"One could fill a wide shelf with books on Orson Welles, some of them by his detractors, some by his idolators, but none with the prodigious research that has gone into this one. Heylin has apparently not only read every page ever published on Welles, he has burrowed into libraries and private archives; he has seen not only every film, but all the myriad versions of the same film in Welles's tortured filmography. He has read and quotes faithfully from every screenplay, and all those rewrites, with a surfeit of notes and letters about each one. "
Check this out. Maybe I was right and DESPITE THE SYSTEM doesn’t suck! The reviwer from the Palm Beach Post thought it sucked, and all the average Stephen King reviewers thought it sucked, but Bud Schulberg doesn’t think it sucks, and he wrote ON THE WATERFRONT!
This article came from the New York Times
'Despite the System': The Kane Mutiny
By BUDD SCHULBERG
Published: May 1, 2005
Long ago, while trying to write with F. Scott Fitzgerald a romantic movie based on the Dartmouth College Winter Carnival, this reviewer was asked how he would define his hometown.
''Everybody outside thinks it's so glamorous,'' I said. ''But there's nothing glamorous about it. Hollywood's a factory town, only instead of motor cars or steel, we turn out cans of film.'' Like the fine observer he was, Fitzgerald must have made a mental note, because on the opening page of his unfinished Hollywood symphony, ''The Last Tycoon,'' the narrator says, ''My father was in the picture business as another man might be in cotton or steel.'' But Fitzgerald's protagonist, the producer Monroe Stahr, wasn't content with turning out cans of film. Inside this fictional studio executive -- based on the legendary Irving Thalberg -- was a creative soul working to express itself in the only new art form of the 20th century.
Therein lies the tension that confronts every film director or writer who tries to do something ''serious'' in that show-me-the-bottom-line factory town. One of the standard approaches of successful directors -- even headliners like John Ford, John Huston and King Vidor -- was to ''give one to get one'': make a routine major studio potboiler in order to make a movie of your own.
On the other side of the coin is the tragic hero, whose greatest weakness is his integral strength, his bone-deep inability to compromise -- as we find in ''Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios,'' a devoted and meticulously researched work. Does any name come to mind more insistently than Welles, that Don Quixote of film directors? Small wonder ''Don Quixote'' was one of Welles's favorites in that frustrating group of films he would work and rework with demon energy over the years, only to give up finally and raise the white flag. Then somehow he would find the strength to move on to the next film. ''I believe that the only good work I can do is my own particular thing,'' Welles once said. ''I don't think I'm very good at doing their thing.''
Welles came to Hollywood in 1939, after winning national notoriety at 23 for his audacious ''War of the Worlds'' radio broadcast, so realistic it scared the wits out of the audience. After signing a two-picture deal for RKO, he had several false starts -- including an attempt at Joseph Conrad's ''Heart of Darkness'' -- before he began ''Citizen Kane,'' based on a screenplay by the brilliant, erratic and alcoholic Herman Mankiewicz, and with cinematographer Gregg Toland, who would have become one of the memorable film artists if he had not died prematurely of a heart attack soon after World War II.
Responsibility for the original idea of ''Citizen Kane'' has always been a matter of dispute. Mankiewicz claimed credit for the concept, and in truth had talked to my father, the producer B. P. Schulberg, about doing a film on William Randolph Hearst before Welles's dramatic arrival in Hollywood. At the same time, as Heylin explains Welles's side of it, there seems no doubt that Mankiewicz's approach to the Charles Foster Kane (that is, Hearst) character was one of venomous darkness and it was Welles who provided the light. Welles rewrote scenes to define Kane as less a monster than a many-faceted public relations genius, as creative as he is finally self-destructive.
Whether Welles cribbed from Mankiewicz -- who objected to having to share writing credit in the finished film -- or whether it was Toland rather than Welles who was responsible for the unusual photographic effects and visual design, in the last analysis it's immaterial. It is the impact of the final work that counts, and has there ever been a film that made a greater impact -- whether it was a director's first or his 20th film -- than ''Citizen Kane'' when it came to the screen in 1941? To this day, it still ranks first on most serious critics' lists of all-time great films. Still in his mid-20's, Orson Welles was hailed as the genius of American movies; and if he owed a debt to his gifted collaborators, that's the director's job, after all, to draw on the talents around him to compose the work of art the audience sees. Heylin makes it persistently clear that Welles's stamp is all over ''Citizen Kane,'' that aside from playing the central character with unforgettable gusto, he infused the movie with his spirit.
In his first time at bat in the Hollywood ballpark, Welles scored a home run, earning nine Oscar nominations (he won only one, for best screenplay, which he shared with the now openly hostile Mankiewicz). There were other dark clouds gathering, too. William Randolph Hearst was a superpower in Hollywood, and he expressed his fury at Welles by enlisting Louis B. Mayer, the boss of MGM, to offer to pay RKO the cost of the movie (some $800,000) just to suppress it. Welles's name was mud in the Hearst newspaper chain forevermore, and even Welles's admirers in Hollywood wondered how he could survive.
Welles's endless struggle with the profit-minded studio system really began with his follow-up film for RKO, the eagerly awaited but ill-fated ''Magnificent Ambersons.'' Welles undertook the project with his signature high hopes and hard work. His script, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Booth Tarkington novel, reflected a darkly imagined interpretation of the rise and fall of a prosperous Midwestern family, whose 19th-century town is growing into a city and leaving the family behind.
Part of the problem once he started filming was that Welles no longer answered to the sympathetic George Schaefer, who as president of RKO had allowed him space to make ''Citizen Kane.'' RKO was now in thrall to a man whose brain was stamped with a giant dollar sign, Charles Koerner. Koerner was the first of an army of studio chieftains who seemed to be put on this earth for the sole purpose of butchering Welles's artistic efforts. The war of attrition that Koerner waged against Welles is spelled out by Heylin in agonizing and sometimes exhausting detail. While Welles managed to shoot his own screenplay pretty much as he envisioned, he came up short in the end because he lost the precious power of the final cut he had on ''Citizen Kane.''
To give some idea of the butchery, when Welles's original 132-minute film was turned over to the film editor, Robert Wise (later a director of note), Wise was given orders to cut it down to double-bill size, just 88 minutes. Gone was Welles's downbeat ending with its tragic sense of how changing times have brought the once proud George Amberson Minafer down in humiliation and neglect. All of Welles's carefully thought-out nuances had been carefully trimmed out. Although Welles blamed Schaefer and never forgave him, Schaefer had been caught in a power struggle with the domineering Koerner and lost, surrendering the clout and courage he had shown backing up Welles on ''Citizen Kane.'' Koerner represented the Eastern money of power broker Floyd Odlum and his Atlas Corporation, who were bailing out RKO to the tune of $100 million.
After ''Citizen Kane,'' Welles may have loomed as an artistic giant, but when it came to ''The Magnificent Ambersons,'' he was a Lilliputian to Odlum and Koerner's giant-footed Gulliver. When he screened the film for the sympathetic director Peter Bogdanovich 30 years later, he had to turn away in tears, and in the 1980's he tried to watch it again and turned it off 20 minutes before the end. As the doggedly faithful Heylin quotes him, he said, ''From here on in it becomes their movie.'' Asked, ''Do you ever get over something like that?'' his predictable answer was, ''Not really, you don't.''
Heylin takes us on a nightmare journey as his driven hero flings himself again and again against the ramparts of Hollywood fortresses. After the Amberson debacle, Welles made only four more movies for the major studios over the next 17 years, and each time he would plunge into the new venture as if he had no memory of the previous humiliation. What a magnificent damned fool he was, Heylin seems to be telling us, with chapter and verse, chapter and verse, until we begin to know almost more than we can bear about what went wrong with ''The Stranger,'' ''A Touch of Evil'' and ''The Lady From Shanghai.''
One could fill a wide shelf with books on Orson Welles, some of them by his detractors, some by his idolators, but none with the prodigious research that has gone into this one. Heylin has apparently not only read every page ever published on Welles, he has burrowed into libraries and private archives; he has seen not only every film, but all the myriad versions of the same film in Welles's tortured filmography. He has read and quotes faithfully from every screenplay, and all those rewrites, with a surfeit of notes and letters about each one. And, of course, the films that somehow managed to reach the screen, even in forms that would bring Welles to tears, are outnumbered by all the projects to which he devoted months on months and sometimes years, and finally had to abandon without ever getting to what the studios liked to call ''principal photography. '' ''Unprincipled photography'' was what the long-suffering Welles would have called it, having endured the humiliation of having a hack editor or director brought in to ''fix'' what he'd done.
While Heylin's prose is only workmanlike, with an occasional lapse in grammar, we aren't looking for Lionel Trilling here. We're looking at the most meticulous champion Orson Welles has ever had. For those of you who are scholars of Welles, amateur or pro, or simply wondering what in the world happened to him after his astonishing debut with ''Citizen Kane,'' this is the book for you.
Budd Schulberg's books include his memoir ''Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince,'' the novel and screenplay ''On the Waterfront,'' and the novel ''What Makes Sammy Run?''