A “TOUCH OF EVIL” GENIUS

The word “genius” was whispered into my ear, the first thing I ever heard, while I was still mewing in my crib. So it never occurred to me that I wasn’t until middle age. –Orson Welles

“Come on, read my future for me.”
“You haven’t got any.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your future is all used up.”
–Orson Welles (drunken sheriff) & Marlene Dietrich (fortune teller), in TOUCH OF EVIL

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tomorrow marks the birthday of Orson Welles (May 6, 1915 — the same day Babe Ruth hit his first major league home run). Welles, as you may well know, was “the ultimate auteur” director, co-writer, and star (at age 25) of CITIZEN KANE, considered by many film critics to be one of the greatest movies ever made — and it isn’t even my favorite Welles’ picture (but I will tell of two that are favorites).

The life story of such a complex, larger-than-life legend is beyond the scope of this post, and could itself make as great a movie (CITIZEN WELLES?) as it made a great biography, aptly titled simply ORSON WELLES (another of my library book sale bargain buys) by Barbara Leaming….which leads me to this Welles quote from her book:

“I see The Third Man every two or three years — it’s the only movie of mine I ever watch on television because I like it so much.”

Great minds must indeed think alike, because he and I are of one mind regarding THE THIRD MAN — it is the one Welles’ movie I have watched many times over the years.

Turning from that “non-auteur” film in which Welles acted but didn’t direct, to films Welles both directed and starred in, my favorite is TOUCH OF EVIL (1958). During the 1940s, the mercurial Welles increasingly didn’t see eye-to-eye with movie moguls and had become persona non grata in Hollywood. Leaving for Europe, he starred in the 1948 Italian film BLACK MAGIC (he, by the way, was a wizard of an amateur magician and member of The International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians), followed by THE THIRD MAN (1949) and several other British and Italian films and radio series into the 1950s. TOUCH OF EVIL was his third film following his return to Hollywood in 1956.

More Welles quotes:

Even if the good old days never existed, the fact that we can conceive such a world is, in fact, an affirmation of the human spirit.

Race hate isn’t human nature; race hate is the abandonment of human nature.

I don’t pray because I don’t want to bore God.

I started at the top and worked down.

Again great minds think alike — I started this post at the top and worked down….and now nothing remains but to go into my disappearing act.

 

 

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11 comments on “A “TOUCH OF EVIL” GENIUS

  1. Don Frankel says:

    “Rosebud.”
    I always wondered if all the genius talk had to do with that first film because it had to do with a larger than life subject Randolph Hearst. Then again maybe it had to do with the fact that he wrote and directed and starred in it. But then Jerry Lewis used to do that too and play a half a dozen parts as well. Oh wait Jerry Lewis is a genius too. At least in France or so they say.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse says:

      Irrespective of his artistic genius, Welles would have been well served to be a financial genius, as he was constantly short of cash to finance his dreams. In the biography ORSON WELLES, he is quoted as follows re taking the part of Harry Lime in THE THIRD MAN: “I was given a choice between $100,000 or 20% of the picture, and I took the $100,000. Picture grossed something unbelievable. In America it was only a success, but in the rest of the world it was an absolute bombshell. There wasn’t such a hit in 25 years as there was in Europe. I could’ve retired on that!”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. arekhill1 says:

    I’ve tormented myself by watching “Citizen Kane” maybe twice, and was never led by that experience into any desire to view anything else the Wells made. I’m sure I’m missing something, but I am an insensitive bastard, at least according to the majority of my exes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse says:

      You might want to give THE THIRD MAN a shot, Ricardo. If you don’t like it, I guarantee you wouldn’t like anything else Wells made (especially since Welles didn’t make that one — he was just one of the stars).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. More great quotes from that library mind of yours! I loved the clips, and am inspired to rejoin HULU only if I can watch these films again (no TV for decades now, so computer viewing on my oversized monitor is my only choice).

    My love of black and white films might eclipse even Wells – what a dramatic format (and, also like Wells, even the IDEA of colorizing these masterpieces of cinematography makes me physically ill!)

    Except for the war – lol – I think the 40’s would have been my era (tho’ the 30s appeal as well). You can have the 50s – and NOW, however – especially the politics and politicians. Interesting how cinema flounders when leadership is callow – middle-aged men without wisdom or humanity. (Public education goes belly up as well – duh!).

    But Wells said it best, “Even if the good old days never existed, the fact that we can conceive such a world is, in fact, an affirmation of the human spirit.” Here’s to spirit – and thanks for another great post!
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      I too love the clips — especially the one in which Bogdanovich talks about The Third Man and Orson Welles. He articulates what makes black and white filmmaking (in the hands of a great director) so compelling: “It’s the lack of distraction” compared with Technicolor films, the focus on the dramatic as opposed to the color of things (though I disagree that there have been no great Technicolor movies).

      “Here’s to spirit” indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Color is one more element to manage, and in a very different fashion, lighting-wise – but few color films can match the power and sheer cinematic drama of black and white, to my mind. I’m with you on disagreeing that there are no good color films, however.

        Bogdanovich understands good directing, so I found the clip interesting as well – like attending a great lecture back in my college days (which I always adored *almost* as much as participating in the following discussion – lol).
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

  4. restlessjo says:

    I’m no movie buff and not really familiar with his work but those are great quotes. Sorry I missed his birthday 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mistermuse says:

    Here’s another quote you may like from Welles, who became very obese in the 1950s:
    “My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four….unless there are three other people.”

    Like

  6. mistermuse says:

    Many thanks. I checked out your blog and liked the first post I read. I’ll have to go back for more later.

    Like

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