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The 20th century having been a turbulent, innovative and exciting age as it was, saw many extraordinary men and many incredible biographies, but if we were to choose one man who perfectly embodies whatever the 20th century was, it would have to be George Orson Welles (1915 – 1985) the actor, director, producer, writer, activist, magician, the man who both succeeded and failed big way, but always carried on with unbeatable optimism, no matter how big the blow was. The epic, burdened career of Orson Welles and the accolades and recognition his works have received over the years since his death show that being ahead of one’s time is not really the easiest thing in the world, but that it’s totally worth it. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Orson Welles.

(Images via Wellesnet.)

Orson Welles

Orson Welles Portrait

Early Years

Orson Welles was born on May 6 1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin to a high class family. Orson was something of a child prodigy, having been able to play violin and piano at an very early age. His parents soon separated and both died by his fifteenth birthday, which both provided him with both independence and hardships that would dog him for the rest of his life. After he had graduated from the Todd Seminary for Boys, Orson was awarded a Harvard scholarship, but he opted to travel to Europe instead.

Early Success

Orson Welles was only 16 years old when he stepped on the stage of Dublin’s world famous Gate theater and soon became a real star of theater whose fame also reached the United States. By 1935, barely 20 years old, Orson was already a household name whose work on radio and in the theater entertained millions.

The War of the Worlds

On Halloween 1938, Orson Welles produced the radio drama that alone could earn him place in history – based on H. G. Well’s classic SF novel and adapted as a news broadcast, Welles’ radio production of  ‘The War of the Worlds’ caused a genuine hysteria in the United States, as many people who tuned in after the introduction thought the Earth was being attacked by the Martians for real.

old movie poster

Citizen Kane Poster

Citizen Kane

The Hollywood bosses soon realized the potential of the young Orson Welles and what followed was one of the most outstanding contracts ever signed in Hollywood – the 25 years old Welles, who had never even acted on a film before, was given the full control on a movie project. The movie was ‘Citizen Kane’  that Orson directed, produced, co-wrote and was the leading actor. Now widely considered as one of the best movies ever made, ‘Citizen Kane’ was almost panned by the critics at the time of its original release in 1941 as the result of rage of William Randolph Hearst, the tycoon on whose life the movie was loosely based.

After Citizen Kane

For the rest of his life, Orson Welles struggled to make movies, but always clashed with producers and studio executives. He was never given the freedom he had on ‘Kane’, his movies were often recut by the producers or shot on extremely low budget. However, until his death in 1985, Orson managed to produce a series of genuine cinematic masterpieces such as ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’, ‘The Lady from Shanghai’, ‘Chimes at Midnight’ and ‘F for Fake.’

Orson’s work still continues to inspire people worldwide and stands as a wonderful monument of a man who never compromised his integrity and his vision.

 


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