Like Dead Elvis and Dead Marilyn, Dead Orson is very much with us. He lives on, not only in the restored 'director's cuts' of his re-released movies, the posthumously completed projects and newly adapted screenplays of never-made films, but as a character in other people's novels, plays and movies. He haunts the murderous teenagers of Heavenly Creatures as 'the most hideous man alive', matches wits with Kenneth Tynan and Laurence Olivier in Austin Pendleton's play Orson's Shadow, and has even been fingered posthumously as a suspect in the 1947 Black Dahlia murder. Welles appears, larger than life, in documentaries and dramatisations, of both his own story - or rather the story of his productions - and the stories of others he might never have met. (Tim Burton's biopic of the 'world's worst film-maker', Ed Wood, contrived to have the two misunderstood auteurs meet in a tawdry Tinseltown lounge.) In addition to all this, there is an apparently unending succession of books, of which Simon Callow's ongoing biography is the most monumental, now two volumes in and not even arrived at The Third Man, the 1949 movie that made Welles a myth.
LRB 6 September 2007 | PDF Download