Here he confides his most intimate feelings and recollections of his extraordinary life. With remarkable detail and intimacy, Barbara Leaming reveals the private Welles: from child prodigy and young lion in Dublin and New York, to the succès de scandale of his The War of the Worlds broadcast; from his auspicious directing debut with the legendary Citizen Kane in his 20s, to the sabotage of his further directing career by the Hollywood studios; from his affairs, carousing, and stormy marriage to Rita Hayworth, to his association with Roosevelt and aspirations to the presidency.
It is a picture with an all-star cast, including Olivier, Monroe, Dietrich, Garbo, Warren Beatty, Charlie Chaplin, Princess Margaret, and Prince Aly Khan.
©1985 Barbara Leaming; (P)1996 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[A] beautifully researched, valuable study of one of America's most influential and mysterious artists....[What] makes this book remarkable is Welles's own contribution. His comments, opinions, interviews cut in and out of the narrative with an almost cinematic force." (Patricia Bosworth)
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
This might be the most heartbreaking review I ever write. I discovered the golden age of radio, The War of the Worlds, and The Shadow through Orson Welles. I discovered Welles at the end of his life when I was 12, when he performed the voice of the monster planet Unicron in Transformers: The Movie. It's not Citizen Kane, and it would never be anything remotely close. I get that, but that's how I came to appreciate one of the greatest geniuses the entertainment world has ever known. My love of radio happened because of this man. This man changed my life and expanded my world.
This biography is truly something special because it has something that other biographies don't have: Welles himself. Author Barbara Learning was able to contact and collaborate with Welles on this biography through means that typifies Welles' life story, and he gave her free reign and resources because he understood that there is Welles the man, Welles the legend, and his own memory, none of which were in alignment. He was curious to learn about all three aspects. More insightful than the story of Welles' life are the inserted dialogues between Welles and Learning, which adds both gravitas and that personal flourish that makes all the difference. Welles was an extraordinary man by any measure, and his life was as equally bizarre.
On a personal note... the epilogue shattered my childhood. After going through the highs and lows, after getting the personal reminiscences from greatness to virtual unemployment, the hardest part was hearing him refer to my first experience with him as "that horrible little project about Japanese robots that transform into vehicles and such" and how at least it'll help him to buy groceries or something. It was one of the last things he performed before he passed, and he didn't live long enough to see it released. I knew all along he wasn't pleased with it, and I get it, I really do. I can see how a man of Welles' star caliber might think that a string of voiceovers in commercials and cartoons would be something terrible, even after a long stretch of failure and unemployment. But to have his own commentary on it is rough. I like to think that it's little projects like this that will ultimately lead people of later generations to find his work through the back alleys when they might otherwise not seek out the likes of Citizen Kane. After all, that's how I discovered his work. And just like nobody could have predicted something like that, nobody could have predicted the kind of twists and turns Welles' life would take. I thought I knew about Welles before. This book expanded on so much I only thought I knew. As biographies go, this one's a treasure.
I had read this book several years ago in print--and enjoyed it very much--so was happy to see an audio version available. It's still a great book, but I grew increasingly frustrated with the reader, who had an annoying habit of occasionally emphasizing (to me) the wrong words in sentences--or using an "arch" tone when one wasn't (again, to me) really called for. I found myself editing her narration in my mind, or frequently wondered what the great director himself might have thought of her reading! So, while it's not terrible, a different narrator--say, Edward Herrmann--might have brought this material to life in a way that Ms. Conlin doesn't.
A wonderfully told tale by author Barbara Leaming, made all the more enjoyable by narrator Grace Conlin's patiently nuanced reading. It's easy to lose the thread of a story when the world is the stage - as it certainly was for Welles - and the players so numerous and varied, but Ms. Conlin's pacing and delivery keeps the detailed action compelling throughout the long and winding journey of Welles' extraordinary life
You "hear" and feel Orson Welles throughout this book. Very open and honest and certainly connects the dots well between what you may or may not know about his life and career. Feels like you're sitting down to enjoy an extended lunch with him as he tells you anything and everything. Barbara Leaming certainly connected with him in a way that most people have not.
Brilliant, Driven, Humanitarian
Orson is the most important and my favorite character. No one was more collectively brilliant than he. In his early life he was as ego centric as most are at that age, but he did not stay there. Later on, (thou still driven) he would reach out to others. Was more caring and giving. Hi last phone call (the night he died( was to the mother of a close director friend, asking how she was and reminding her to take her meds. I have loved Orson for over 50 years of my life. Orson was yet another example of the good that God gave to us. My friend has been gone for over 25 years and I miss him still....
What a blessing that our reader was Grace Conlin. She seemed to very much understand the nature and depth of this great man. A performer (in this case) has only their voice to tell the story. However, dear Ms. Conlin read Leaming's words like she had known Orson all her life. This wonderful lady is such an artist. At times, I was so drawn buy her ability to communicate it seemed like she and I were sharing wonderful memories of this man I have loved for so long. Thank you so much Ms. Conlin. There just are NO words to describe your abilities and care..
NO! The book was over 20 hours long. Actually I wanted to take my time. Knowing early on that this audio book was a pleasure I did not want end anytime soon.
If you are into the theater, old time radio, or the movies, this book is for you. It is well worth the money and your time. Do yourself a favor. If you love the fine arts, this book is for you.
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