A Tall Drink of Water

Stars we love at the Paramount Summer Classic Film series


Me and Orson Welles

The trouble with touting a movie as the greatest ever made is that for successive generations of filmgoers it becomes something like schoolwork. But in 2012, Hitchcock's Vertigo – not his best, by the way – overtook Citizen Kane as No. 1 in the Sight and Sound poll, the British Film Institute's decennial temperature-check, and I for one say so much the better. Orson Welles, that misfit prince, was always a bad fit for best in class.

A chubby-cheeked boy genius who aged into a kind of majestic corpulence in his underemployed twilight years, Welles was too principled and unruly for commercial success. His first film, 1941's Citizen Kane – a trenchant take on the rise and fall of a media mogul – was a supernova. Weirdly prophetic, too: a mythic man, his myopic vision, an unsatisfied death, all mirrored in Welles' own trajectory. His career was bedeviled by studio intervention, chronic lack of funds, his own carelessness, and a reputation for being difficult. There were too many failed projects to chew over here, but what did make it to screen was a feast, including supple adaptations of Shakespeare, such as 1948's clammy, shadowy Macbeth; spirited genre spins, like the 1958 noir Touch of Evil, with its masterful opening tracking shot and Welles near-unrecognizable as a toady, corrupt cop; and paycheck gigs as an actor, director, and script doctor.

In 1949, he famously penned a bravura monologue for his silky criminal Harry Lime in Carol Reed's The Third Man. It's worth repeating here: "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

I'll take the brilliant, embattled Welles over a cuckoo clock any day of the week.

Citizen Kane: Mon., June 23, 7pm; Tue., June 24, 9:05pm (P)

The Third Man: Mon., June 23, 9:20pm; Tue., June 24, 7pm (P)

Macbeth: Mon., June 23, 7:15pm; Tue., June 24, 9:30pm (S)

Touch of Evil: Mon., June 23, 9:25pm; Tue., June 24, 7:15pm (S)

More by Kimberley Jones
Another round of a psycho ex from hell

April 21, 2017

The Fate of the Furious
The car thieves are back to save the world

April 14, 2017

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)