The writing guru William Zinser once said words to the effect that if you wish to write long sentences, you best be a genius, the movie version equivalent of which is, probably, if you want to do long takes, be Orson Welles.

There wasn’t a shot Welles thought he couldn’t get, and it didn’t matter if we’re talking the artistic majesty of Citizen Kane, or any of a number of the cheapjack efforts Welles, having fallen from Hollywood grace, spent the bulk of his life trying to cadge up funds to shoot.

With May 6 marking Welles’ centenary, Kane will get still more props as not only one of the two or three best pictures ever made, but the sole picture on which Welles had complete artistic control. He was 25 when he made it, a conqueror of Broadway, the radio, and now Hollywood, and after racing off to South America to shoot a war effort the next year and leaving his Magnificent Ambersons footage in the hands of others, Welles would essentially be kicked out of Camelot on account of the final result, with a reputation for not seeing projects through.
More… “Orson Welles’ Horrorshow”

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.


We’re still under the sway of Orson Welles. Take, for instance, the movie he starred in and directed in 1946. It’s called The Stranger, and Welles decided it was his least favorite of all the films he made. The critics and everyone else fell in line behind this pronouncement and the film fell into relative obscurity. (You can watch the film in its entirety online).

Welles made The Stranger to re-enter the good graces of Hollywood after fighting pitched battles over his previous film, 1942’s The Magnificent Ambersons. The studio wanted a happier ending for that film and Welles wasn’t having it. The final, compromised result was a box office disaster. He made The Stranger to show he could play ball.

The movie was aimed at postwar U.S. audiences still shell-shocked from World War II. Welles plays Franz Kindler, a Nazi hiding under an assumed identity in a… More…