Just found this brief snippet from famed production designer ALEXANDRE TRAUNER talking about his work with Orson Welles on designing OTHELLO. It may not be totally accurate, as it's translated from the French. It's followed by the The New York Times review of FILMING OTHELLO...
I had several other projects with Orson Welles during this period (1949-52), such as "The Odyssey" and "A Thousand and One Nights." The only one of them to be carried to fruition was "Othello," which was initially to be done in an Italian studio using landscapes in Italy as our locations. After (the Italian studio deal fell through) we made the decision to turn to the Victorine studios in Nice and I redrew all the designs according to Welles’ instructions. Finally, Orson left for Morocco where he was to act in a film called "The Black Rose." There we decided to change direction once again, since in Morocco we found architecture that was very appropriate for the section of the film that takes place in Cyprus. What helped us a great deal was the mixture of architecture we used - there was an extraordinary 18th century Portuguese architecture in Mogador, which corresponded perfectly to our needs, as well as the superb old basements of the romance churches of Etrurie (Italy).
We developed firm ideas and sought to adapt and modify whatever we found, so that all the composite elements would form a coherent whole in the finished picture. Gradually, we transformed Mogador into our studio, since we were able to eliminate most of the things that would have been out of place.
Naturally, in using locations one cannot shoot as one would do in the studio, so it was sometimes necessary to return to the locations until we could arrange the scenes as we had envisioned them - say if we wanted a sky with a certain intensity to it. But I found it preferable to shoot on location, rather than attempting to shoot the scenes in the studio in front of a painted sky.
NEW YORK TIMES February 4, 1987
ORSON WELLES ON "FILMING OTHELLO"
By Vincent Canby
Throughout his lifetime, Orson Welles seems to have ached to be as resoundingly immodest as he deserved to be without feeling guilty about it.
Micheal (sometimes spelled Michael) MacLiammoir, who played Iago to Welles's Othello in Welles's classic 1952 film adaptation, once wrote of Welles: ''He knew that he was precisely what he himself would have been if God had consulted him on the subject at his birth. He fully appreciated and approved of what had been bestowed and realized that he couldn't have done the job better himself; in fact, he would not have changed a single item.''
The word modesty, or one of its variants, seems to have cropped up a lot in Welles's conversations toward the end of his life. It's there on the book jacket of Barbara Leaming's 1985 biography, ''Orson Welles,'' in which the subject urges the writer to make herself a character in the biography. ''I think it's a wonderful way to do a biography,'' she quotes him as saying, ''particularly because you are telling, excuse the expression, a rather dense story. I can be frank with you without sounding fake modest, but you're talking about - alas -some kind of legend.''
In ''Filming Othello,'' his entertaining and revealing 1978 film memoir opening today at the Film Forum, Welles, standing in the corner of a studio, greets the audience with a few remarks about Shakespeare's play, which is, he notes, ''something more than a masterpiece.'' In fact, it's a work of such magnitude that he can only ask with humility, ''Where does that leave a mere movie maker?''
A few moments later, he asks, ''Is my movie good or bad?'' He says he really doesn't know. Again, he doesn't want to sound ''fake modest,'' but since the film is still being shown after 30 years, he assumes ''it still has some life in it.'' He then goes on to quote some mostly very ecstatic comments on the film.
This was ever one of the more charming aspects of Welles in such appearances. Con artist and raconteur, magician and movie master, he always managed to call attention to his genius by apologizing for somehow being thrust into a position (against his will) in which even to deny genius was to acknowledge it. There is much of this in ''Filming Othello,'' and it's all part of the rather dense portrait of the man that emerges from the 90-minute film, directed, of course, by the man himself.
Commissioned for West German television, ''Filming Othello'' was to have been the first in a projected series in which Welles would discuss his individual films and how they came to be what they are. He never got to the second in the series, which was to have been about ''The Trial,'' but ''Filming Othello'' is so good it makes one long for more. Not more of the same, exactly, for Welles wouldn't have repeated himself with film. Having worked his way through his charm with ''Filming Othello,'' he would, I suspect, have moved on to a different kind of consideration of ''The Trial.''
This isn't to say that ''Filming Othello'' is only charm. It's a fascinating collage made up of various things, including some re-edited footage from the magnificent opening sequence of ''Othello.'' More or less at the center of the memoir is a luncheon reunion at which Welles, a sometimes brilliantly funny Mr. MacLiammoir and a patiently funny Hilton Edwards, who played Brabantio in ''Othello,'' discuss the play, Coleridge, the film, Dostoyevsky, Lord Olivier, Dante and envy as opposed to jealousy, which Welles, ever-ready with an aphorism, calls ''the seasickness of passion.''
As time touches memory and reorders facts, Welles, the editor of his life as well as of film, inserts into this luncheon footage some shots of himself, photographed later but seemingly at the same luncheon, making comments that give the discussion more point than it might have had otherwise. The screen is ''a dead thing,'' Welles says on another occasion. One has to work to make it exciting enough to grab the mind and the imagination, which is what he's doing here much of the time.
''Filming Othello'' is full of priceless anecdotes, some of which Welles has told before in a slightly different form, about the problems that had to be solved during the approximately four years it took to make his movie. Money was always running out, and actors were sent home. When the film, which had initially been conceived as an Italian-French co-production, finally arrived at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival (where it shared the grand prize), it was officially Moroccan, which presented problems to festival functionaries responsible for finding the score for the Moroccan national anthem.
There also are clips from Welles's 1977 appearance before a Boston audience of young film aficionados, as he answers questions about ''Othello.'' He's in marvelous shape and thoroughly enjoying himself. During this encounter, he says he wishes he weren't looking back but forward to ''Othello.''
''Promises,'' he says, ''are much more fun than explanations.''
At the end of this rich recollection, one walks out of the theater eager to see ''Othello'' again. However, as is so often the way with movies above a certain age, Welles's ''Othello'' is not currently available. For unreported reasons, it is, in the picturesque language of lawyers, ''tied up.''
FILMING OTHELLO, directed by Orson Welles; camera, Gary Graver; edited by Marty Roth; music by Francesco Lavagnino and Alberto Barbaris; produced by Klaus Hellwig and Juergen Hellwig. At Film Forum 1, 57 Watts Street. Running time: 90 minutes. This film has no rating. WITH: Mr. Welles, Micheal LacLiammoir, Hilton Edwards.