Who was Orson Welles favorite author in Literature?
Quite a debatable question, of course, but certainly Isak Dinesen was among them.
This scene from Welles script for THE DREAMERS is interesting to compare with the test footage Welles shot of it that is included in ONE MAN BAND (on the Criterion DVD of F FOR FAKE).
The scene here takes place high in a Swiss Monastery, during a raging alpine snowstorm. Three ex-lovers of the great Opera singer, Pellegrina Leoni have converged to witness her play her last great scene… a death scene. Welles plays her Dutch friend and patron, the old Jew, Marcus Kleek.
The script gives a much better idea of how Welles would have approached the material if he had had ever gotten the money to shoot the film. For the test footage Welles shot of himself, all we see is a simple monologue by Welles, with no sense of the many effects he had planned for the scene, and needless to say, watching a long monologue completely out of context can hardly have helped convince any studio executives Welles may have showed it too. However, as the script indicates, these scenes would have included long dissolves and double images, as well as reverse shots to the three men who are listening to him tell his story about the legendary opera singer, Pellegrina Leoni.
Now, imagine if Maria Callas were alive and able to play the role of Pellegrina!
The OLD GENTLEMAN has stepped out of the shadows.
The truth, young gentleman?
LINCOLN raises his head and looks at his old enemy.
Now that you've cornered her and killed her, you want the truth?
LINCOLN discovers that all his ferocity has drained suddenly away...
I have known this woman at a time when she was known to all the world by her real name. Before that I have known her. I saw her first on a small theatre stage in Venice and she was then sixteen years old. I bought a villa for her near Milan. And when she wasn't traveling, she stayed there, and had many friends around her. And sometimes we were alone together... And then we used to laugh such at the world. And we would walk together in the garden, arm in arm. I alone, of all people, knew her.
GUILDENSTERN stirs in the shadows.
Until now, LINCOLN has net been aware of his presence.
You? -- you were her lover?
The OLD MAN meets his eye. Dismisses the word with contempt.
Lovers!... I have seen her lovers... running about yapping around her, flattering and fighting...
No, young gentlemen — I was her friend.
(With great pride) At the gate of paradise when the keeper of the gate shall ask me who I am, I shall give no name and no position in the world. But I shall answer him:
"I was the friend of Pellegrina Leoni."
Pellegrina — ? No — !
He stares at old KLEEK for a long moment, breathing heavily.
That... isn't possible!
(on his knees at her side, holding her hand to his face)
You're still... so cold...
Doesn't the whole world know her story? Why, my father was in Italy — he was there that night at the opera. She was the singer —
Yes. She was the greatest singer in the world.
LINCOLN is completely oblivious to this last... He has been placing the ring on her finger.
(whispering in her ear)
Listen, Olalla—— it's only here that it’s so cold...
Tomorrow when we're safely down out of the pass, we'll meet the spring in Italy.
There it is spring now, and in Rome, I think, the swallows will be back...
(to KLEEK, very quietly)
Yes, young gentleman. I saw her grave filled. I raised a monument upon it. Pellegrina's dead.
PILOT tries to take this in... He feels that he has somehow strayed into a world of ghosts... of the uncanny...
At this, LINCOLN'S attention is suddenly focused on his old adversary. He rises to his feet. Before he can speak, MARCUS KLEEK cuts him off:
Pellegrina Leoni, the Prima Donna Abssoluta, had in her-life two great devouring passions. And what was the first of these? It was for Pellegrina... She was a devil to the other women in the opera. It was a terrible and jealous love—
And this other— who was he?
Her other passion? It was not for me, young gentleman.
(turning his gaze on LINCOLN) I was, for the first half of life, just such an unhappy young man as you are... I was rich, and traveled much. I kept my own corps de ballet to perform before me and my friends, or before me alone. I had thirty young girls who used to dance before me naked. And I was bored to death, young gentleman. I might well have died of boredom, had I not happened to hear, on a small theatre stage in Venice, the voice of Pellegrina Leoni.
He stops for a moment, as though listening...
Then I understood the meaning of heaven and earth, of the stars, of life and death and eternity...
A subtle thrill of sound is vibrating in the air...
Is a voice singing?
Is MARCUS KLEEK the only one who hears it...?
She took you out in a rose garden filled with nightingales... then lifted you with her, higher than the moon... (then, with a change of tone) The other passion of her life?... That was for her audience. Not for the proud princes and magnates and the lovely ladies all in jewels — but for the poorest in her audience: the galleries.
When times were hard she gave them all her money, and sold her clothes for them. She loved them beyond anything.
That in the opera she should melt their hearts, that she should scatter her soul over them like stars... That was her true happiness.
The ghostly music - the echo of a song continues.
That is the truth, young gentlemen. After the night of the disaster — there has been no other truth that matters.
You were with her on that night?
(after a brief silence) Yes. She was not frightened... She had a brave heart, you know... But I— I was afraid...
DOUBLE IMAGE: -A SERIES OF SCENES
KLEEK remains dimly on the screen with superimpositions of the scenes he is describing...
Just at the moment she had made her entrance, a flaming piece of canvas fell in front of her.
INTERCUT: THE STAGE
THE THEATRE BOX
Pellegrina just went steadily on. But then the scene behind her burst into fire, and the whole theatre rose up in panic. She looked for me, where I was sitting in my box... Yes, at that moment of despair she looked at me. It was as if she meant to say: "Here we are to die together, you and I, Marcus." Thick smoke was spewing out, and she was hidden from my eyes...
I got out somehow to the street... And it was there that the news reached us: Pellegrina, her clothes all aflame, was saved. The people, when they heard that she was saved, fell on their knees...
The last of the second images fades away.
THS SCENE IN THE MONASTERY is in the clear.
I called the doctors of Milan around her. The burn which she had suffered quickly healed.
(Pause) But it was found that she had lost her voice. Pellegrina Leoni would never sing one note again...
HALF DISSOLVE: again a DOUBLE IMAGE
Over MARCUS KLEEK, as he speaks, the CAMERA moves slowly among strange, twisted shapes:
THE RUINS OF THE BURNT-OUT OPERA HOUSE - (MINIATURE)
She grieved... she grieved for her great name, but all her tears were for her galleries... for those poor people who'd give up a meal or a pair of shoes— the wages o hard labor— to crowd high up in the hot gallery to hear Pellegrina sing... How were they to live on in the dark of night, when their one star had fallen, and there was no Madonna in the skies to smile on them?
THE RUINS FADE AWAY... HALF DISSOLVE:
A DUSTY ROOM in which the motionless figure of MARCUS KLEEK and PELLEGRINA can scarcely be made out...
Also KLEEK as the storyteller can still be seen.
Time, in our villa in Milan. used to fly lightly— like a May breeze, like a summer shower. But now... a day was like a year... a night, ten years... She asked for poison— a strong poison. And I gave it to her.
49A LINCOLN walks around the table and sits down next to her. The WOMAN gathers up the money, dropping it in her own purse .Then the two gloved hands move up to the mask... LINCOLN waits, very tense. Suddenly, the mask is whipped away.
Beneath a frizzled and deplorable red wig, two eyes, glittering with intelligence, peer out at him from behind another mask: — a mask of simple avarice and complicated wickedness. This is none other than DONNA LUCETTA BOSCARI herself, notorious from Vienna to Palermo, expert in poisons and aphrodisiacs, procuress to the higher clergy, and as we have seen — a hopelessly addicted gambler.
(as she unmasks)
My dear... if you imagine that you've made a purchase, we can at least, unwrap it for you.
Well aware that the English Milord had other expectations she contemplates his disillusionment, her natural malice seasoned with a certain capricious affection.
Unmask, Signer. Return the compliment.
He does so. She looks at him with approval.
You are new to Venice. Tell me who you are.
I am a man who wants to know about this ring
And how do I address you?
That's not important.
Nothing in the world is more important.