- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 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: 164 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles Hardcover – July 16, 2013
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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.” ―NPR
“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.” ―Indiewire
“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
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Top customer reviews
Even though it looks like this book was just published last year (2013), this book is somehow utterly of its time. It reminded me, in the best and most uncanny way, of conversational books and interviews I read in my teens (in the early to mid-80s, exactly when Welles and Jaglom are having these lunches) with members of Welles' generation--Andy Warhol, of all people, kept coming to mind--and college professors who were also approximately Welles' age. These people could really *talk*, about anything, especially themselves, and keep you hooked for hours while they did it. (Is these an actor or director living today--besides maybe Roman Polanski--who could go off, repeatedly, on Andre Malraux, even if they wanted to?) I bought this book thinking it would be my nightstand reading for a few days, and then I stayed up all night reading it, because I couldn't put it down.
It is a sad recounting in his own words of his frustrating final few years as he struggles with his health and the futile efforts to continue his film directing career.
The bitter tone that's pervasive is understandable as this acknowledged giant was impoverished and marginalized.
Peter Biskind had done an excellent job of organizing and commenting on the material.
The conversations between Welles and his great friend. champion, and dining foil Henry Jaglom are very entertaining and insightful. Many of the often told stories are repeated with new details and there's plenty of revelations and new material for Welles enthusiasts to enjoy.
"My Lunches with Orson" put together by Peter Briskin, is derived from tape recorded transcripts from mutual Orson Welles friend admirer Henry Jaglom who sits with Orson over a period of a year and a half--which will be the last year and of a half of Orson's life-- and at Orson's instigation are recording their conversations as they have lunch at Orson's favorite restaurant favorite, Ma Maison, which is becoming popular because Orson dines in state there almost every day with his small lap dog. Illegal to have an animal in the restaurant, but Orson's dog is tolerated.
So instead of interviews, it's them talking and changing conversations rapidly, and Orson is super knowlegeable about everything in the world, has a quicksilver mind, has met everybody in the world from all fields, pontificates about everything at great length,(food, dogs, politics, history, reveals he thought Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart were rotten actors, the Irish are the worst people in the whole world,etc.) and Henry Jaglom is responding like any friend would with surprise and contradicting viewpoints in amused debates, and this sprinkled with Orson's intact memory reciting huge passages from Shakespeare, things from his own scripts. Plus sudden raucous laughter, dirty jokes, deeply felt insecurities and self-deprecation. All this during a time when Welles is struggling financially, trying to launch some projects in America and Europe which keep falling through at the last minute because the former Boy Wonder might be washed up, is kaftan-wearing overweight and having to use a cane.
For example, he took a guest to watch Charlie Chaplin shoot a scene. All went well, until one of Charlie's six writers ran onto the set and exclaimed to Charlie that they finally had come up with a funny solution to a scene for him. Charlie was furious as he did not want anyone to know he had hired writers. He wanted everyone to think he invented all the gags himself. He fired that writer.