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What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career Hardcover – October 13, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky; First Edition edition (October 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813124107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813124100
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,211,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With Welles, all roads lead to Citizen Kane, and it's there that many of his troubles began, McBride (Orson Welles; Steven Spielberg: A Biography, etc.) asserts in his lengthy examination of the famed filmmaker's career. Labeled a communist by the vengeful publisher William Hearst, Welles found himself blacklisted in the industry. He left for Europe, later writing in Esquire that he "chose freedom." He produced only two movies during the eight years he spent abroad, but McBride asserts that his expatriate period resulted in tremendous growth as an independent filmmaker. Much of the book revolves around the saga of Welles's unfinished Hollywood satire, The Other Side of the Wind, which the author worked on. Instead of fully exploiting the insider angle, McBride instead comes across as a name-dropper, constantly reminding the reader of his relationship with his subject. McBride's passion for film (Welles's films, specifically) and his closeness with the director provide enough insider material to satisfy Welles fans and film buffs, though readers with a casual interest may want to look elsewhere.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Conventional wisdom about Orson Welles holds that he squandered the promise of Citizen Kane (1941) in two decades' worth of releases that ranged from masterpieces to misfires. In the 15 years before his death in 1985, he did little but appear in hack movies and lucrative commercials. "I started at the top and have been going downhill ever since," he said. Yet McBride shows those years to have been a period of great productivity, during which Welles worked nonstop on a number of projects, few of which reached completion. The author of two previous books on Welles, McBride got to know the filmmaker he idolized when Welles recruited the young critic to play a role in the most famous of the unfinished works, The Other Side of the Wind. McBride argues that Welles should be viewed not as a failed Hollywood exile but as a progenitor of the independent filmmaking that flourished in the 1970s. Welles fans--essentially, all serious cinephiles--will find McBride's heartfelt defense of the director indispensable, though heartbreaking. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Joseph McBride is an American film historian, biographer, screenwriter, and professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University. McBride has published seventeen books since 1968, including acclaimed biographies of Steven Spielberg, Frank Capra, and John Ford. His most recent work is Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit, published in June 2013; this book, both epic and intimately personal, is the result of McBride's thirty-one-year investigation of the case. It contains many fresh revelations from McBride's rare interviews with people in Dallas, archival discoveries, and what novelist Thomas Flanagan, in The New York Review of Books, called McBride's "wide knowledge of American social history."

Before Into the Nightmare, McBride published Writing in Pictures: Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless (2012) and updated editions of his 1997 book Steven Spielberg: A Biography in 2011 and 2012. The American second edition of the Spielberg book was published by the University Press of Mississippi, which also reprinted his biographies Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success (1992; 2000) and Searching for John Ford (2001). McBride's other books include: Orson Welles (1972; 1996), Hawks on Hawks (1982), The Book of Movie Lists: An Offbeat, Provocative Collection of the Best and Worst of Everything in Movies (1999), and What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career (2006).

His screenwriting credits include the movies Rock 'n' Roll High School and Blood and Guts and five American Film Institute Life Achievement Award specials on CBS-TV dealing with Fred Astaire, Frank Capra, Lillian Gish, John Huston, and James Stewart. He also was cowriter of the United States Information Agency worldwide live TV special Let Poland Be Poland (1982). McBride plays a film critic, Mr. Pister, in the legendary unfinished Orson Welles feature The Other Side of the Wind (1970-76). McBride is also the coproducer of the documentaries Obsessed with "Vertigo": New Life for Hitchcock's Masterpiece (1997) and John Ford Goes to War (2002).

McBride received the Writers Guild of America Award for cowriting The American Film Institute Salute to John Huston (1983). He has also received four other WGA nominations two Emmy nominations, and a Canadian Film Awards nomination. The French edition of Searching for John Ford, A la Recherche de John Ford, published in 2007, was chosen the Best Foreign Film Book of the Year by the French film critics' association, le Syndicat Français de la Critique de Cinéma.

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, McBride grew up in the suburb of Wauwatosa. He attended Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, where he received a National Merit Scholarship, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and worked as a reporter for The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison before departing for California in 1973. A documentary feature on McBride's life and work, Behind the Curtain: Joseph McBride on Writing Film History, written and directed by Hart Perez, had its world debut in 2011 at the Tiburon International Film Festival in Tiburon, Marin County, CA, and was released on DVD in 2012.

Customer Reviews

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A biography that will absorb you from start to finish.
Hiram Gomez Pardo
Despite that, Welles never gave in but directed several fascinating films and worked on others that still remain to be completed up to the very moment of his life.
Tony Williams
Everyone knows that Orson Welles made _Citizen Kane_, possibly the most audacious and most analyzed movie to come out of Hollywood.
R. Hardy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Everyone knows that Orson Welles made _Citizen Kane_, possibly the most audacious and most analyzed movie to come out of Hollywood. And then what happened? He had been called a "boy genius", having made the movie (co-written, directed, and starred) when he was but twenty-five years old, but within a decade the term was used with sarcasm, and Walter Kerr wrote that Welles had become "an international joke, and possibly the youngest living has-been." Welles had been knocked down, and in the view of many, he never got up. Certainly, he never made anything like a _Kane_ again, but that isn't really fair: no one has. It is true that he never produced the sorts of films that were Hollywood-popular, but he did not at all disappear. Joseph McBride, a film historian who knew Welles, has answered the title question in his book _What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career_ (The University Press of Kentucky). The answer, quite simply, is that Welles worked and worked for decades in film, writing scripts, making movies, and (perhaps because few would bankroll him) doing things his own way. It's a sad story, in many ways. No one could doubt Welles's genius, and there are so many "if only" episodes in this book that it is often a depressing account. But Welles was not a tragic figure; he reflected years later that he might have made a mistake in staying in films (rather than, say, returning to the theater in which he had previously made his mark). But he would not have had it any other way: "I'm just in love with making movies," he said, and indeed, it was only death that stopped him.Read more ›
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tony Williams on October 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book's title aptly describes its critical task in taking issue with the misleading images perpetuated by certain critics and journalists concerning the significance of Orson Welles as a major cinematic talent who developed, rather than declined, after making CITIZEN KANE. The author had the benfit several years of contact with the director before he died as well as the opportunity to appear before the camera in the still unreleased THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND.

McBride has been engaged in Welles's scholarship since his early 1970s monograph dealing with the director and is in a good position to promote the case that Welles was more of what we would describe as an independent film director rather than a Hollywood figure. This book covers similar territory to the first two volumes of Simon Callow's biographical project but has the advantage of extending beyond the final chapter of HELLO AMERICANS to document Welles work in Europe and his return to Hollywood up to his eventual death. It is also a much more balanced work than either of Callow's two volumes by avoiding tendencies towards cheap character assassination (mercifully limited in Callow's second volume but still present in certain instances) to document a person who was both a genius and a difficult person.

The key argument of this book is that the director was more sinned against than anything else. His Hollywood career was deliberately sabotaged by studion executives and he was under surveillance by the FBI for some 15 years. Despite that, Welles never gave in but directed several fascinating films and worked on others that still remain to be completed up to the very moment of his life. Welles was a fascinating character, a product of the New Deal Cultural Front, and a cinematic innovator in many ways.
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Format: Hardcover
Mention the name Orson Welles and his most famous involvement - with the radio scare 'War of the Worlds' - immediately comes to mind; but for a deeper understanding of Welles' life and career you need What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career. His later projects were largely self-financed and erratically distributed, but film critic and biographer Joseph McBride has a personal familiarity with Welles from previous projects worked on with him and here shows how the Hollywood studio system forced Welles out of the industry. Its value thus is twofold: as a biography for Welles fans, and as a history of film industry operations and politics.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sean G. Graver on March 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While I might be biased because a many parts of this book included stories about my father, Gary Graver, this is not something you want to miss out on if you have any interest in Orson Welles or the inner workings of the Hollywood movie industry. I knew Orson when I was a young boy and teenager during the time my father worked with him, but my memories are nothing compared to the vivid details and thoroughness of Joe's writings.

This book taught me a lot about a man whom I admired and feared. He was rather scary from the perspective of a ten year old, but he often took time to have me sit with him while he taught me card tricks. I am so grateful that these stories are now available for everyone to read. Thank you Joe for your commitment in documenting what no one else ever has and sharing these wonderful stories.
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