Todd Baesen had me at a disadvantage, as do you, Tony, in that I have not read the article in question, which is why I refrained from commenting upon Baesen's conclusions, but the Brijit abstract for the New Yorker suggests to me that a certain balance is struck about the monumental professional relationship between Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier. the subject of Ms. Roth Pierpont's essay, "The Player Kings":
". . . in The New Yorker by Claudia Roth Pierpont, 19 November 2007
In an engaging but lengthy essay, Pierpont looks at how two stage and film giants, Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier, competed against and, on occasion, collaborated in their attempts to reinvent Shakespeare for post-World War II audiences. Pierpont relates the history of each "player king," exhaustively examining Olivier and Welles' motives, successes, and challenges as both actors and directors in their various theatrical and silver screen performances. One particularly interesting parallel: film versions of Shakespeare contributed to Welles' downfall, while Olivier was playing King Lear on TV at age 75."
In other words, the abstract suggests that the essay, though hardly "a puff piece" for Welles, favors your view, Tony.
On the other hand, The New Yorker itself, in its summary of Ms Roth Pierpont's work, seems to support Baesen's embittered disdain for what he sees as another pop-scholar attack on our man, Welles:
"Claudia Roth Pierpont, Onward and Upward with the Arts, 'The Player Kings,' The New Yorker, November 19, 2007, p. 70
Welles, Orson; Olivier, Laurence; Shakespeare, William; Movie Directors; Actors; Rivalries; The Old Vic Theatre Company
"ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS about the rivalry between Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier. The Old Vic Theatre Company arrived in New York in April, 1946, and opened with Shakespeare—“Henry IV,” Parts One and Two; there was little doubt that Laurence Olivier was the star. This was not the spring that Orson Welles had planned. In March, Welles had announced the rebirth of the famous Mercury Theatre, starting with a musical extravaganza based on 'Around the World in Eighty Days'; the play closed quickly and left Welles saddled with enormous debts. The 20th century’s two greatest dramatic illusionists had more in common and, ultimately, more effect on each other’s work—as friendly, if occasionally cutthroat, competitors; as reinventors of Shakespeare for a modern audience—than has been noted before. The most difficult role for Olivier in his early years onstage was Henry V, but then came the war. Olivier’s film of 'Henry V' opened in New York in the spring of 1946 and became a box-office phenomenon. To Welles, 'Henry V' was a mine of possibility and provocation. By the mid-forties, Welles was struggling with a reputation as a director incapable of commercial success ('Citizen Kane'). Mentions John Gielgud. Orson Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1915, and began performing Shakespeare in boarding school. His mother died when he was nine, and his father died suddenly when he was fifteen. Mentions John Houseman. Describes Welles’s theatrical background. He played Falstaff in the Mercury Theatre’s biggest production, 'Five Kings,' a shapeless catastrophe that closed in 1939, taking the Mercury with it. In 1947, Olivier directed, produced, and starred in 'Hamlet.' Describes the Oedipal interpretation in the film. Welles knew that Olivier was filming 'Hamlet' when he began to shoot 'Macbeth,' in June,'with Republic Pictures. If 'Hamlet' approaches film noir, 'Macbeth' resembles a cheap sci-fi or horror film. By the time Olivier was collecting Oscars for 'Hamlet,' Welles had decided to leave America for good. Describes Welles’s 1952 film 'Othello' and the collaboration between Welles and Olivier on a stage production of 'Othello,' in London, in 1951. Welles’s 'Othello' won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and he became the darling of the French critics. In America, the film wasn’t released until 1955 and it was a box-office failure. Things went rapidly downhill for Welles after that. As for Olivier, the mid-fifties merely settled his crown. Mentions his film of 'Richard III,' which was simultaneously broadcast on national TV. 'Richard III”'failed at the box-office, and, as a result, no one in Hollywood would take a chance on Shakespeare. Describes Olivier’s portrayal of Othello at Britain’s National Theatre. Mentions Welles’s 1964 film 'Chimes at Midnight.' Olivier suffered from a rare muscle disease for the last fifteen years of his life; he died, in 1989. The rise of the looser aesthetic has been a boon to Welles’s reputation. He died of a heart attack, at seventy, in 1985."
Certainly, we can all agree that Ms. Roth Pierpont's account of Welles' demise is at odds with the facts as we have found them recounted in several books, including the one by Evil David Thomson, but perhaps, between the lines of the abstract and the summary, there is another story concerning the rivalry between Welles and Olivier: How, during and after the exhaustion of their brave competition to bring Shakespeare to middle class and working class audiences following World War II, Britain treasured, sustained, forgave, and cheered Olivier, the greatest English actor of their 20th Century; and how America, denigrated, denied, rejected -- yea, befouled and laughed at Welles, the most original, innovative, and influential American genius produced in our Theater, in Radio, and in the Movies of his time.
In that sense, Olivier was Britain's HENRY V, and Welles was his
FALSTAFF, but in America, Welles became a real life counterpart to Arthur Miller's Willie Loman.
In retrospect, we might see Olivier, in the regard of glib modern critics, as a British Royal Hero, and Welles an American Tragedy.
Both nations have taken a long slide in the last 30 years, but the contrasting parallel in how the two men are regarded, blurred though it may be, is still there.