ORSON WELLES RECORDING SESSION TRANSCRIPT
Here's a transcript of the above commercial voiceovers. As can be seen, Orson Welles wasn't being difficult or an egomaniac, but was simply unwilling to read just any lines that were handed to him. He insisted on trying to improve even the most inane script - usually without success. That hack ad agency directors would treat Welles suggestions - which could only improve their work - with such condescension, was clearly their own loss. But I find it interesting that these kinds of examples of Welles "being difficult" are invariably chalked up to another reason why Welles didn't get work in Hollywood...
Morale: If you can improve crap, don't bother... you'll just be called difficult or an egomanic...
ORSON WELLES (Reading copy): "We know a remote farm in Lincolnshire where Mrs. Buckley lives. Every July, peas grow there." Do you really mean that?
DIRECTOR: Uh, yeah.
WELLES: Don't you think you really want to say "July" over the pictures of snow? Isn't that the fun of it?
DIRECTOR: Try "in July."
WELLES: I don't understand you.
DIRECTOR: And can you emphasize a bit the "in" -- in July?
WELLES: Why? That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with "in" and emphasize it. Get me a jury and show me how you can say "in July" and I'll go down on you. That's just idiotic, if you'll forgive me for saying so. It's just stupid. "In July!" Impossible. Meaningless.
WELLES (Reading copy): "We know a certain fjord in Norway near where the cod gather in great shoals. There, Yonster, Stenglin ..." Shit.
DIRECTOR: A fraction more on that shoals thing, 'cause you rolled it around very nicely.
WELLES: Yeah, roll it around. And I have no more time. You don't know what I'm up against. This is a very wearying one; it's unpleasant to read. Unrewarding. "Because Finders freeze the cod at sea and then add a crumb-crisp co-- crumb-crisp coating." Ah. That's tough. "Crumb-crisp coating"-- No. You need to break it up. It's not written conversationally.
DIRECTOR: Take "crumb" out.
DIRECTOR: Take "crumb" out.
WELLES: Take "crumb" out. Good...
WELLES: Here, under protest, is "beef burgers." "We know a little place in the American far west where Charlie Briggs chops up the finest prairie-fed beef and tastes..." This is a lot of shit, you know that? You want one more? More beef?
DIRECTOR: You missed the first "beef," actually.
WELLES: What do you mean, missed it?
DIRECTOR: You were emphasizing "prairie-fed."
WELLES: But you can't emphasize "beef." That's like you wanting me to emphasize "in" before "July." Come on, fellas, you're losing your heads. I wouldn't direct any living actor like this in Shakespeare, the way you do this. It's impossible.
DIRECTOR: Orson, you did six of these last year, and they were far and away the best, and I know the reason.
WELLES: The right reading for this is the one I'm giving it. I've spent twenty times longer reading for you people than for any other commercial I've ever made. You are such pests. What is it you want? In the depths of your ignorance, what is it you want?
DIRECTOR: That was absolutely fine. It really was.
WELLES: You know, you're, you… No amount of money is worth this.
...Welles walks out of the studio.