In 1988, Douglas Gomery read a fascinating paper at the New York University's conference "Orson Welles: Theatre, Radio, Film", a paper which was printed (or perhaps excerpted) in the book of the conference, the special issue of Persistence of Vision (The Journal of the Film Faculty of the City University of New York) in 1989; in that paper Gomery argued that Welles was not a Hollywood filmmaker who was exiled from the community, but rather a sort of independent who used Hollywood. Jonathan Rosenbaum developed a variation of this idea in his chapter entitled "Orson Welles as Ideological Challenge" which appeared in his book 'Movie Wars' (2000). And Rosenbaum gave credit to Gomery in the section entitled "Welles as an Independent Filmmaker". And more recently, Joseph McBride quotes and discusse Gomery twice in 'What ever Happened to Orson Welles".
So it's interesting to see an idea put forth, then quoted and discussed 12 years later, and then 6 years after that.
Here's a recent little excerpt written for a conference in Austria in 2005, and I think it's a nice little riff on the Gomery idea:
". As an independent artist, he shuttled between Italy, England , Spain, Germany and France, realizing a series of outstanding films with meagre means and the money he earned as an actor: Othello, Mr. Arkadin, The Trial (based on
Kafka) and Chimes at Midnight (revolving around Shakespeare’s Falstaff). Due to his piecemeal work style, many of Welles' projects were never finished, such as his re-interpretation of Don Quixote. Supposedly "minor works", often made for television, were overlooked for a long time or remained inaccessible. Yet it is only the meshing of the various
formats which allows us to comprehend the modernity and complexity of his work, shaped by an all-media approach. Welles’ early experiences with radio plays, for example, were
decisive for his amazing use of film sound, and his stage career determined his choice of material. The ambiguous character of his late work F for Fake, which in a certain sense
represents Welles' last word on the intangibility of his own oeuvre, can already be made out in earlier films like the special trailer for Citizen Kane, as well as in the deceptively
conversational tone of Portrait of Gina. And this is merely one of the threads that can been drawn through the baroque labyrinth of Orson Welles' art ..."
I like this little excerpt very much; particularly these lines:
"...it is only the meshing of the various
formats which allows us to comprehend the modernity and complexity of his work, shaped by an all-media approach."
"...the intangibility of his own oeuvre..."
"...this is merely one of the threads that can been drawn through the baroque labyrinth of Orson Welles' art ..."
A very nice use of language; My guess is that it's by a fellow named Bert Rebhandl, or a writer summing up his idea; here's a blurb which appears above the quote:
"...a new Film Museum publication will be presented on September 1st: "Orson Welles: Genie im Labyrinth" by Bert Rebhandl is the first Welles biography to appear in German for many years. It represents an endeavour to portray Welles as the modern artist par excellence and as a central figure of the "media century".
I wonder how many great ideas and insights to Welles's art are to be found in non-English texts? I know that personally, two of my most treasured are translations: Bazin and Bessy.
Here's the URL:
The intersting thing about this for me is that Gomery's article is very brief: it runs only 4 1/2 pages, but obviously contains an inportant insight, one which is still percolating almost 20 years later. An interesting aside to this idea is that though Rosenbaum, Rebhandl and McBride have all run with this idea of Welles as always having been an independent from the beginning, Gomery doesn't quite agree:
"I have tried to turn the notion that Hollywood exploited Orson Welles on its head. The common notion would have us believe that Hollywood used Welles and eventually crushed him, whereas I have argued that Welles used Hollywood...only when the system required stable independent producers was Welles forced out. He could not bring films in under budget, could not avoid conflict with the studio managers, and could not produce money-making films. He would struggle in Europe to see if he could make independent films that fit his vision. Hollywood was closed to him."
Obviously, McBride and Rosenbaum wouldn't agree with the latter part of his summary.