Thanks for that post, Harvey. It's very interesting to hear Rich Little's side of working with Welles. Strange how all stories relating to Welles all seem to have several versions to them. According to Joseph McBride, Welles never bothered to call Rich Little back to complete his role, after the incident described below, taken from Mercedes McCambridge's autobiography, THE QUALITY OF MERCY, 1981.
One desultory day Orson choose to order Rich Little and me to stand by to position ourselves on the roof of the house at sunset. The great man explained that he wanted to capture the magic moment immediately before the desert sun slices like a giant egg yolk down the other side of the world. There IS a light in that instant that is the color of a new lemon. The light is blinding just as it disappears. That's what Orson was after. It meant an entire afternoon of elaborate planning. He wanted to shoot it with his three-camera technique which meant that the clumsy equipment had to be carried or hoisted onto precarious perches. One huge light fell onto the stone patio… great hunks of broken glass in the pool, in the iced tea, in the folds of the lounge chairs and, worse luck, we had one less piece of expensive equipment—way out in the middle of nowhere.
If I have to climb into heaven on a ladder, I shall have to decline the invitation. I cannot go anywhere on a ladder. Never could. Going up is sheer agony and going down is impossible. I cannot do it. I did it, of course, for Orson. Orson couldn't do for me, or for heaven or for anything. His girth is not ladder material. So he stayed down there on level ground in his billowing balloon of a bathrobe, shouting at me to keep going... I was almost there.
The view was terrific. I could see all the way to Milwaukee. Rich Little fairly leaped up the ladder. He's a Canadian, and Canadians are inclined to leap a lot, particularly if anyone is watching. I was married to one of them. When you've seen one leaping Canadian, you've seen then all. Rich Little wasn't about to get any "bravos" from me. I was anything but happy up on that roof because I knew the descent on the ladder would be my last mortal endeavor.
Orson directed us, inch by inch, to a spot where we would be etched against the magic lemon-green brilliance of the sky when the exact moment came. He threatened to kill us if we ruined the shot because it meant that a retake would have to wait until tomorrow at sunset, when the sky might well be overcast and the light would be all wrong.
It gave me a funny feeling. I was playing a scene with the incomprehensible universe, for heaven's sake. I had no chance to rehearse with the sun; I had no idea what its timing might be; how could I retain any spontaneity, any fresh discovery in a scene where I was at the whim of a big yellow blob of fire that would surely be upstaging me anyhow?
The three cameras and their crews were at the ready. Rich Little had smoothed his hair for the ninety-sixth time. All we needed now was the sun which, we hoped, had read the script and knew its cue to do its thing!
Orson had made it painfully clear that Rich Little and I were to stand with our backs to the sun, our shoulders barely touching. Orson growled that the shot was absolutely critical in its focus for all three cameras, and therefore, even the slightest movement from us might knock us out of frame. I gathered that what he wanted was two statues on a roof. But that wasn't what he wanted. Every time you figure you know what Orson wants, it turns out to be anything but what Orson wants. This time he wanted us not to move, BUT, he yelled as the magic moment came nearer, "I want you both up there to be still as stone. I want you to give me the feeling that you are being jostled; I need that feeling from both of you."
Rich Little mumbled, "Oh, my God."
I mumbled back, "It's simple. Think jostle, but don't move."
Rich Little hadn't worked for Orson before and was therefore not to be blamed for asking a question like, "How do we do that, Orson?" When Orson feels that a question is so stupid that it doesn't deserve an answer, he stares at the inquirer with what can only be called gentle horror! He wants so much to believe that the questioner is above the sort of thing that has just escaped his lips.
"Sweetheart," he called to Rich Little, "listen to me, my friend. I want you to keep your bodies rigid from the waist up, but I want your lower extremities to be jostled. Is that clear to you up there, my children?"
In a million years I will never know why Rich Little felt he had to pursue this meaningless quest. He asked Orson why our lower extremities were being jostled.
That did it! Orson threw his great bearded head back and confronted the heavens. I think he was addressing God directly. He shouted, "Why must I be challenged in such things? Why? Why? Why?
Rich Little stammered something civil about merely wanting to do it right.
Orson sighed to the ocean depths with him and said, "I need your shoulders to be still, your hips to sway ever so slightly, a rocking on your heels that is barely noticeable… all of this will give me the effect I need with the midgets that will be milling around your feet and between your legs."
Why did Rich Little have to ask, "What midgets, Orson?" Orson was beginning to look the way Christ must have looked when he found the money changers in the temple.
He refused to communicate further. He beckoned his assistant cameraman and relayed the message through him. It wafted up to us: "Mr. Welles says he's going to be filming them in Spain next month."
Only a certain breed of actor should ever even try to work for Orson Welles. I'm glad I'm one of that breed. Orson was one of the highest peaks in my life.