last Sigh ..."
The whereabouts of Orson
Welles' Testimonial Film
By Darius Kadivar
"In Italy for
thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder,
bloodshed--they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the
Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of
democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!" -
Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in Carol Reed's 'The
To Millions around the World, Orson Welles IS Citizen
Kane. The Only filmaker to have re-invented cinema both as a language
and an artform with his very first film début ( he was only 25 years old
) . Charles Foster Kane's final Words "Rosebud" were
actually the Freudian underlining theme on which the whole film's plot is
constructed. Rosebud is supposed to have been a symbol of Kane's
innocence, the reason that drew the great man to becoming who he was, a
Legend. Kanes character was based on the Magnat of the Press and
multi-billionaire William Randolph Hearst and Xanadu, Kane's Mansion, was
also based on the Press Moguls residence ( interestingly the real mansion
was also used for the Roman settings of Stanley Kubricks 1960 film
Spartacus with Kirk Douglas). To Iranians Welles unimmitable Voice is for
ever associated to the 1971 documentary film on the Persepolis
Celebrations marking 25 centuries of Persian Kingship. The King of the
Silver Screen was also to produce two other personal projects in the years
that followed with the help of Iranian producers, one of which was also to
become Orson Welles last and unfinished film...
Orson Welles built his legend by generating controversies: His
successful 1938 Radio Show "War Of The Worlds", followed by the
critically acclaimed but Commercially disaster "Citizen Kane".
His short appearance in Carol Reed's Third Man, With Cahrlton Heston in
the "Touch of Evil" another failed attempt to seduce Hollywood.
Insert Welles at age 25 when he directed Kane.
Welles made a carreer by
generating controversy. His very first "Coup de Maître"
was his famous 1938 Radio adaptation of a Science fiction Comic Strip War
of the Worlds about Martians who after landing on earth destroyed the
City. On October 30, 1938, this live program caused mass hysteria all over
America. People got scared, and the whole nation was totally paralysed for
a few hours. This radio hit however propulsed Orson Welles as the new
genius artist and opened doors to one of Hollywood's most prestigious film
studios, the RKO.
Welles was to have the unpredecedant oppurtunity to have complete control
over his very first film without the interference of any film censor. The
25 year old film novice is said to have learned in two hours what he
needed to know about filmaking by watching John
The result was Citizen Kane a commercial flop but an undeniable critical
success that was to imprison Orson Welles' reputation among film producers
in a Golden Cage of misunderstanding for the years to come. This did not
stop the future film legend to make movies but it was always with a great
deal of difficulty. Likewise his next film "The
Magnificent Ambersons" proved to be just as unsuccessful for
From then on Hollywood Studios were to close their doors on Welles who
therefore tried to put up his ambitious projects with the help of European
producers or anyone who could offer financial support. This explains the
incredible number of Commercial Appearacnes of the great Orson in
commercial films as a guest star such as in René Cléments "Is
Paris Burning ? ", Carol Reeds espionnage "The
Third Man" (for which he wrote his own short dialogue, as
Harry Lime), Peter Collinson's "Ten
Little Indians" or Mike Nichols "Catch-
name a few.
Top and Bottom Left: Agatha Christie Thriller "The
Ten Little Indians" aka "And then there were
none" Shot in Hotel Shah Abbas and Persepolis. Orson Welles was
the "Voice" on the tape recorder which greets the Cast of
International Stars at the Hotel. Charles Aznavour, Stephane Audran,
Elke Sommer, Richard Attenborough and Oliver Reed were to complete the
cast of international Stars.
A man of immense culture and energy, Welles' appetite for creation was not
always easy to satisfy. He was a Painter, Magician, Journalist, Radio
entertainer, and a Man of Theater, yet Welles was to impose himself as a
major filmaker ( see filmography)
in the History of Motion Pictures. He was also to use his screen presence
and splendid voice for great adaptations of Shakespeare for Screen such as
"Othello" or "Macbeth"
which used little sophisticated material but remain perfect examples of
artisitc creativity to this day. Often defining himself as a "Man
of the Rennaissance", Welles was more pre-occupied by creating
than anything else.The Common denominator in most Welles characters is
certainly the fact that they are "Bigger than Life", be
it , Kings or Jesters, they all hide their own weakness' behind an
imposing and powerful presence, this is expressed through generosity by Falstaff
, mediocre ambition by "Macbeth"
or Kane, and Blind Jealousy as for "Othello".
Curiously and similarily to the Renaissance Artists, always trying to make
ends meet and eagerly in search of financial backing for future artistic
projects.Welles was at the financial mercy of Art Patrons worldwide
accepting or refusing to finance his projects, be it Jet Set Millionaires,
South American dictators, Presidents, or Kings ...
Orson Welles (1915-1985) in his last years and Imperial Iran's
"Epic" response to Hollywood : The Persian Empire narrated by
the Hollywood maverick in October 1971
It was therefore quite an omen for him to be approached by the Iranian
Government's Ministry of Culture in order to narrate an upcoming
documentary film on the Persepolis
Ceremonies held in October 1971, by the Shah of Iran.
Welles was to participate to this project that could also open doors on
eventual financial partners for his other ambitious projects. He was also
to narrate an intimate documentary on the Persian Emperor in 1972 entitled
Shah of Iran" directed by Walter Ellaby. The film was
released again in 1980 as a retrospective on the recently toppled Shah.
This first collaboration however led Welles to undertake with the help of
his Iranian Producers the filming of the two final and most ambitious film
projects of his entire carreer "F for Fake" and "The
Other Side of the Wind". Welles did not live to see the latter
(Left ) On the set of Welles Last film, "The Other Side of the
Wind" which was never released with John Huston, Orson Welles and
Peter Bogdanovich (who worked on the script). Right "F for
FAKE" also co-produced by an Iranian Production
"F For Fake" (1973)
"Orson Welles has a ball examining the nature of what is real and
what is fake in the funny, bizarre "F For Fake". Four people
stand at the center of this documentary: Elmyr de Hory, who some believe
forged more than a thousand masterpieces, many of which hang in some of
the world's most famous museums; Clifford Irving, who is not only out to
prove what a fake Elmyr is but also wrote a fake biography of Howard
Hughes; Oja Kodar, who claims that Pablo Picasso painted 22 canvases of
her that no one has ever seen; and Welles himself, who harks back to his
days creating the havoc-causing"The War Of The Worlds" for
radio. But the true star of the film is the editing; from absurd stock
footage to shots of Welles smirking into the camera from different
locations to scenes with a monkey scurrying about, the film is vastly
entertaining to watch. "F For Fake"is an underrated,
underappreciated work of comic genius about the nature of reality,
celebrity, and art, by a master filmmaker showing a surprisingly wicked
sense of humor."
for Fake" (1973) (French title "Verité et Mensonges"
) starred Welles himself as well as Joseph Cotten, and Jean-Pierre Aumont
and Orson's last companion Oja Kojar. A highly intellectual and ambitious
film essay on the art of illusion. Orson Welles weaves a wry, often
whimsical, documentary about the nature of art to bedazzle and fool us
all. Equally captivating is Welles' own trickery and a glimpse behind his
public facade.He also performs a bit of trickery on the audience, which is
revealed at the end of the film. I won't give it away.
The film was projected for the first time in 1973 during "The
International Film Festival of Tehran" at Roudaki Hall after a
tribute to Orson Welles who recieved an honorary Golden Winged Ibex for
his entire Carreer.
"The Other Side of the Wind" ( Never released)
This film which also happens to be Orson Welles last movie has had a
strange fate. As suggested in a recent book published in French "Orson
Welles cinéaste, une caméra visible" (Three volumes) by
Iranian film critic Youssef
Ishaghpour : Welles in the last years of his life desperately seeked
financial support for what was to become his testimonial movie "The
Other side of the Wind". Youssef
Ishaghpour claimes ( See Authors Notes) that Mr.
Mehdi Boucherie involved in the movie business and producer Bahman
Farmanara became the major financial supporters of the legendary
director's movie about a "famous Hollywood director",
starring John Huston, that was shot in stages beginning in the early
’70s and apparently not completely finished at the time of Welles’
death in 1985.
"The Other Side of the Wind" was the film that the director
of "Citizen Kane" and "Touch of Evil"
hoped would return him to the big leagues. Part of the film’s legend is
that it was reportedly seized after the Ayatollah took power in Iran in
1979. However it would seem that some of the financial partners of the
Time particularily Mehdi Boucherie still have hold of the original film
copy. A Lawsuite has been opposing them for years to Welles' counterparts
including director Peter Bogdanovitch and Personal Friend of the Legendary
Director and some form of aggreement seems to have been reached. (See
Other Side of Orson Welles" ).
However to this day the great film master's "Final Cut"
version is yet to be seen ...
Recommended reading : This
is Orson Welles by Peter Bogdanovitch
The uncomplete footage of the Other
Side of the Wind
Listen to excerpt of one of Orson
Welles Radio show
Ishaghpour has recently published an important biography on Welles and
his work he refers to Mr. Mehdi Boucherie's involvment in this project. A
lawsuite is opposing Mr. Mehdi Boucherie who apparently is the owner of
the film and his American counterparts.