.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
If there is a word for David Thomson's writing that word might be: twee. Another word: self-infatuated. How about: pompous. Having been overpraised in the past he now sees himself as a fellow artist and equal of a legend like Welles. An intellectual Rupert Pupkin, Thomson doesn't much bother with original research or new interviews so much as mincing daydreaming about how he and Welles are such spiritual kin. Ah, the labors of shared genius! These sections are kind of funny in a way but not for long. The vanity of this approach is breathtaking.Stick with Simon Callow's exhaustive 1st volume bio, or the very good one by Brady, or Barbara Leaming's somewhat hagiographic but highly entertaining bio (the best for capturing Welles'charisma and his own take on his life) or even the rather plodding but informative Bogdanovich interview book.
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