Todd: While I agree heartily that Broadway should unveil "The Orson Welles Theater," your penchant for lavishing willy-nilly praise on both earlier and latter Wellesian work strikes me as ignoring the common standards of the time in America. Welles had been, in typical American fashion, lionized in the the Theater, hailed in the new medium of Radio, and then "discovered" by the Movies. He had squired some of the most beautiful women of the 1930's and 1940's, married Rita Hayworth, "The Love Goddess." He was, in his entertainment projects for "the boys in uniform," at least distantly comparable to Bob Hope. In other words, he was in many places "a household name" at the end of World War II. In 1945, he was slim (with a little help from speed and corsets), successful, and just thirty years old. Whatever his problems with the Studios, the fan magazines were full of him and his family. He had been a Hollywood star-maker, major studios still leant their resources to his productions, and even his most grudging critics had to admit that in CITIZEN KANE he had made one of the most remarkable films in movie history.
Then, he became involved in independent political commentary and polemics, fell into debt, got behind on his taxes, indulged himself in ways that his body could no longer throw off, and took on the causes which fifteen years later would be known as "Civil Rights" and "Racial Equality."
A dangerous mix.
In the following six years, nearly every work he managed to complete in Movies, Radio, or Theater, with the breakthrough British exception of THE THIRD MAN, would be regarded as either flawed, meretricious or outright laughable.
Orson Welles at age 36, whom Walter Kerr, and Time Magzine before him, had formerly regarded with awe as "The Boy Wonder," was in the popular media vision, "a has-been." Reduced to obviously knowing stunts, no longer in possession of Rita Hayworth, exiled to Europe, with only his syndicated British "penny dreadful" Harry Lime and Black Museum series left to represent him on American Radio (at obscure times, on a Sunday afternoon), Welles soon lost his popular power with the American public, and began his long descent toward the wine commercials, the "roasts," the magic acts, and the late night TV talk shows.
In 1951, Walter Kerr is writing like a war correspondent about the bellicose reputation of Orson Welles as a popular actor. Unlike Henry Luce, Kerr is arguing that Welles could retrieve his career in America by concentrating on writing, producing and directing productions, leaving the acting to others. Unfortunately, with the exception of "Moby Dick Rehearsed" and MR ARKADIN (which did not travel well across the Atlantic), Welles' very ideas were being rejected, and he was more valued as an actor by the Motion Picture Industry than he was as a director, certainly as a producer (given his extravagant flourishes -- at least in the press, if not the accounting books). Save for TOUCH OF EVIL, which depended for its Hollywood creation on barter and the kindness of reigning stars, he invested himself in brave European art productions which fewer American audiences cared to see. Thankfully, no "reality shows," celebrity rehab series, or tabloid TV exposes existed to follow him, or to tempt him further.
Todd, you continually refer to "facts" which were not in evidence at the time, even to his earliest and most loyal fans like David Thomson and myself.
We were there.
Even sorrow should require a clear eye.