The timeless genius of Orson Welles: 6 essential movies

Hollywood outsider, actor, director, editor and producer was born 114 years ago today

The timeless genius of Orson Welles: 6 essential movies

One of Hollywood’s first rebels, Orson Welles turned his back on the movie industry during the late 1940’s, disappointed  by the lack of artistic freedom given to directors and actors.

Orson Welles was born on Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915. Talented since an early age (as a child he received several artistic awards), he firs found national and international fame as the director and narrator of a 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel “The War of the Worlds” performed for his radio anthology series “The Mercury Theater on the Air”, that famously (reportedly) caused widespread panic because many listeners thought that an invasion by extraterrestrial beings was actually occurring. During the early days in Hollywood, Welles struggled for creative control on his projects early on with the major film studios, and later in life with a variety of independent financiers across Europe, where he spent most of his career.  Despite being now recognized as highly influential and hailed as one of the greatest movie directors and actors, Welles career was always haunted by prejudice. His masterpiece, “Citizen Kane”, released in 1941, that Welles co-wrote, produced, directed and performed the lead role, was deprived from the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actor, and even technical awards.  The delay in the film’s release and uneven distribution contributed to mediocre results at the box office, but now, “Citizen Kane” it’s hailed as one of the greatest films ever made, and indeed it’s an essential cinema masterpiece. Welles returned to Hollywood during the late 1950’s, but never waited to be financed by the major studios, he rather financing his movies himself. His distinctive directorial style featured layered and nonlinear narrative forms, uses of lighting such as chiaroscuro, unusual camera angles, sound techniques borrowed from radio, deep focus shots and long takes. Prolific, some of Welles’s movies remain unreleased. Welles’ final film, “The Other Side of the Wind”, was finally released in 2018 after fifty years in development. Orson Welles died on October 10, 1985 at age 70 in Los Angeles following a heart attack. His ashes, rest in Ronda, Spain, buried in an old well covered by flowers on the rural estate of a longtime friend, bullfighter Antonio Ordóñez. The following is a list of 6 essential Orson Welles movies.

6 – “F For Fake”, 1974

5 – “The Lady From Shanghai”, 1947

4 – “The Stranger”, 1946



3 – “Touch of Evil”, 1958

2 – “The Magnificent Ambersons”, 1942

1 – “Citizen Kane”, 1941



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