Friday, January 11, 2013

The Shadow Of The Man

Orson Welles achieved fame early in his life with the controversial radio broadcast THE WAR OF THE WORLDS in 1938. He was only 23. Three years later CITIZEN KANE was acclaimed the greatest movie of all time. His success freed him from the reins of the Hollywood studios, although the movie moguls were experts at repressing rebels and his subsequent films were hacked by editors according to the whims of the producers controlling the market from screenplay to popcorn. Orson Welles responded to this treatment by gaining weight at an alarming rate during his forties. In LADY FROM SHANGHAI he supposedly ordered the cameraman, "Shoot me from the fifth rib up." Welles sought solace from the studio's mistreatment by dining for three or four a gourmet restaurants around Europe. At home in Hollywood he was no slouch at the dinner table. His housekeeper said, "It was not unusual for me to prepare him a couple of big Porterhouse steaks, a dozen eggs, a plate of biscuits and a pot of coffee. Orson Welles could really eat." In order to play the role of the portly King Falstaff the actor had to go on diet to get down from his epic 400+ pounds. After his death in 1985 a rich friend of mine found a cape of the late great Welles at a Martha Vinyard antique shop. The fabric was black cashmere with a equally black silk lining. The director name was sewn above the interior pocket. My friend was tall as Orson. 6-1. He tried on the cape thinking that it would make a good conversation piece, however the expanse of material was so immense that my friend thought that he looked like a circus tent under the cape. The salesman told him that everyone felt the same way and my rich friend thanked him for the experience of wearing Orson's cape. I wish I had been there, for at times in my life I've tipped over to the fat side of weight, but that's no sin as long as you aren't shy, for as Orson said, "Gluttony is not a secret vice." He was a good eater.

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