Tony: I congratulate you, Todd Baesen, and Larry French for fulfilling the duties that Jeff has given you. You, in particular, never fail to come through. On the matter at hand, I am about ready to let Todd and Larry argue it out among themselves. I have proposed that we all get together this Tuesday night at Booksmith, in San Francisco's Upper Haight, where David Thomson is giving a reading from his new biography of Nicole Kidman. I am about to contact Thomson, to ask him to be a mediator in the endgame of our dispute. Thomson, I'm sure you would agree, is particulary good at dealing with fabulous, if difficult to pin down, personalities like Todd and Larry -- and yourself.
[He may be out of his depth with Welles, something you will all agree, I'm sure -- though I think I could bring Todd Baesen, if not Larry French, around.]
You will not be able to make such a long trip, I understand, but I shall represent your point of view. I shall assume a dual role, participant and moderator. Thomson may not know what hit him.
Actually, Todd, Larry, Roger and I have pretty well agreed that Welles was going to lose money for RKO's bottom line, something which their corporate charter would forbid them, doubly so, the Studio being bankrupt aforehand. According to Callow, RKO's budget exec in Hollywood (head of their Overseas Sales, and evidently a most cautious and prudent man with a calculator), Reg Armour, had already determined by March, with (as it turned out) the IT'S ALL TRUE PROJECT another four months to go before "completion," that its total costs "would be $1.3m -- as much as CITIZEN KANE." [p 96.] That would mean four losing films in row, by RKO's projections, and they were right. All we are arguing now is who clipped what, when, out of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. The answer is that everybody, as Roger suggests, hacked and slashed at Welles' second masterpiece (including Welles, by long distance) for a couple of months.
We really no longer have an argument on the money matter, Tony -- unless you fulfill your function here, with some actual facts and sources.
Roger: As I said when you entered the discussion, I admire your work on THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, and I would tend to accept your conclusions. I can only say that Callow spends 133 out of 444 pages of text on THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, JOURNEY INTO FEAR, and IT'S ALL TRUE, which were being shot and processed simultaneously. [pp 18-151.] He leaves no doubt (in his mind, at least) that Koerner was calling the shots from mid march until Schaefer's resignation in June, when Koerner formally took command. All the Company's figures, as Callow presents them, were on the Koerner's faction side and against Schaefer and Welles.
Whether or not this scene or that scene was removed before another one, I cannot say. You will know better than I. All I have done is quote primary souces, such as Robert Wise in the matter. Callow's main thrust is that Welles' spent six months (admirably, for the most part) in South America, improvising an epic along the lines of QUE VIVA, MEXICO! -- which all involved had thought in the beginning was to be a little wartime propaganda film, a minor contribution to "The War Effort," a travelogue for FDR's "Good Neighbor Policy" -- while his Hollywood career, everything that he had built up to that point, went down the tubes. Callow believes that if Welles had come back when he was expected, even when he was requested, if not when he was ordered, and spent six months giving THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and JOURNEY INTO FEAR the post production lavished on CITIZEN KANE, his career would have been assured.
For all my love and belief in Welles' work, I can't disagree.
[The last chapter of Hello Americans, as Welles departs for Europe in 1947, is fatefully entitled (as Welles would have the message for us, in MACBETH), "The Charm's Wound Up."]
All I can say about the final edit of JOURNEY INTO FEAR is that, well after his August return from South America at the end of the IT'S ALL TRUE episode, in October 1942, Welles was given two weeks, as he had requested, but under the express supervision of Koerner, to re-edit the picture. "In a sense," Callow writes, "it was better than nothing: had he had even that amount of time and those meagre facilities with which to work on THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, it might have been a very different film. [New paragraph.] Welles devoted his alloted fortnight to cleaning up the final reels of JOURNEY INTO FEAR; this cliff-hanging sequence, as Banat pursues his quarry across the rain-spattered facade of the hotel, remains the most successful in the film." [p. 161.] He goes on to lament Welles' handicapp, "one hand behind his back," without his Mercury tech team and Bernard Herrmann's music.
But I'm inclined to agree with you Roger. JOURNEY INTO FEAR needs a proper denoument, a rosebud-sled-in-fire tag, such as Welles wanted to shoot long distance in South America. I think the best sequence is the opening, which Welles also conceived.
You will be able to sort it all out when you read the book, which is (whatever one might think here) surprisingly sypmpathetic to Welles -- as if, Callow had finally figured out what Welles was about. The book is much more thorough about the period we are discussing than McBride, who gives maybe 30 pages to THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, fifteen pages or so to IT'S ALL TRUE, and two pages and a note to JOURNEY INTO FEAR.
[But a wealth of wonderful personal and primary stuff on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND!]
I'm sorry you don't know anything about Bob Meltzer. I see him as another idealistic and tragic figure in our saga. His life might be the basis of a good novel or a splendid film.