Todd: Yes, your surmise is correct. Callow records how, after Koerner was formally in charge, and they still did not have a workable ending for JOURNEY INTO FEAR, they let Welles do post production work on the film, under the conditions the company memo states. In fact, he credits Welles with the sequencing of the finale in which Banat stalks Howard Graham in the rain along that building ledge, which he says is the best thing left in the picture.
So we have no argument there, Todd, though I must say that the fog of paranoia becomes thick here at times. Reading a hundred memos, minutes of conversations (which the Reismann-Armour speculations were, BTW), or copies of telegrams -- all a hodge-podge, out of context -- leaves any conclusions open to systems of logic. I'm amused, my friend, that you who hold on grimly to the idea that Welles carefully observed the budgets of his projects, and all the RKO Executives were Byzantine bastards, see whole flocks of biographers and critics unreliable because they do not agree with your interpretations. If all biographers are "spin doctors" (a term everyone in 1942 would have publicly abhorred), does this mean that only your interpretations are valid?
Have not enough variables been turned up to suggest that, given circumstances, accounting practices, the business climate, the War, and volatile personalties, several "truths" are possible here? May only your assertions be accepted?
In your last line, you suggest a new villain to add to the RKO's Devils Brigade: Robert Wise. Aha! You may have something. Is it possible, in addition to his own duties, the company's wishes, he had personal reasons for not making the lonely flight to Rio? Most of the RKO crew down there were confused, fed up and disheartened; aside from a few who had "gone native" (as they liked to put), they felt trapped; they wanted to come home. The Government of Brazil and many of the people who had welcomed them were turning against them -- shouting at them, throwing beer bottles at them. Wise no doubt heard these reports from his colleagues. He was primarily a sound editor (why Welles liked him so much), new to film editing. His prospects for continuing as a film editor were precarious. His name was attached already to two controversial failures.
And, O yes, he was engaged to be married. In fact, on May 25, 1942, he married Patricia Doyle, the lady who would be his wife for over thirty years. It is unlikely that cost-cutting Koerner would have paid for a honeymoon in Rio.
You see, Todd, it is easy -- for anyone -- to bandy around pieces of paper without fully understanding the people underneath. And even there, we do not have a full record, no matter how many cables and memos are in the Lilly. (Callow says that fewer than forty cables survive, and that, according to Cy Enfield, Jack Moss regularly threw away batches of cable traffic daily without bothering to read them because he felt Welles was so out of touch.)
Todd, Tony: In the matter of the editing of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, all you say may be true. If Wise had flown down to Rio, been able to find Welles, sat down with him, and worked out the "finish" on the picture, it might be the masterpiece we imagine when we look at its muddled form today. Yes, Reismann was a flunky, but he was a flunky that both Schaefer and Welles trusted. In early May, when Schaefer sent birthday greetings to Welles, a man he had placed immense trust in, he cabled: "DEAR ORSON MANY HAPPY RETURNS OF THE DAY I KNOW YOU HAVE PROBLEMS BUT BE YOUR AGE." [Callow: pp 106-107.] In other words, the CEO of RKO was saying, you are no longer a boy. Take some responsibility for all of these unfinished undertakings.
That was clearly the message that Schaefer was having Reismann deliver personally. He was giving Welles one last chance to rap matters up and come home to deal with the other Mercury Unit problems. Reismann did have the authority to close out IT'S ALL TRUE. That's what his conversation with company man Armour was all about. But neither he nor Schaefer relished publicly humiliating Welles, whom both of them liked and admired.
Yes, Tony, I can tell you personally that you are justified in your consideration of "the youth market." That was really unknown in 1942, as we know it today, but suddenly 10,000,000 more or less mature men, out of a total American population of 110,000,000, were heading overseas. Tens of millions of other American men and women were at work, off the farm, out of the home, in war work. The people left behind were probably no more receptive to experimental films than they are today (even without the huge teen market). It was a sea change, which altered American Society forever after.
But even if that had not been the case, neither CITIZEN KANE, nor THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (in any version), would have been easily accepted fare. JOURNEY INTO FEAR would have been thought a little odd. AMBERSONS, in most people's estimation, would have fallen somewhere between that (what we would call today) thriller and THE LOVES OF EDGAR ALLAN POE (1942) -- I bet you've forgotten that one. Most people have.
I've often told the story of seeing CITIZEN KANE in 1941, at the age of ten. Afterward, nearly the whole audience (a good cross section then of the 2500 souls in my little Ohio town) was milling around in the lobby. Some were laughing and shaking their heads, some were angry and wanted their money back, but most were asking each other: "What was that all about." Identifying with the logic of little Charlie Kane, my explanation of "Rosebud" made quite a splash.
But people generally don't like what they don't understand, and that was the problem Welles understood all his life. He insisted on his standards, his conditions, and he strove to educate the populace. He obviously did not succeed sometimes, and only now can we see what a golden age he ushered in, how immense his influence was.
It's easy now for us Leonardo's
I would suggest, however, gentlemen, that in 1942, you two might have been arguing with others who was getting it right -- The Nation, The New York Times or Screenland?