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Orson Welles
Birth: May 6, 1915
Kenosha
Kenosha County
Wisconsin, USA
Death: Oct. 10, 1985
Hollywood
Los Angeles County
California, USA

Entertainment Icon. A prolific actor, radio personality, film and theater director, screenwriter, playwright, and film producer, his career spanned over 50 years, from the early 1930s until the mid-1980s. He is probably best remembered for his 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel "The War of the Worlds" and his acclaimed first feature film "Citizen Kane" (1941, for which he won an Academy Award with Herman J. Mankiewicz for Best Writing (Original Screenplay)), in which he co-wrote, produced, directed, and starred in as 'Charles Foster Kane'. Born George Orson Welles into a fairly wealthy family, his parents moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1919 and were divorced. He became interested in music at a young age, as his mother was a concert pianist. When he was nine years old, his mother died, causing him to lose interest in music, and he was taken in by the family of Dudley Crafts Watson. His father, who had become an alcoholic, died when he was 15. He attended Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois where he became interested in the theater. He was awarded a scholarship to Harvard University upon graduation from Todd School for Boys but declined and traveled abroad instead. While in Dublin, Ireland, he approached the manager of the Gate Theater and convinced him that he was a Broadway star. The manager was impressed with his audition and in 1931 he made his stage debut in "Jew Suss," and received great acclaim. He returned to the US and his alma mater, where he wrote "Everybody's Shakespeare" and "The Mercury Shakespeare," to great success. He moved to New York City, New York, where in 1933 he toured in three off-Broadway productions with Katharine Cornell's company, including two roles in "Romeo and Juliet." When the planned Broadway opening of Romeo and Juliet was canceled, he staged a drama festival with the Todd School, inviting performers from Dublin's Gate Theatre to appear, along with New York stage luminaries and it was a roaring success. The subsequent revival of Cornell's "Romeo and Juliet" brought him to the notice of John Houseman, who was casting for an unusual lead actor for the lead role in the Federal Theatre Project (FTP). In 1934 he obtained his first radio job with the CBS half-hour educational program "The American School of the Air" and in November of that year, he married Chicago actress Virginia Nicholson. By 1935 he was supplementing his earnings in the theater as a radio actor in Manhattan, New York City, on programs including "America's Hour," "Cavalcade of America," "Columbia Workshop," and "The March of Time." In 1935 Houseman hired him and assigned him to direct "Macbeth" for the FTP's Negro Theater Unit, a production that became known as the "Voodoo Macbeth", as it was set in the Haitian court of King Henri Christophe (and with voodoo witch doctors for the three 'Weird Sisters'). The play premiered at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem, New York City, New York on April 14, 1935, to enthusiastic reviews, selling out for each of its nightly performances, and was regarded by critics and patrons as an enormous, if controversial success. This was followed by "Horse Eats Hat," an adaptation by him with Edwin Denby of Eugene Labiche's play, "Un Chapeau de Paille d'Italie." In 1936 he and Houseman were running a Works Progress Administration unit in midtown Manhattan for classic productions called Project Number 891. Their first production would be Christopher Marlowe's "Tragical History of Dr. Faustus" which he directed and played the title role. In June 1937, Project Number 891 would produce their most controversial work with Marc Blitzstein's musical "The Cradle Will Rock." The show was thought to have had left-wing and unionist sympathies, and became legendary as an example of a "censored" show. Shortly before the show was to open, FTP officials in Washington DC announced that no productions would open until after July 1, 1937, the beginning of the new fiscal year. All the performers had been enjoined not to perform on stage for the production when it opened on July 14, 1937. The non-union cast and crew left their government-owned theatre and walked 20 blocks to the Venice Theater, with the audience following. The performers, who were part of the audience, each stood up and performed their singing parts, and the "oratorio" version of the show was born. The impromptu performance was so successful that it was repeated several times on subsequent nights, with everyone trying to remember and reproduce what had happened spontaneously the first night. After leaving the FTP, he and Houseman did "The Cradle Will Rock" as a full independent production on Broadway and founded the acclaimed New York drama company, The Mercury Theater. In the summer of 1938, the Mercury Theatre was featured in a weekly dramatic radio program on the CBS network, initially promoted as "First Person Singular" before gaining the official title "The Mercury Theatre on the Air." An adaptation of "Treasure Island" was scheduled for the program's first broadcast, but he replaced it with Bram Stoker's "Dracula," a week before the show was to air, with him playing the infamous vampire. "The Mercury Theatre on the Air" subsequently became famous for its notorious 1938 radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds," which had put much of the country in a panic. His fame continued to grow and he received invitations from Hollywood offers, which he resisted at first. "The Mercury Theatre on the Air," which had been a "sustaining show" (without sponsorship) was picked up by Campbell Soup and renamed "The Campbell Playhouse." In 1939 RKO Radio Pictures signed him to a two-picture deal with complete artistic control, including script, cast, crew and most importantly, final cut, although he was given a budget limit for his projects. He and nearly the entire Mercury Theatre troupe, including Houseman, moved to Hollywood, California. In a dispute over funding for the first film, his partnership and friendship with Houseman broke up. RKO rejected his first two movie proposals before finally settling on "Citizen Kane" (initially titled "The American" and was loosely based on the life of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst), which he co-wrote, produced and directed, also performing the lead role. In spite of Hearst's media outlets boycotting the film, it was well-received with the film critics. While it lost money, it would later be recognized by the American Film Institute as the greatest American movie of all time. His second film for RKO was "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942), adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Booth Tarkington. The film lagged behind schedule and over budget. Prior to production, Welles's contract was renegotiated, revoking his right to control the final cut. At RKO's request, he worked on an adaptation of Eric Ambler's spy thriller, "Journey into Fear" (1943, co-written with Joseph Cotton), in which he acted in and produced the film. In 1941 CBS offered him a radio series called the "Orson Welles Show," a half-hour variety show of short stories, comedy skits, poetry and musical numbers, which lasted from September 1941 until February 1942. He then travelled to Brazil at the request of Nelson Rockefeller and Jock Whitney to produce a documentary film about South America. Entitled "It's All True," it proved to be disastrous and was never finished. He returned to Hollywood and no studios were interested in hiring him as a director. CBS offered him two weekly radio series, "Hello Americans," based on the research he had done in Brazil, and "Ceiling Unlimited," sponsored by Lockheed, a wartime salute to advances in aviation. He also guest-starred on a number of radio shows, notably guest-hosting Jack Benny shows for a month in 1943. The same year, he married actress Rita Hayworth and divorced five years later. During that time, he found work as an actor in other films, including the 1944 film adaptation of "Jane Eyre" and a cameo appearance in the 1944 wartime salute "Follow the Boys." Also in January 1944, he hosted and directed a new CBS radio show, broadcast only in California, called "Orson Welles Almanac," a half-hour variety show. A few months later, he started his "Mercury Wonder Show," traveling to armed forces camps and performing magic tricks and comedy. The show was broadcast live from the camps and the material took on a wartime flavor. By the end of 1944, the show was cancelled due to poor ratings. In 1946 his film "The Stranger" was released and became a box office success. The same year, he directed "Around the World," a musical stage adaptation of the Jules Verne novel "Around the World in Eighty Days," which failed and he ended up losing money when he was forced to finance the production with the help of Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn. His next film was "The Lady from Shanghai" (1947), in which he wrote the screenplay, starred, directed and produced for Columbia Pictures, which also starred his estranged wife Rita Hayworth. Although it was acclaimed in Europe, it was considered a disaster in the US until decades later. He then left Hollywood for Europe and remained there for the next eight years, starring in films like "Black Magic" (1948), "The Third Man" (1949), "Prince of Foxes" (1949), and "The Black Rose" (1950). During this time, he channeled his money from acting jobs into a self-financed film version of Shakespeare's play "Othello." Filming was suspended several times as he ran out of money and when it finally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952, it won the Palme d'Or Award, but the film did not receive a general release in the United States until 1955. From 1952 to 1954 he worked in England, primarily on radio, but appeared in the films "Trent's Last Case" (1952), "Trouble in the Glen" (1954), "Mr. Arkadin" (1955, which he also wrote and directed), and "Three Cases of Murder" (1955). In 1955 he married Italian actress Paola Mori, whom he met on the set of "Mr. Arkadin." They separated sometime after their daughter was born, but were never divorced. In 1956 he returned to Hollywood, guest starring on radio and television shows, and directed, narrated, and co-wrote the 1956 Desilu television pilot "The Fountain of Youth," that was not aired until 1958, and it won the Peabody Award for excellence. His next feature film role was in "Man in the Shadow" (1957) for Universal Pictures. He stayed on at Universal to direct (and co-star with) Charlton Heston in the 1958 film "Touch of Evil." He followed it with roles in "The Long, Hot Summer" (1958) and "Compulsion" (1959). In the meantime, he began filming his adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes' novel "Don Quixote" in Mexico. He returned abroad in 1959 to continue working on "Don Quixote" (which he never completed) and resumed acting jobs, with roles in "Ferry to Honk Kong" (1959), "David and Goliath" (1960, as King Saul), "Crack in the Mirror" (1960), "The Tartars" (1962), "The Trial' (1962, which he also directed), "La Ricotta' (1963), "Chimes at Midnight" (1966, which he also wrote and directed), and "Battle of Neretva" (1969). In 1970 he returned to Hollywood again, where he continued to self-finance his own film and television projects. He made frequent appearances on talk shows, where he was in great demand. His primary focus during his final years was "The Other Side of the Wind," an unfinished project that was filmed intermittently between 1970 and 1976, although he continued to appear in films like "Treasure Island" (1972). In late 1970s, he participated in a series of famous television commercial advertisements. For two years he was on-camera spokesman for the Paul Masson Vineyards, and during the time he intoned what became a popular catchphrase: "We will sell no wine before its time." He was also the voice behind the long-running Carlsberg "Probably the best lager in the world" campaign. In 1981 he hosted the documentary "The Man Who Saw Tomorrow," about Renaissance-era prophet Nostradamus. In 1984 he narrated the short-lived television series" Scene of the Crime" and during the early years of the television drama "Magnum, P.I.," he was the voice of the unseen character 'Robin Masters' a famous writer and playboy. His death forced this minor character to largely be written out of the series. The last film roles before his death included voice work in the animated films "The Enchanted Journey" (1984) and "The Transformers: The Movie" (1986). His last film appearance was in Henry Jaglom's 1987 independent film "Someone to Love," released after his death but produced before his voice-over in "Transformers." His last television appearance was on the show "Moonlighting." On October 10, 1985, he appeared on his final interview on "The Merv Griffin Show" and died several hours later of a heart attack at his home at the age of 70. During his film career, he received numerous awards, including an Academy Honorary Award in 1970 for "superlative and distinguished service in the making of motion pictures," the 1975 American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, three Grammy Awards in the category of Best Spoken Word Recording (1976 for "Great American Documents," 1978 for the original motion picture soundtrack to "Citizen Kane," and 1981 for his role on "Donovan's Brain"), the 1978 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Career Achievement Award, induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame (1979), the French Order of Commander of the Legion d'honneur (1982), a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts (1983), a Fellowship of the British Film Institute (1983), and the 1984 Directors Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked him as the 16th Greatest Male Star of All Time. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Richard Head Welles (1872 - 1930)
  Beatrice Ives Welles (1883 - 1924)
 
 Spouse:
  Rita Hayworth (1918 - 1987)*
 
 Children:
  Rebecca Welles (1944 - 2004)*
 
*Calculated relationship

Cause of death: Heart Attack
 
Burial:
Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend.
Specifically: Ashes are buried in an old well covered by flowers, within the rural property of retired bullfighter Antonio Ordonez, Ronda, Spain
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Sep 21, 1998
Find A Grave Memorial# 3587
Orson Welles
Added by: katzizkidz
 
Orson Welles
Added by: Steven Baldwin
 
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A tag line from CITIZEN KANE: I hate him! I love him! He's a scoundrel! He's a saint! He's crazy! He's a genius!
- Big Jim Geddes
 Added: Jul. 15, 2014

- tup tim
 Added: Jul. 15, 2014

- TC
 Added: Jul. 14, 2014
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