Orson Welles appeared on the Dick Cavett show in New York, about a month before he began production on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND. Welles appearance on the new DVD collection of Hollywood greats easily makes it worth the 4 DVD sets cost, since it has long in-depth interviews with many others Hollywood legends, which total nearly 14 hours. So this is obviously a must have for any lover of classic film.
So far, I’ve only seen the Welles, Hitchcock, Huston and Brando interviews, but the Welles interview seems to be the real standout, since he is at the top of his bent, expounding on a variety of topics and hilariously turning the tables on Cavett at one point by becoming the interviewer, and asking Cavett about his life. But for the most part, Cavett wisely sits back and simply let’s Welles go in whatever direction he wants, which leads the conversation into the areas that Welles is most interested in. The result is Welles talking about subjects that most people will find fresh and delightful.
Welles does repeat some of his familiar stories, including the canard about how he came to make THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI for Harry Cohn while he was in Boston preparing to go on stage in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, but for the most part, we get mostly new insights. Welles also repeats his story about meeting Churchill in Venice, and does a great impression of Churchill, straight out of his CHURCHILL segment from SWINGING LONDON, but both of these stories are enchanced greatly by seeing Welles tell them on camera, with different embellishments.
The fact that so much of the Welles interview seems fresh and new, stands in direct contrast to Cavett’s interviews with Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston. Both of these directors mostly repeat the same old stories they have told many times before or since. Hitchcock tells stories that are already quite familiar from the Truffaut book, and Huston appears very reticent, mostly answering Cavett with one or two sentences, rarely going into any depth, until the very end, when he goes into the then current political situation in Northern Ireland. Significantly, regarding the current political climate in America, Huston notes that no country in the world, (including the US) holds prisoners without a writ of Habeas Corpus, as the English were doing to the North Ireland terrorists at the time.
Now, of course, the US has joined that kind of backward thinking, and under the leadership of the current President, appears to be headed far beyond it. In fact, there's little doubt that Mr. Bush's recent statements would cause both Huston and Welles to turn over in their graves.
The show ends with Cavett asking Welles to name his favorite films, and Orson is taken a bit by surprise… he says Renoir’s GRAND ILLUSION and Something Else…
But after the commercial break Welles explains to Cavett that when he said SOMETHING ELSE, he meant a film with that title, directed by the silent film director James Cruze, starring Rod La Rocque and Corinne Griffith. Welles tells Cavett to look it up, but apparently it may have been another Wellesian trick, since there appears to be no film with that title directed by Cruze starring La Rocque and Corinne Griffith.