The following day Orson and I had a date for lunch with two gentlemen (not from Verona, I fear). They were two tough and exceedingly wealthy businessmen. The reason for our meeting was simple; Orson needed money for his next film and he intended to acquire some of theirs.
Walking into the restaurant I saw Winston Churchill seated quite close to our table. As we passed the great man, Orson said to my horror, “Winston how nice to see you again.” Churchill made no response at all. Our lunch was a fiasco. Orson made some lame excuse about, “Winston’s not feeling well.” He mentioned other big names, big money, which almost caused me to say, “Big deal.” Actually it was no deal, for our money men asked if we could postpone our discussion until dinnertime, as they were expecting several overseas telephone calls.
Late that afternoon, we spotted Churchill swimming in the Lido. In a flash, Orson had his swimming trunks on and was in the water beside him. He was talking, but thank heavens, I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Apparently neither could Churchill, for he just turned and swam in the other direction.
Later I asked Orson, “What did you dare to say this time?”
"I apologized for being fresh," he said, “but I told him I just wanted to impress two gentlemen whose money I needed for a film."
Rather unnecessarily I asked, “Did he reply?”
"No," said Orson.
That evening, we walked into the dining room, our two prospective backers following gloomily. As we reached Churchill’s table, he stood up, looked directly at Orson, and bowed slowly and deeply.
We got the money.
- Joseph Cotten, Vanity Will Get You Somewhere
Orson Welles in Paris, 1952.
Orson Welles on the set of The Third Man (1949), photographed by Ernst Haas.
Orson Welles dancing in ‘Citizen Kane’.
Huw Wheldon: The fact is, you’re in love with the movies, aren’t you?
Orson Welles: That’s my trouble! You see, if I’d only stayed in the theater, I could have worked steadily, without stopping for all these years. But, having made one film, I decided that it was the best and most beautiful form that I knew and one that I wanted to continue with. I was in love with it as you say, really tremendously so.
Silhouetted against floodlights, Carol Reed and Orson Welles deliberate between takes of the famous sewer tunnel sequence of Reed’s masterpiece The Third Man (1949); photographed by William Sumits.
I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won’t contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That’s what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.
250 Films Meme | 63 | Citizen Kane (1941)
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