Thanks, tonyw. You give mido505 good advice here. And thanks, too, for your defense of our position on democracy, of which I'll write more later.
Mido505: Not to get between the flaming sterno cans, but I had wanted to compliment you on bringing up the intriguing idea that, from 1955 to 1965, Paola Mori Welles acted as a stabilizing, supportive force in Welles' career. The idea should be given credence, not only because both you and Tony agree upon it, but because it may provide a missing part of the Orson Welles' puzzle. There appears amazingly little in print of their relationship.
[One wonders why Beatrice Welles-Smith has never brought out a big book about growing up with, and among appearances by, her illustrious father (whose memory she so covets and reveres), in Italy, Spain, the Balkans, New York, Las Vegas, etc. Like Christopher Welles, she appeared in one of his movies, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, may even have stood in for him in one of his most renowned sequences, and spent more time with her father than either of the other daughters did.]
Not wishing to have to duck missiles thrown from both sides, I shall not name a critic whom I trust for his understanding of the slow retreat of Welles' career, and the thousand natural disintegrations of his life, when that writer observes the following (paraphrasing):
Aside from her lean dark beauty, taste, and aristocratic birth, qualities he always prized in women, Welles may have taken to the Italian Contessa di Girfalco, Paola Mori, because she was, like himself, an orphan of sorts, having been put into a detention camp as a child because of her family's opposition to Mussolini. No actress, though he tried when besotted to make her one in MR. ARKADIN, she was at first take like a classy version of the second Mrs. Kane with a strong domestic streak, which he came immediately to recognize and to value.
People close to Welles thought that the Contessa Girfalco appeared alternately withdrawn, dull, at times arrogant, but she cheerfully assured the press, after they married in 1955, that Welles was "super normal." The trick was, she added, how to bring that quality out in him. She also was, so closely as your down-trodden Italian contessa can be, an old fashioned nester and home maker. She loved to shop, and curiously, preferred Las Vegas to many of the more elegant, familiar and venerable places they stayed. That's why he set up a home in Vegas for her and Beatrice, when he became a somewhat unexpected hit there in the casino floor shows.
[An aside: There was no doubt, too, on the negative end, all that Italian food to consider, which after he took up with Oja Kodar would have been compounded by Croatian barbecue. Welles evidently didn't require much encouragement of satisfaction in that department.]
It was obviously the most successful marriage Welles had, simply on the conventional basis that they were never divorced. After all, a 30 year marriage usually wins a brass ring in America. And Tony has listed the number of reasonably successful projects (plus, a possible masterpiece or two) he had in this period: "Arkadin, King Lear, The Unthinking lobster show, Around the World with Orson Welles, the return to Hollywood, the Fountain of Youth, Dumas, Lollabrigida, Don Quixote, the Touch of Evil, Compulsion, The Trial, Chimes, In the Land of Don Quixote, The Immortal Story..."
I would add only one small caveat to your Paola Mori thesis, mido505. You write: "It is not an objectionable moral attack on Welles to wonder if his leaving Paola for Oja Kodar led to the complete unraveling of his creative life, and prevented further works from appearing."
The fact is, mido505, that Welles never left Paola Mori. He was, to paraphrase someone here, a master serving at least two mistresses. He "simply" used the place in Las Vegas as his home base, and maintained a second household with Miss Kodar, wherever they happened to be. You should also consider that Welles' formidable enemies, remnants of the Hearst Empire, the FBI, the IRS, and Nixon, kept him moving around the United States and abroad, in a fashion not attractive to the home-loving Mrs. Welles.
As for the remarks, mido505, you direct toward me and tonyw, amid your argument with Tony over the relative merits of Orson Welles' [poor] TREASURE ISLAND and Anthony Bushell's [splendid] TERROR OF THE TONGS, would you rather we attempt to connect Welles' life and career with the German American Bund rather than the Popular Front?
Orson Welles was clearly influenced by "Popular Front attitudes" in every important project he undertook from the early 1930's to the mid-1950's, when you credit Paola Mori with rescuing him.
True, examination of Welles' political ideas and activities was discouraged initially on this site because they were considered secondary to who he was as an artist, and because they caused arguments, which indeed they did, and do. While recognizing the palpable dangers of didactism in works of art, my sense is that such a position had to be modified with the appearance of Simon Callow's HELLO AMERICANS, that to the surprise of many, possibly even to Callow, showed how passionately and genuinely Welles' life and works were informed by progressive democratic themes. Though these themes had always been in his background, the spoiled, irresponsible Georgie-boy of THE ROAD TO XANADU had become to Callow in the five years 1942 to 1947 a flawed but genuinely dedicated advocate for democratic causes wherever the mature Welles found them, a man willing to sacrifice an incredible career for what he believed in.
Mido505, I bring up Dennis Kucinich (in his demand for the President's Impeachment) and Keith Olberman (for his even handed attacks on the degradation of truth and decency by figures in either party), not because they are on the scale of Orson Welles, but because like him, they have been willing in our day to stand up and unequivocally demand action against the rise of fascism and the acceleration of corruption in America. It would be so much easier for them, as it would have been for Welles, "to go along to get along," the traditional mantra of both political parties, the twitter of many nominally democratic societies as the slip into totalitarianism, and the annoyed complaint of so very, very many Americans. All the most execrable practices of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Russia, the corporate state, and banana republics around the World have been adopted, and are being practiced, by our present Administration, and the Democratically controlled Congress goes along with only a little sigh and a grumble, hoping to get along in November when all will be "forgiven and [no doubt] forgotten."
What would we say about Orson Welles today if he took to Television, or stood outside the Capitol, to express a similar protest? No doubt in my mind, he would be there. From what you say, Mido505, perhaps against your better judgment, you would support him. If Welles produced a play in which Macbeth became the El Supremo of some South American or African dictatorship, or in another George W. Bush and his people wore black uniforms, reciting JULIUS CAESAR, or the Trial of the Bush Administration was staged in the form of Danton's Death; or a movie showed the disintegration of George Soros with Keith Olberman playing his right hand man, or a Presidential Nominee [Democrat or Republican] was revealed as a kind of Manchurian Candidate, or a lone ne're-do-well confronted a group of neo-Nazis in America after 9/11 before they started a war without end which would make them untouchably rich; or Welles produced a TV reality show about a scheme to turn American Society into a gigantic video game -- you would be for those endeavors . . . . RIGHT?
Then, whatever the hell it has to do with TREASURE ISLAND and THE TERROR OF THE TONGS, to quote one mido 505, ". . . instead of quashing debate on this site, how about we encourage it, in the hope of reaching new insight."
I remain, as always, obediently yours.
Last edited by Glenn Anders
on Tue Jun 17, 2008 1:32 am, edited 1 time in total.