4 orson welles in 1937 when he was 22 years old four

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Figure 12.4 Orson Welles in 1937 when he was 22 years old, four years be¬ fore the release of Citizen Kane. Courtesy of the Library of Congress and arranged the music for Kane and other productions such as Psycho (I960), “The Twilight Zone” (1959-1963), and Taxi Driver (1976). Famed cinema¬ tographer Gregg Toland, who had just won an Academy Award for his work in Wuthering Heights (1939), was in charge of photography (Figure 12.3). Yet despite its best intentions, Citizen Kane was a financial disaster. Although praised by critics, mass theater audiences of the day were accustomed to seeing lightweight action and comedic films— not a dark, moody psychological drama with an unhappy ending. Film critic André Bazin wrote that the motion picture was “decidedly above the mental age of the average American spectator.” Although nominated for several Oscars, the film won only one award—for best screenplay. Born on May 6, 1915, George Orson Welles was the second son of a troubled, yet creative, family in Kenosha, Wiscon¬ sin. His father, Richard, was a frustrated inventor who died early from alcohol¬ ism. His mother, Beatrice, was a strong supporter of womens rights, an excel¬ lent rifle shot, and a failed professional pianist. From an early age Orson attracted media attention. In newspaper articles he was praised as a “boy genius”—at the age of two he could read fluently, at seven he could recite passages from Shakespeare’s King Lear, and at ten he started producing backyard plays of his own. At 16 years old Welles made a walking tour of Ireland and ended up at the famous Gate Theater in Dublin. He convinced the Irish owners that he was a famous actor from the New York Guild Theater. Consequently, he became the first American actor ever to guest star with the Abbey Players of Dublin. After returning to New York and getting more acting experience, his booming voice landed him radio work (Figure 12.4). For the NBC broadcast “The March of Time,” he supplied the voices for the dictators Mussolini and Hitler. He also played the popular mystery character Lamont Cranston on “The Shadow.” In 1938, CBS offered the theater group a contract to produce radio dramas, naming the program “Mercury Theater on the Air.” The acting troupe regularly produced classic works such as Treasure Island and Jane Eyre. But Welles wanted to stage a science fiction piece for Halloween and selected H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. The night be¬ fore the broadcast, however, he thought the script too dull and rewrote it in a documentary style similar to the “March of Time” news program of the day. The result was one of the most sensation¬ al broadcasts ever produced. Despite numerous reminders that the show was a fictionalized account of a novel, millions of radio listeners were convinced that Martians had invaded Earth. People fled in all directions to escape cities, limbs were broken in fights as people tried to get away, and priests were called to hear final confessions (Figure 12.5). One of the readers of the controversy was MOTION PICTURES 339
Figure 12.5 After the panic caused by Orson Welles' radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds,"

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