Tag Archives: Orson Welles

January 8th

On this day in 1941 William Randolph Hearst took very much agin Orson Welles and refused to allow any adverts for Citizen Kane in any of his publications.

William Randolph "I'm bog-eyed" Hearst.

Hearst was 70 at the time and probably the most powerful publishing magnate in the US. A bit like Rupert Murdoch, but probably a bit less friendly. Most people are aware that Hearst was not happy about CK and most people know that it’s because the character of Kane was based on Hearst himself. According to those how knew him, the thing about the film that enraged him the most was the depiction of his screen second wife as a drunk and a talentless singer. Welles himself admitted that this part of the storyline was a “dirty trick”. However, other insiders claim that while he was pissed off by the depiction of the second wife – who was a close model of his long term mistress Marion Davies – the thing that enraged him most was Kane’s sledge, the name of which led to his last word on his deathbed: “Rosebud”.

It seems a particularly innocuous word, but if rumours are true, then

Rosebud or "is that a clitoris I see before me?!

rosebud was Hearst’s pet name for Marion Davies’s clitoris. Oh and yes, Marion Davies was an alcoholic, mostly because the life she ended up living with Hearst was so difficult. She was a talented comedienne, but less talented when it came to dramatic roles. Hearst, like Kane, insisted that she be given dramatic roles that were beyond her skill, hence she looked like an idiot and drank more and …art really was reflecting life. Welles was right, this was a dirty trick, more so to Davies than Hearst who was old enough and ugly enough to take that and a whole lot more.

However, the enmity went further than banning adverts. Hearst newspapers printed articles about Welles claiming he was a communist and unpatriotic, dangerous and sick. He also threatened Hollywood studios and made a lot of noises about Hollywood being full of immigrants and refugees. In other words,  Mr Hearst, as well as being a great big crybaby, was also more than a bit anti-Semitic.  Luckily for Hearst, Welles was not very popular in Hollywood, mostly because he was young (only 24 at the time) and didn’t play the game. Louis B. Mayer offered to pay RKO $842,000 to destroy the negatives of the film. The then studio owner, George Schaefer, refused and then threatened to sue Fox, Paramount and Loewes theatre chains when they said they would refuse to show the film. All in all, things were not pretty.

They got less pretty at the Oscar ceremony the following year. CK was nominated for nine Oscars but only got one (screenplay, which went to Welles and Mankiewicz). Some might say that was fair enough, but was it fair to boo Welles and his film at the ceremony? Because that’s what happened.

A man never knowingly more than a couple of feet from a pie

Immediately after this, George Schaefer was pushed out of RKO and so was Welles. Citizen Kane was then put in the RKO archives and forgotten for about 15 years. It was seen as a piece of shit that no one should bother themselves with. Of course, now the film is seen as one of the best movies ever made. To a lot of people it’s still pretty dull, but for any cineastes, there is so much in it that is new and has gone on to influence decades of film makers, that it’s not even a case of “liking” it. It just is a truly great film.

And finally, we know that Welles went on to live his life like a show business Benjamin Button, having all his success as a young man and ending his life in adverts for sherry. Not that that is exactly what Benjamin Button did, but, blah. It’s the whole backward life type thing. Just about all of Welles later problems can be seen to be the work of Hearst. Not that Welles was without faults, he was a bit of an arrogant twat when he felt like it, but his talent, or our chance to enjoy it, was nipped in the bud by William Randolph Hearst. Rupert Murdoch probably learned everything he knows from him.

 

Today is the birthday of …65 today, 65 today, he’s got the key to the … well to his OAP bus pass. He’ll probably be seen at the Post Office a lot, queuing up for his pension and shaking a stick at young people who get in his way and threatening them with his scary false teeth.

Yes, the sublime David Bowie is 65 today, which seems truly mental and

Oh no love, you're not alone

makes me feel old myself. Of course given that I’m only 25 or something, it should have no such effect on me, but I guess I feel the Bowie running in my veins.

What plaudits can I pay him that haven’t already been paid? The man is a genius. He went through a well dodgy stage in the late seventies, when too much coke made him think that giving a Hitler salute was a good idea, which should have been what the government used in anti-drug adverts rather than those ones where attractive skinny people who looked like models with a cold were supposed to put us off heroin. D’oh! Thousands of girls were all like “Fuck me, all I have to do is snort smack off of some tinfoil and I too will look like Kate Moss!” A photo of Bowie doing the Nazi Salute with the caption “Drugs make you think it’s cool to be a Nazi twat” would have been much more powerful. Except of course to people who thought it was cool to be a Nazi, but frankly the thought of them all dying of smack AIDS really doesn’t bother me at all.

Meanwhile! Back in David Bowie land. I have heard nice stories about him from people who sort of knew him. I also like his songs a lot, although less so in the late 80s, but I figure if Mozart had lived to a proper age he might have put out a shit symphony or two, so I don’t really hold that against the lovely Mr B. I spent last night trying to think of a favourite and there really isn’t just one. Depending on my mood, it can be several, but there is something about Rock and Roll Suicide that makes me tingle, so right now, at this moment in time, that’s what I’d like to thank Mr B for as I wish him a very happy birthday.

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May 29th

On this day in 1913 a ballet had its premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. It was Le Sacre du Printemps or The rite of Spring and it was so full on mental that it provoked a riot.

These dancers made people angry. probably because they weren't showing enough skin

It’s interesting that on the whole, minus a Hell’s Angel murder at a Stone’s concert and shit like that, it is classical performances that are way more likely to provoke full on fighting and insanity than any popular beat combo or rock ‘n’ roll band. In the 1920s parents were warning their children not to listen to jazz because it was sinful and in the 50s they didn’t want them listening to rock ‘n’ roll because it was the music of the devil, but they weren’t warning them not to pop along to La Scala or the Met or some other fancy opera house where they were far more likely to get a punch up the throat and see blood. Actually, it’s not too hard to figure out what was going on. The parents were big ole racists who were frightened that if their kids listened to black music they might start to like black people and they also might have pre-marital ghastliness and get pregnant. Well, that’s if they were a girl. If they were a boy, they probably thought they’d go to prison for being a bit fighty and then end up some big Bubba’s bitch. But I digress! The fact is while you weren’t likely to get pregnant at the opera or the ballet or a nice concerto or symphony, if the music or the choreography or staging was a bit avant-garde, you might end up in a fight.

And thus it was in 1913. There is debate about what it is that made the audience lose it big style. Some say it was Stravinsky‘s music,

The audience just before it all kicked off big style

some say it was Nijinsky’s  choreography, all that is certain is that the audience hated it and had no compunction about showing it, loudly and at great length. The fact that they were so loud sort of indicates that it might have been the choreography that really stewed their nuts, but then plenty of people said that the dissonance of the bassoon at the beginning of the ballet also pissed them off. As it was, Nijinsky had to shout out directions to the dancers as they could no longer hear the music, the choreography was all a bit jerky and gangly and the more they danced, the more the audience shouted, booed and, according to some reports, also barked. By the intermission the police had been called to restore calm. The calm lasted for about 30 seconds into the second act, when fighting broke out in the aisles and out onto the streets of Paris. Supporters of the ballet were battling it out with opponents and they many a tail-coat and evening dress was ruined that night. The next day the press was full of the running battles and put most of the blame on Nijinsky for being a shit choreographer who wouldn’t know elegance and grace if they pliéd up to him and gave him a grand battement right in the face.

This sort of pissed off Stravinsky who wanted to be the enfant terrible of the piece, so he went around the place giving it large that his music was so avant-garde that no one understood it and everyone hated it and wasn’t he just the best thing in the whole world ever. To an extent he was and as we know by 1940, avant-garde had become family friendly and The Rite of Spring was used in Disney’s Fantasia. Which is how it is with the whole avant-garde thing. One minute everyone is “OMG, that’s not art/dance/music” and then something else comes along to piss in their custard and they’ve forgotten that Picasso is painting ugly women and Nijinsky has people dancing like idiots and that the dissonance of Stravinsky is hurting their ears, because “that’s just a pile of bricks” or “OMG, an all male Swan Lake!” or someone creates a symphony that actually makes their ears bleed.

So, there we have. There was a premiere, there was a riot and then there was a whole lot of P.R. madness about the whole thing. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Today is the birthday of long-time crush and utterly gorgeous actor, Rupert Everett. Some say that he has gone in for a bit too much plastic surgery, and I did hate that awful bloody face lift and I’m hoping it’s dropped a bit by now, but I still remember seeing him on the stage back in 1981 (when I was a mere child, I’ll have you know!) in Another Country and fancying the arse off him.

He still makes me go a bit funny

Sadly for me, I thought he was gay, which he is, but at the time he was still doing women as well as men. If I’d known, I’d have taken my chances. He’d probably have turned me down, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

He remains one of the best actors I have ever seen on the stage. I saw him with Kenneth Brannagh, he totally owned him. I saw him with Colin Firth, the same and then I saw the play with Daniel Day-Lewis in Everett’s role. Everett out-acted them all. He had such charisma, such presence, there was no competition. When he was on the stage, he was all you wanted to concentrate on.  In a way,  he’s been a bit like Orson Welles, having his greatest triumphs early in his career and all of it going a bit downhill from there. Still, for a downhill career it’s not been bad and as well as acting  he’s also written, which, surprise, surprise, he’s pretty good at too!

Of late, he’s been fronting some interesting documentaries and being an utter bitch, which has been a joy for anyone who’s loved him for (OMG) 30 years. So, Rupert, I know it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever read this, but if you do, happy birthday, I think you are utterly and everlastingly bloody wonderful. I really wish I’d had a go on you. Oh and please, no more with the surgery. You’re beautiful, the surgery just makes you look fucking odd!

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