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The Essential Orson Welles

Screen legend Orson Welles was a pioneering filmmaker and raffish public personality, best known for the remarkable achievement of Citizen Kane. This series presented by the Academy will focus on Welles as a trailblazing director, presenting nine of the 11 films completed in his lifetime (several of them screening in brand-new restorations).

As a body of work, these films – from the serene grandeur of The Magnificent Ambersons to the noir intrigue of The Lady from Shanghai and Touch of Evil – reveal the dexterity and inventiveness of Welles's craftsmanship. The series will offer examples of his dazzling technical expertise, such as overlapping dialogue, potent bursts of montage and bravura cinematography, and explore the themes that fascinated him, from anti-heroes corrupted by power to the dangers of pursuing uncomfortable truths.

These films are a testament to Welles the tireless visionary, who, whether in the lap of studio luxury or exiled in Zagreb, approached each motion picture as a mystery that only he could unravel. The series runs from May 3 through June 7.

Too Much Johnson
Saturday, May 3

Arlene Francis

Three years before Citizen Kane, his towering first feature, reached theaters and changed the course of cinema, a 23-year-old Orson Welles stepped behind the camera to shoot a delightful silent film pastiche. It was intended to be edited into three parts, with one part projected before each of the three acts of his Mercury Theatre production of William Gillette's fin-de-siècle farce Too Much Johnson.   More

Citizen Kane
Saturday, May 10

Orson Welles and Ruth Warrick

A reporter pieces together the extravagant and mysterious life of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane in the feature directing debut of 26-year-old wunderkind Orson Welles. Having inherited a mining fortune left to his mother by a boarder, Kane fashions a media empire and a lavish, increasingly isolated lifestyle that includes political bids and the building of Xanadu, a baronial Florida castle.   More

The Magnificent Ambersons
Saturday, May 17

Anne Baxter and Tim Holt

The 27-year-old Welles followed up his groundbreaking Citizen Kane with an equally ambitious but even more mature project: an adaptation of Booth Tarkington's 1918 novel about the decline of a prosperous Indiana family in the early years of the 20th century. Back from college, brattish Tim Holt falls for radiant Anne Baxter, the sole daughter of inventor Joseph Cotten.   More

The Stranger
Saturday, May 17

Orson Welles and Loretta Young

Federal agent Edward G. Robinson — in a role Welles intended for Agnes Moorehead — is hot on the trail of a fugitive Nazi (Welles) living in disguise as a professor in a small Connecticut college town and married to an unsuspecting Loretta Young. Producer Sam Spiegel (The African Queen, Lawrence of Arabia) hired Welles to both direct and star in this suspense thriller.   More

The Lady from Shanghai
Saturday, May 24

Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth

Welles directed himself and his estranged wife Rita Hayworth in this visually inventive noir classic. Welles plays Michael O'Hara, a young Irish sailor who becomes embroiled in a deadly romantic triangle with beautiful, duplicitous Elsa Bannister (Hayworth, shockingly blond) and her equally deceitful attorney husband (Everett Sloane – Citizen Kane's loyal Mr. Bernstein here in a memorably sinister role).   More

Mr. Arkadin
Saturday, May 24

Orson Welles

In this pulp rendition of Citizen Kane, Orson Welles plays Gregory Arkadin, a mysterious, amnesiac millionaire who hires cigarette smuggler Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden) to investigate his past. Stratten scours the globe interviewing everyone who knew Arkadin from his early days, only to find that such information can prove perilous to those who possess it.   More

The Trial
Saturday, May 31

Orson Welles

In 1962, Welles described his film adaptation of Franz Kafka's portrait of paranoia as "the best film I have ever made." Anthony Perkins, fresh off his career-defining role as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, is Josef K, an office drone who finds his world turned upside down after being accused of unspecified crimes.   More

Touch of Evil
Saturday, May 31

Janet Leigh

One of Welles's most sheerly entertaining efforts, Touch of Evil is a sordid noir of gray morality and striking black-and-white images, photographed by Douglas Sirk regular Russell Metty, set to the jazzy beat of Henry Mancini's score. Charlton Heston is "Mike" Vargas, a Mexican narcotics officer whose investigation into a border town bombing leads to danger for himself and his new bride.   More

Chimes at Midnight
Saturday, June 7

Orson Welles and Keith Baxter

Welles gave himself one of his finest roles as Shakespeare's immortal fool Falstaff in this moving historical drama that combines material from several of the Bard's plays in what is considered one of the greatest Shakespeare films ever made, with battle scenes that are still inspiring filmmakers today. Critics have long been in agreement over the movie's glories.   More

F For Fake
Saturday, June 7

Orson Welles

Welles's final completed film is a groundbreaking blend of fact and fiction that dazzles audiences to this day. He began with footage shot by François Reichenbach for a documentary on professional art forger Elmyr de Hory. Welles soon discovered that Hory's would-be biographer, was himself the forger responsible for the notorious fake Howard Hughes diaries.   More


Event Information

Every Saturday, May 3–June 7, 2014
Bing Theater
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
Don't Show Again