I've just been reading the booklet for the 1995 Radio Spirits release on cd of Les Miserables, which I think is a simply stunning program. For those of you who might not know, this was an Orson Welles production which he directed and starred in in 1937. It was broadcast over 7 Friday nights across the country by the Mutual Network, and is 7 hours long (It's also in great audio shape).
In the booklet, ther is a quote of something Welles said before the broadcast which I find fascinating:
"In July of 1937, the New York Times announced that 'Les Miserables' would be 'projected'. In the article, Welles described projection as 'an entirely new technique calculated to air the essential character of the book itself,' and explained that while the broadcast would be a dramatization, it would not be one created or derived from the work of a scriptwriter or playwright. While the restrictive dynamics of a radio broadcast necessitated the condensation of certain passages, the goal was to make the script 'the work of Victor Hugo to the fullest extent.'"
So here we are at the beginning of Welles's career, with him exciting the reader with the concept of an entirely new approach to something (even though I'm not too sure how really new the approach would be, I'm still excited about it.)
And then I was reminded of this passage, from Frank Brady's bio:
"Jonathan Rosenbaum explained that in the taped proposal for Lear, Welles elaborated some of the details of the film: 'It will be...free from the cinematic rhetoric, my own as well as others, which have already accumulated in the history of these translations of Shakespeare into film.' He promised to offer a new kind of Shakespeare, not the usual costume drama, but one that would be modern, intimate, simple, and ferociously earthy. 'In a word,' he said, 'not only a new kind of Shakespeare, but a new kind of film."
Well, I've known the Lear passage for 17 years, and have always been impressed by it's incredibly bold claim. But then who else might have pulled off such a promise, other than Orson Welles? And when I read the LesMis passage today, I was struck by the similarity between the two passages, the claim of an absolutely new way to do something, the sheer "chutzpah".
And the two quotes are almost 50 years apart!
It seems to me, and I wish I had more subtlety of expression to describe this, that this idea of a "fresh new way" to do things was somehow central to Welles's thinking, and if he couldn't do it differently, there was no point in doing it at all.
Just a thought.