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 Orson Welles

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Orson Welles

  • Birth 6 May 1915 Kenosha, Kenosha County, Wisconsin, USA
  • Death 10 Oct 1985 Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • 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
  • Memorial ID 3587

American Actor, Director, Writer, and Producer. Born George Orson Welles, the son of a businessman-inventor and a concert pianist, he was a child prodigy excelling in music, acting, art, poetry and magic. His parents separated when he was four and his mother died of hepatitis when he was nine. At the age of 11 he was sent to the Todd Seminary for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois where he staged both modern and classical plays. After his father died of heart and kidney failure in 1930, most likely exacerbated by his long-time alcoholism, he inherited a small fortune and became the ward of Chicago doctor Maurice Bernstein. He graduated from the Todd Seminary for Boys in 1931, and was awarded a scholarship to Harvard, which he declined, and instead studied briefly at the Art Institute of Chicago, then traveled to Dublin where he acted at the Gate Theatre. He remained in Ireland for a year, acting at both the Gate and Abbey theatres. At the same time he designed sets, wrote a newspaper column, and began directing plays. He left Dublin in 1932 and tried unsuccessfully to get acting work in London and New York. He traveled for the next year in Morocco and Spain. Back in the United States in 1933 he found work with Katharine Cornell’s road company and toured in repertory for 36 weeks. He made his first film in 1934, the 8-minute short titled “The Hearts of Age”. In December 1934 at the age of 19 he made his New York stage debut in “Romeo and Juliet”. At the same time he met producer John Houseman, who cast him as the lead in “Panic”. They produced several plays; most notable was “Macbeth” set in Haiti instead of Scotland and with an all African-American cast and also the musical play “The Cradle Will Rock” which was shut down before opening night in 1937 reputedly because of the radical political nature of the play. Houseman and Welles rented another theater 20 blocks away and the play was presented with actors performing from seats in the audience and no music but a single piano. That same year they founded the Mercury Theater and produced several stage plays. At the same time Welles began his radio career which became so hectic he eventually hired an ambulance to transport him from radio station to radio station as taxis couldn't get him there on time. The Mercury Theater radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” had some Americans believing that aliens had landed on earth. The broadcast of “War of the Worlds”, and his reputation from the stage, opened the doors to Hollywood. Welles appeared on the cover of Time magazine May 9, 1938, three days after his 23rd birthday. In 1941 he co-wrote, directed, produced and starred in “Citizen Kane”, generally recognized as one of the greatest movies ever to come out of Hollywood. “Citizen Kane” made use of techniques that had not been used by other American filmmakers. The movie, a thinly veiled portrait of powerful newspaper mogul William Randolph Hurst, was boycotted by all of the Hurst newspapers, insuring that, in spite of rave reviews, the movie was not a financial success but did receive nine Academy Award nominations. The next movie produced, directed and written by Welles, “The Magnificent Ambersons”, lagged behind schedule and went over budget, the relationship between Welles and RKO studios deteriorated, ultimately RKO took control of the film and had it recut without his input. His reputation suffered and he was regarded as having difficulty adhering to shooting schedules and budgets. He continued to work in Hollywood but his career never fully recovered. His last film was “Touch of Evil” (1958), while Welles was in Mexico shooting scenes for “Don Quixote” Universal added some scenes and cut “Touch of Evil” down to 93 minutes; when he returned from Mexico Welles wrote a lengthy memo to the studio with details of his preferred changes. His memo was ignored and the shortened version was released; the studio finally re-cut the film with his changes and released the film in 1998. He married three times, first to Virginia Nicolson November 14, 1934, divorced February 1, 1940; they had one child; second to Rita Hayworth September 7, 1943, divorced December 1, 1948; they had one child; third to Paola Mori, May 8, 1955 until his death; they also had one child. There were rumors that he was the father of his married lover’s child born June 5, 1940. Welles was a member of the fraternal groups International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians. He was born on the day that Babe Ruth hit his first home run and died on the same day as Yul Brynner.

Bio by: Gail Campbell Schulte


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 21 Sep 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3587
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Orson Welles (6 May 1915–10 Oct 1985), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3587, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend, who reports a Ashes are buried in an old well covered by flowers, within the rural property of retired bullfighter Antonio Ordonez, Ronda, Spain.