Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Meeeee Annnnnd Orson, Orson Welles

If you do a movie about Orson Welles, the logical question is going to come up whether you focus entirely on Citizen Kane and War of the Worlds, what he’s most famous for, or if his vast body of Shakespeare work will come into it.  In the new movie “Me and Orson Welles”, which is sure to get some press for the presence of High School Musical star Zac Efron, the answer appears pleasing to Shakespeare geeks:

It's 1937 and for aspiring actors the Mercury Theatre is the place to be. In "Me and Orson Welles," Zac Efron plays Richard Samuels, a plucky actor with chutzpah who ingratiates himself into the world surrounding legendary actor Orson Welles (brilliantly played by newcomer Christian McCay) as he prepares his version of "Julius Caesar," billed as "Caesar: Death of a Dictator."

Truthfully I don’t know anything about his Julius Caesar.  Somebody fill me in?  I’ve seen the Macbeth, Othello and Chimes at Midnight.

I think I’m a generation removed from Orson Welles.  He will, to me, forever be that caricature of himself from assorted cartoons (Pinky and the Brain comes to mind), hocking wine and frozen peas.  Ah well.  I’ve also gotten to see his face during Chimes in the “I know thee not, old man” scene.  I know he can act.

The big scene starts around 8:15 or so, and unfortunately whoever was kind enough to upload the movie also split the uploads right in the middle of this very scene!  This is part 10, you’ll have to move on to part 11 to get the whole sequence.


Ed said...

Welles directed and starred in JC -- I want to say 1937, 38 - with his Mercury Theatre cronies. It was most notable for its Blackshirt-inspired dress and setting.

Given Mussolini's predilection for the accoutrements of the Roman Empire, it was seen as cutting-edge by many.

Anonymous said...

Welles did a lot of stage before Citizen Kane. His production of Marc Blitzstein's 'The Cradle Will Rock' is a legend in the theatre, and Tim Robbins made a film about it, appropriately titled: 'Cradle Will Rock'. (Although Robbins' depiction of Welles as an alcoholic braggart was mostly inaccurate).

Welles was known for taking Shakespeare out of the Medieval context and re-imagining the stories with contemporary, or post-modern settings. Though common practice today, it was shockingly bold at the time.

In addition to his Mussolini-inspired Ceasar, he also directed a version of MacBeth with an all black cast and an African setting which would later inspire Julie Taymor's Lion King musical (and Taymor was also inspired by Welles' Shakespeare work when she directed her first feature film: Titus.