linework

  

Orson Welles' Young Magician Friend: A Conversation With Jim Steinmeyer

By Peter Tonguette

Peter Tonguette was Staff Critic for The Film Journal from 2002 to 2005.  His writing has also appeared in Senses of Cinema, Bright Lights Film Journal, Contracampo, and 24fps Magazine.

 

 


F For Fake


During the last four years of his life, one of Orson Welles' closest friends was Jim Steinmeyer, who was at that time a young magician who had just arrived in Los Angeles. Steinmeyer has since emerged as, in the words of one magazine profile, "the best living originator of stage illusions," developing and planning magic for talent as diverse as Doug Henning, David Copperfield, and Harry Blackstone. In an interview in May 2003, Steinmeyer recalled to me his friendship with Welles, their creative collaboration, his involvement with a few of the many Welles films which never came to fruition, and the ways in which magic provides a meaningful context to view Welles' cinema. --PT

Peter Tonguette: When did you first meet Orson Welles?

Jim Steinmeyer: Well, let's see, I think I met him in '81. I came out to Los Angeles in the early summer of '81 to work with Doug Henning, who was a magician at that time who was working, and I was hired by him to work with him. And a number of friends of mine out here were magicians who worked with Welles as kind of consultants and helpers and assistants for his magic projects. At that time he used to do, you know, he would regularly do something on The Merv Griffin Show when he appeared or--I don't think The Dean Martin Show was still running--but shows like that. So he always had people that he worked with on that level, who helped him with those projects. My friend Mike Caveney, who lives out here and was a performing magician, and another friend, Don Keller, used to help Orson kind of regularly on those. Don Wayne, also used to help him at that time.

And so I knew them and they used to talk about working with him. And Don Keller gave him a book I had just written on magic that was an historical book about stage magic and was published in Chicago before I came out here. Don said, "Oh, I gave Orson Welles your book and he really loves it." And I said, "Oh, that's great." "Well he's gonna call you." And of course, I thought, "Yeah, mm-hmm." [Laughter] And at that time, I was staying in some little--because I was out here for ostensibly six months working with Doug--so I was staying at some little studio apartment at the Oakwood, just over the hill from Hollywood. And one night, you know, I come back and there's a message on my machine and it's Orson Welles! And you think, this is completely unbelievable. So I went to meet him.

The first time I met him, I went with Mike Caveney and they were shooting a little magic segment I don't really know what for. I don't know if it was footage that ended up... I have a memory that this footage was not stuff that ended up in his magic special [The Magic Show (1976-1985; uncompleted)]. But, see, what he did was he shot all that stuff himself and then I think several of those pieces--and I think this was one of them--was ostensibly shot for some
television show, for a magic special that they were putting together, and Orson always ended up with the footage. I think that some of [Welles’] magic special was done like this. And this was a thing in a really tiny little studio in Hollywood that was of him literally taking a piece of thread and breaking it into pieces and putting it back together.

PT: I've seen that actually. The Munich Filmmuseum has most of his unfinished films and have been assembling the raw footage and putting it together into presentable forms. And I've seen that as part of an assembly of material intended for The Magic Show. So it would have ended up in that, apparently.

JS: Okay, that makes sense. So anyway, I was there the night that they filmed that. And it was a really, really, really tiny studio and he was--and since you've just seen it--as I recall, part of it he was just smoking a cigar and blowing smoke through it all. And it was a studio that was really kind of like 15 X 15 feet and they were doing a little camera move in it too, so they had track down. It was almost impossible to be anywhere. What was funny was that what you ended up with--because of the camera move and everything--was that staying out of the way meant you were kind of laying on the ground, really close to him, kind of crouched down really low to not be in his eye line. It took hours and hours and hours, because it was all one long take and he did it again and again and again. Just fantastic. And the presentation was fantastic and his voice was unbelievable. And we all stunk like cigar smoke at the end as we left.

And he said, "Oh, I'll call you and we'll have dinner sometime." And he did. And I went down to his house and drove him to Ma Maison, which was weird, because I was driving a little rented Mustang at the time--and he was not self-conscious of that at all. And we went to Ma Maison.

So I knew him between '81 and when he died in ‘85. When I was in L.A., we kind of had dinner maybe once a week, certainly once every two weeks. And I would certainly talk to him once or twice a week. What was slightly weird was that I didn't really work with him that much. And for about three of those Merv Griffin things, I was sort of pressed into service to put them together for him. He talked to me about kind of other projects and some of these were pieces that we were building, in a very leisurely way, that he wanted for his magic special.

But, you know, at the same time Mike Caveney was doing these, and Don Keller, and I didn't really become one of those guys that he just sort of worked with. Occasionally, like I say, he asked me to help with some of those, but mostly it was kind of conversation about magic and other things, like politics. I remember several evenings there, thinking, This is ridiculous that I'm here. [Laughter] Think of who would want to be talking to him about his films. But, you know, I also was aware that I guess that's part of the reason I was there. Because he wanted to talk about other things. He wanted to talk about magic and historical magic--he was really, really knowledgeable about that. I probably don't need to say that. But as far as magicians go, he really was amazing about his insights: the people he knew, the people he'd seen, the stories he had. He talked to me about a magician named Thurston, who he had seen as a boy, about what he was like. And David Bamberg... he trained with David Bamberg and he was taught the floating ball routine by his father.

So we talked a lot about magic and we used to talk about certainly politics and kind of what was happening in the day. And he certainly did talk about his films, although I sort of didn't feel like what I wanted to do was be the guy saying, "Tell me about the scene in Citizen Kane (1941) where you did..." You know.

PT: Right, he was probably pretty sick of that...

JS: Because everyone in the world could do that and I kind of realized he didn't want that, that wasn't of interest to him.

PT: So did you two kind of hit it off immediately?

JS: I would say so. He was really amazing and I also have to say he was really an amazing friend. I remember him calling once and, you know, kind of saying, "What's going on? What are you working on? How are you doing?" And I said, "I'm fine." "Well, you don't sound fine. We should get together."

And, you know, he was fascinating on any subject. I mean, the stories were unbelievable. He loved to go to Ma Maison. He said that the reason he always went there was because they let him bring the dog and he used to go in the back entrance with the dog...

PT: And this was his black poodle?

JS: This was his black poodle, Kiki, who was just nasty. [Laughter] I mean, it was a sweet little dog, but it was one of those dogs that would bark when you get up to leave. You know, it would go for your ankles when you leave! But Kiki was great with him. He always kind of had Kiki in the crook of his arm and then he would put her down on the chair next to him.

So he used to go there, because he could bring the dog. A European thing. They have fantastic food. They were really nice, obsequious to him. But there was a point where going there was a little silly, I used to think. And I didn't quite know what to do. Sometimes I would bring Chinese food. I think I found a place in Glendale that had some stuff that he liked. And it was just nicer because it was a little more low-key, you know, rather than go into that place.

Then I went to New York to do this show--Doug Henning was doing a show on Broadway. And while we were planning it, Orson came through New York I think twice. My memory is twice. But I used to talk to him on the phone and I saw him when he came through New York a couple times and stayed at, I think, the Carlyle. It was on the Upper East Side.

And then shortly after that, I came back to Los Angeles and was working with Doug again with other performers and I continued to see him now and then. I think after that is sort of when he asked me to put together a couple of these segments. And that's when we were also talking about segments for The Magic Show. So that would have been '83, '84, into '85. And I did, like I said, a couple of the Merv Griffin things. There were all sorts of stories about how
he was difficult to work with. Kind of very goofy stories about his impatience or what he wanted or how he asked something to be done. But I have to say, I never experienced any of that. While I could imagine him being that way, I never saw it. I also think, to a certain extent, you can see that he's the kind of guy that a little of those stories go a long way. And those are great stories to tell and exaggerate because he was so much larger than life in so many ways.

But I did talk to him about various things. We talked about shooting The Cradle Will Rock in Italy (1). It was going to be done in an Italian film studio. And that fell apart.

I talked to him quite a bit about The Cradle Will Rock, when he was writing that script. I say I talked to him quite a bit--that was certainly a topic of conversation. It wasn't like I was integral in that. I was fortunate enough to hear all the stories. I did talk to him about the magic sequence at the top of it and was kind of involved--again, just involved conversationally, though he kind of bounced a bunch of stuff off of me.

Years before, we'd talked once about something--I think it was him that said, "Oh this would make a great script." And we talked about it a little bit, about kind of a turn of the century magician.

PT: I was going to ask you about that. Jonathan Rosenbaum mentions that project in his afterward to the published screenplay of The Cradle Will Rock ( Orson Welles. Santa Barbara: Santa Teresa Press, 1994)...

JS: Yeah, I think he got that from me. I kind of forget what I had said to him.

Orson and I talked about a story. I know what it was hinged on. I remember the elements, the kind of truthful elements to it. It was kind of based on Harry Kellar, who was an American magician who retired in 1908. And Kellar toured the world a lot, working at a time when some of his audience thought it was real magic and part of the audience didn't. Which was kind of the last generation and the last opportunity to really be doing that in big cities, in civilized countries, even if at times it was a third world.

And I know that really interested Orson. He certainly had never seen Kellar, but he knew about him. I think that was the element of it that sort of got him excited, that whole element of this kind of exotic tour and being right on the edge of it being real or not. And I remember there was a great story that was from Walter Gibson. Walter Gibson was a writer who did The Shadow and certainly Orson knew him. He didn't do the scripts, he wrote the books and created the character, under the name of Maxwell Grant. And Walter told me years ago about touring with Blackstone--this would have been in the '40s--and watching the levitation illusion of Blackstone's. He used to go in the basement, under the stage, and watch the machinery work from below. And that's how he used to watch what was happening on the stage--he would watch the machinery rising and falling underneath and he knew how it all connected.

And I remember Orson was really fascinated with that kind of thing, of this sort of disconnected machinery working. I kind of remember that he was saying, "That's a great scene because the great way to portray magic is to see some fantastic apparatus and not necessarily know how it connects." In other words, to see some wonderful piece of machinery and then see some fantastic effect on stage. But then you don't necessarily know how ....

PT: ...how it fits together.

JS: Right, but you realize that there's a lot of work involved. I think that that's sort of where that whole thing of watching the footsteps through the holes in the stage came from that ended up at the beginning of Cradle Will Rock. I mean, no one ever did that. You just wouldn't do that. That's just preposterous and Orson knew that. But I think that was completely his idea and that he quickly kind of fell in love with that, the whole thing of watching the little holes and watching the lights go out in the holes and everyone following.

And then fast forward a year or so later, whenever he was writing Cradle Will Rock, he was talking to me about it. And he told me a lot about that production originally. He was very proud of it and it was really magical--it was all based in stage illusion. And I know he thought that one of the problems with it was that the magic didn't really look great. The real magic wouldn't look great translated to film and so that he would need to goose it for the film. And I think that was sort of why he applied that scene going on onstage and the scene going on beneath the stage and all the men following everything. And then it turned into his entrance in the film, how he comes through the bag.

Again, it was completely his construction, but I remember that certain elements ended up getting filtered through this story about a magician.

PT: To your knowledge, was there ever a script for this story about a magician at the turn of the century?

JS: Absolutely not. I have to tell you, I'd be very surprised if--and it's not impossible--but I'd be surprised if Orson ever sat down and wrote an outline of it. We talked about things and he was certainly interested in it, but it didn't seem to me like a thing he was really actively pursuing.

PT: I suppose because he had so many other projects going on...

JS: Yeah, at the time he was... I have to say, I think kind of the time of that was around The Dreamers (1980-1982; uncompleted) (2).

PT: So that'd be between '80 and '82?

JS: It would have been after that. It was like '82, '83.

PT: I understand that The Magic Show was a project Welles shot between 1976 and right up until his death. In unfinished form, it looks like it would have been not only a presentation of his favorite magic tricks--like the thread trick we discussed--but also interspersed with some history and autobiography, as well as this long narrative segment I've seen some of, about Abu Kahn.

JS: Well, I never saw the Abu Kahn material. That was shot before I moved out to L.A. I know the guys that worked on it. Abb Dickson was around with that. Don Keller was involved in that. Don Wayne was involved in that. Some of the Abu Kahn segments seemed to me like they were first shot for other projects, intended as chunks for other magic specials on television. I know Orson really liked it. I don't really know when he was assembling in his mind that this was kind of the Magic Show project.

As you're probably aware, when he died, the next day he was supposed to start shooting. He had explained what else he wanted to shoot to put this together. And we had outlined things and he was going to shoot at UCLA [the next day], he had a theatre.

So he assembled in his mind how that was going to go together, but I have a feeling that that Abu Kahn narrative was kind of shot as short segments. And then over the years, he'd sort of figured out how he wanted it assembled.

PT: Yes, because he did work on it for so long.

JS: Yeah, absolutely.

PT: In the chronology at the back of This Is Orson Welles (Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, HaperCollins, New York, 1992) there's an entry in 1976 which says something to the effect of, "Work begun on The Magic Show"--or what became The Magic Show.

JS: Yeah, I don't know if he had planned how the footage would finally be used. Some of the segments might not have been intended for one project. He shot magic that he liked, or intended the segments to be used in other television specials.

I remember one routine we worked on. I'll tell you what it was all hinged on. It was that Alexander Graham Bell at the end of his life was working on a machine to talk to the dead. And Orson thought that was just fantastic, that kind of mix of technology and pseudo-science. And we talked about a routine that was a spirit cabinet. A spirit cabinet is a really old thing that in fact Kellar would have done. The tradition of it was that it was a really old, wooden cabinet and ghosts would appear. And Orson wanted to do one that was quite technological. He would get an older lady up from the audience and then an image of her would actually appear in this cabinet at a certain point. And I know he filmed it because I was in New York at the time. I was quite surprised because one time I talked to him, he said, "We're going to shoot the spirit cabinet at the Variety Arts Theatre and we're going to do it next week." A friend of mine, Don Bice, was involved, because Don told me all about it. So I know it was shot, but I never saw anything about it... I kind of felt Orson wasn't really happy with it. (3)

PT: I've definitely not seen that. The Munich Filmmuseum's assembly has the thread trick, a piece called "Magic Mummy," some of the Abu Kahn material, as well as a number of other things. But I gather that for everything you see in the Munich assemblies, there is usually a lot more where that comes from.

JS: Yeah, of course. The only guy that knows about that--I say that because even Oja [Kodar] was kind of in town and out of town during these things--is Gary Graver, because he shot all of it. This [the spirit cabinet routine] would have been kind of '82, end of '81, beginning of '82, I think when this was shot.

I worked with him on a couple of things that I guess were slated for The Magic Show. One was an antique piece of apparatus, called the "card star." And it was this kind of thing that looked like an antenna with five points on it. He would throw a deck of cards at it and a card would stick to each point of the star. And we had a really nice routine worked out for that, for the card star--really wonderful handling of that. And then we had built a spirit painting effect, which was really a beautiful effect that hadn't been done since Vaudeville. I think it was kind of one of the first things I worked on with him. It sort of came out of conversation. We talked about some improvements and how to change it around a little bit. So we had the apparatus made and he was really happy with it. And I kind of thought, "Oh, this will be something he'll do on television." Well, he said, "Oh, no, this is too good, this is too good. We're not going to do this on Merv Griffin. This is too good for that show."

That was a piece that I know he wanted to do at UCLA. I remember Oja [Kodar] gave me a little note that was sitting on his desk when he died that had a list of things that he had written about the show. One of them had my name on it, something about the table for the card star and "Jim's reluctance about using it"--which I don't really remember what that was, but anyway?

PT: Did you know Oja Kodar well?

JS: I wouldn't say I knew Oja Kodar well. She was in town and out of town--sometimes she was out of the country. She wasn't a magic fan. She kind of said that, she kind of joked about that. I really liked her. I thought she was really smart and really perceptive. And just kind of as a person that was around, I have to say I thought a lot of her. I thought she was really talented
and that she cared a lot about Orson.

My observation is that they really loved each other.

PT: And, you know, she worked on so many of his late projects...

JS: Absolutely. I mean, it's astonishing.

But she had great stories and what was great was both of them together. Several times--not very often--but several times I went there and he made spaghetti a couple times. [Laughs] That was one of the few things he cooked. And, I mean, it was really informal. But I remember a couple times having dinner with him and her. And she had fantastic stories about both of them. She was telling me about working with Jackie Gleason. She really had better stories than Orson did about that whole experience. She was kind of the lowly assistant who had to deal with it all. And, of course, Orson was treated royally. But she had fantastic stories about what it was like working with Gleason and the cast and the crew.

PT: Peter Bogdanovich has talked about how disarming Welles was in person. We've kind of talked about this a little already, but it took people off-guard because they were expecting some kind of tyrant. Is that an impression you'd share?

JS: Oh, I would say so. Again, I've heard stories of working with him. You know, I've certainly heard that tape of him doing those ridiculous British commercials, you know, where he blows up. And so you know there's a guy there that's capable of that. But, no, it was completely the opposite, and it was incredibly disarming. I think that's absolutely right. He was really pleasant. He really, really listened to people. He could talk intelligently about just about anything.

I'll tell you a story that's a really good example of this, of just how... I remember going to dinner with him. It wasn't long before he died. Maybe a year before he died. And something was bothering him. I mean, I remember thinking that I could probably have gone back and figured out what it was. I don't know if it was when the financing for Cradle Will Rock fell apart or all the goofy stuff about selling the sled when Spielberg bought it. (4) Something was bothering him. And I guess I was supposed to be--you know, he wanted to go to dinner and he wanted a diversion and I guess I was supposed to be it.

We were at Ma Maison and I didn't know what I was supposed to say. I would mention something and he would sort of dismiss it, in a slightly grumpy, in a slightly depressed way. And I remember one of the things I said to him was that I had just read Preston Sturges' first play, Strictly Dishonorable, and what a really great play it was. And he kind of said, "Oh, yeah, yeah, I saw that." That was what the whole conversation was like. If you started something, he would dismiss it. And I knew that there was something else on his mind, so I was thinking, "Okay, I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing here."

Then there was this long silence. Just as I'm starting to think, "Well, he didn't see it, but he doesn't want to talk about it," he kind of looked up and he said, “Tulio Carmanate played the Latin lover in that." And he said also, "Antoinette Perry was in it when I saw it, but she didn't do it for a long time." And he said, "You know, that was also the role that made Cesar Romero a star when Carmanate left." Well, you know, I had just read the cast list and he was completely right. And then he proceeded to slowly recall the entire thing and all the fine points of that story. Just right after I had kind of thought that he was just trying to cut off the conversation.

So, you know, it was really disarming because he really had seen all this stuff! [Laughter] He had really done it all and had really been there. And you couldn't underestimate that. I learned you really had to be careful of dismissing anything he said. I know that there all the stories about him kind of exaggerating stories. I would imagine he probably did exaggerate some stories. But he had experienced an awful lot and had interesting insights on it all.

PT: Were you in touch with him right up until his death?

JS: Well, I was there the night at the Griffin show. (5) I met Barbara Leaming that night and was supposed to go to dinner with him afterwards and begged off. One of the reasons I begged off is because I was shooting a television show at the time and I had to be on a set down in Marina Del Ray early in the morning. So he went off to dinner with Barbara Leaming. And I was on the set all day and when I got back to my apartment, 4 o'clock or 5 o'clock, there were all sorts of messages on the machine.

He was amazing that night and I helped put together that card trick that he did that night.

PT: I haven't seen too many of the Merv Griffin appearances, but that's one I have seen and it's pretty great.

JS: You know, I have to tell you, I don't know why he did those. [Laughs] Because having been there two or three times--and, in fact, that night I had to go and have Merv Griffin shuffle the deck. That was part of what Orson wanted--he wanted someone to shuffle ahead of time. And I took the deck into Merv Griffin to shuffle to give it to him. And, you know, none of those people were interested in him doing that stuff. I mean, I'm involved in magic but, the people on the show didn't care. And I couldn't quite understand why he felt a need always to do the magic.

Here's what I think. I think he didn't have anything to promote. And he was really self-conscious about that. Everyone else is on those shows saying, My new movie, My new book, and Orson didn't ever get a chance to do that. And so he was there because he had an amazing new illusion to show you. And that was ostensibly kind of his reason for being there. Now of course, you know, he didn't need to do that and of course once he started talking on the panel, that's all anyone really cared about.

PT: That's really interesting. I think you might actually be right. I hadn't thought about that before. How would you rate Welles as a magician?

JS: Well, it's a hard thing to answer. First of all, in terms of presenting magic, he was 10 out of 10. Because he was so magnetic and he could very easily weave a spellbinding story and make it believable. And he had a really good sense of that. Not only that voice and the manner, but also just kind of as a scriptwriter. He just had instantly the way to zero in on those things. I think a really good example of that--just since you saw it--was that thing he's doing with that thread trick, where he ties it up to the Indian rope trick--which is completely untrue. But it's so believable and it's so charming and he instantly takes what is maybe one of the tiniest tricks in magic and he introduces it by making it sound legendary and fantastic. And he tells you, "This is the real secret." And so as a presenter, he was great.

Technically, you had to be really careful not to underestimate him. He was self-conscious about performing sleight of hand that he used to be able to do. I remember, it's funny, he always liked handling bridge-sized cards, narrow cards, which looked small for him, I thought. But he always liked handling bridge cards. I remember once having a conversation with him talking about how he used to do a one-hand top palm really well, which is a move--I gotta tell you, for someone not doing magic very often--isn't an easy move. It's a real knack. And then he picked up the cards and went bang-bang-bang and did a one-hand top palm and I saw and he really did do it. He pointed out to me how his hands now shake a little and because of that sometimes it doesn't fall exactly right. But there's no question he had real skills technically.

I think he has a reputation among magicians of having done some incredibly complicated, overly complicated tricks on those guest appearances. My observation was that he tended to over think magic and when he had doubts about it and he would complicate it in an effort to make it more interesting. And so he would add another layer to the presentation and then he would add another layer to the presentation. And there were a couple of Tonight Show appearances and things where things went wrong. The presentations had been so complicated that it was building up to a miracle and, of course, there was no way that it could pay off. I think that's the criticism of him, doing those complicated presentations. My observation is that if he spent too much time... if he spent two full weeks on something planning it, it got too complicated because he would second-guess it. But if you said to him, "I think that's too much," he'd go, "Okay, fine." And I think people seldom said that to him. No one ever said, "I don't think you need to do that, Orson."Because, you know, if Orson Welles was saying, "This is what we're going to do," they went, "Okay, fine."

It's interesting, Maurice Zolotow wrote a piece in Reader's Digest just after he died, which is a really great piece about Orson but he talks about forty years earlier when Orson was trying to learn the trick where he would cut to all four aces. And Zolotow, in this kind of wonderful writer's fashion, ends up by saying, "Finally, at the end of his life, he learned the secret to that
and that's what I saw on Merv Griffin that night." Well, that isn't what he saw. [Laughter] But it is kind of a sweet, great way of tying it all up.

PT: What links would you make between Welles the magician and Welles the filmmaker? Because he returned to magic all throughout his life, even after entering film...

JS: Well, I remember having conversations with him, and as he described situations he'd experienced and his solutions, I remember thinking, "This is exactly how a really clever magician thinks." Instead of being intimidated that I was with this fantastic, legendary filmmaker who was an expert in a world I knew nothing about, I realized that he was an expert in a world I knew a lot about. He had a really clever sense of kind of problem-solving. Everything was about creating one specific effect and everything is arranged towards that, both in the audience's mind and mechanically. And I think maybe in examples like in Othello (1952) where he's got doubles everywhere...

PT: I was just going to mention that as an example of this...

JS: Some of that goes too far. I don't if his ability to solve problems was a problem, because he really did know what he could get away with. And sometimes that works as a detriment. Almost being too clever like that. Because you know every trick, and you know what the audience will let you get away with, you sometimes are tying yourself up in knots.

PT: An observation I've made about The Dreamers footage--since I'm familiar with it--is how he was able to achieve such expressive effects with very, very little in the way of production resources. The film was to be a period piece set in the 19th century, but the material he shot was filmed essentially in his living room and backyard in Hollywood. And I think things like that make it easy for one to form some tenuous connections... the whole idea of the director as an illusionist.

JS: I remember him talking about, incredibly, simple things like using carpets for camera moves, dragging carpets. But you realize that he was really in those positions to need that at the last minute. And he wasn't intimidated by any of that. He wasn't intimidated at kind of changing directions and doing something slightly different.

I think he did approach a lot of things kind of as a magic show, that he looked at creating the most effect from anything--what it was all about was creating an individual effect in someone's mind and that you want to leave them with an impression. You know, in a magic show, there aren't any base hits. You either hit a home run or nothing happens. So every bit of psychology and every bit of that has to be organized like that.

I remember selfishly thinking when he died--I think I was 27--that I might have met the most interesting person of my life at 27. He was a remarkable person.

ENDNOTES:

(1) The Cradle Will Rock was a screenplay written by Welles in 1984. Welles was originally approached to direct a film detailing his efforts to stage the Marc Blitzstein play of the same title in the 1930s. Though initially reluctant to direct, he eventually ended up discarding the Ring Lardner authored screenplay and rewriting it himself with the intent of directing.

(2) The Dreamers was perhaps the most personal of Welles' late projects. Taken from two stories by his favorite author, Isak Dinesen, Welles shot around 25 minutes of material for the film between 1980 and 1982 in his Hollywood home and with his own money.

(3) This material is not included in the Munich Filmmuseum's aforementioned assembly of material intended for The Magic Show.

(4) Around the time Welles was trying to get The Cradle Will Rock made, Steven Spielberg won, at auction, the Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane. But, according to various accounts, when Welles had dinner with Spielberg and his then-wife Amy Irving (who was to star in The Cradle Will Rock), Spielberg made no overtures to assist Welles with making the clearly ailing production happen.

(5) Welles was on The Merv Griffin Show, doing magic and appearing with his biographer Barbara Leaming, the night of October 9, 1985. Early the next morning, he died; in his typewriter were, as Steinmeyer comments, notes for material he planned to shoot the following day at UCLA for The Magic Show.



 


                                                                 © FILM JOURNAL 2002