Orson Welles (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
Most show-business biographies, even of major stars, tend to be superficial and to consist largely of gush and gossip. Yet some figures have made such a formidable contribution to theater and film that they warrant a scholarly study. Such a one was Orson Welles, who was a giant in every aspect of theater. Welles was protean, a modern Renaissance man—stage, screen, radio, and television actor and director, magician, matador, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, politician, and bon vivant. Barbara Learning’s Orson Welles, which appeared just before the subject’s death at the age of seventy, is at once a scholarly and an immensely readable biography whose subject is more fabulous than the hero of many a novel.
Welles was always interested as much in how a story is told as in the story itself; several of his films, beginning with Citizen Kane (1941), and his stage version of Moby Dick, deliberately let the framework show. Thus when Learning obtained his cooperation to work with her on his life story, Welles insisted that she put herself into the book, like a James Boswell, or like a reporter trying to get at the truth about Charles Foster Kane. Accordingly, Learning often takes the reader behind the scenes, becoming a character in the narrative and at the same time giving intimate glimpses of Welles that might not have been available in a different format. Leaming, a professor of theater and film at Hunter College and the...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
American Film. XI, December, 1985, p. 75.
Library Journal. CX, August, 1985, p. 113.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 22, 1985, p. 8.
The New York Times Book Review. XC, September 15, 1985, p. 9.
The New Yorker. LXI, November 11, 1985, p. 157.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXVIII, July 26, 1985, p. 158.
Time. CXXVI, October 7, 1985, p. 70.
Variety. CCCXX, October 16, 1985, p. 165.
Vogue. CLXXV, September, 1985, p. 502.
Washington Post Book World. XV, September 15, 1985, p. 1.
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