Blog Directory CineVerse: All's well that ends Welles

All's well that ends Welles

Friday, May 13, 2016

As your faithful CineVerse moderator was picking up his son from Indiana University last week to bring him home for the summer, he remembered that the college's Lilly Library is home to one of the largest repositories of Orson Welles artifacts in the world--from film scripts and rare photographs to letters, memos and legal papers. The materials in this collection, in fact, total approximately 20,000 items related to Welles's efforts on radio, stage, and film as well as to his political and personal life. Realizing I had a rare opportunity to investigate some of the items in this collection, I talked my son into delaying our homeward departure for a spell so that I could get my Orson fix. When it was all said and done, we had actually ended up spending two solid hours parsing through a portion of this Welles treasure trove (like a kid in a candy store, I could have stayed for days, believe me).

Highlights of my perusal included browsing through:

Second final draft of "Citizen Kane"
Early script with working title "American"
  • a second revised final screenplay of "Citizen Kane" that was marked up with handwritten notes and revisions (possibly by Welles, more likely by John Houseman and script supervisor Amalia Kent and others involved in the production)
  • an early draft of "Kane" when the film's working title was "American" (being able to pick up, leaf through and study such sacred scrolls--of arguably the greatest screenplay ever written--was like an out-of-body experience for me, let me tell you)
  • several of Welles' radio play scripts used for his groundbreaking series "The Mercury Theater on the Air" back in 1938 (anyone who knows me is aware of my adoration for old time radio, particularly Welles' work in it)--including his adaptation of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" (alas, no "War of the Worlds" radio script was included in this collection)
  • an original press kit for "Kane" given to members of the media and critical community upon the film's debut in 1941
    "Citizen Kane" original press kit
  • set and publicity photographs for "Kane" as well as photos of some of the movie's original storyboards
  • Photos of original storyboards for "Kane"
  • a shooting schedule, pre-budget estimate, and copies of cast and crew release forms (with signatures) for "Kane."
    Pre-budget estimates for "Kane"
But my unlikeliest discovery occurred when I looked to the table next to me; a college student and her mother had an actual Academy Award statuette in their hands that was also part of the library's collection. Awestruck, I came over and inquired about it and learned that it was John Ford's 1940 best director Oscar for "The Grapes of Wrath" (I thought it was for "Stagecoach," but I was mistaken). Incredible!

It was an amazing afternoon this classic film fan will never forget.
John Ford's best director Oscar
for "The Grapes of Wrath"

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