Orson Welles Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1915 - 1985 *** Full Name: George Orson Welles *** Occupation: American Actor, Director, Writer and Producer in Film, Radio and Theatre *** Date of Birth: Orson Welles was born on May 6th 1915 *** Place of Birth: Orson Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S. *** Family background: His father was Richard Head Wells and his mother was Beatrice Ives Welles. His parents were separated by the time Orson was four years old and although his father was the founder of a bicycle lamp that made him a fortune he began to drink and gave up working. His mother who was a pianist supported her son by playing the piano at lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago *** Early life and childhood: He grew up in Chicago with his mother, although he had a brother Dickie, he had been put into an institution because of learning difficulties *** Education: Orson Welles attended several schools as child as well as having his own teacher for a while. He also attended Todd Seminary for Boys as well as a private independent school attended by his older brother, Richard “Dickie” ***
Orson Welles Fact 1: Orson Welles was born on May 6th 1915 and during the 20th century period in history when so many wonderful and terrible events shaped the world. World War I and World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War but also such marvels as advances in medicine, technology, travel, the expansion of car travel and air travel and a massive change within the industry of entertainment.
Orson Welles Fact 2: Orson’s mother died when he was nine years old of hepatitis.
Orson Welles Fact 3: This ordeal was followed by a period in his life where he rarely stayed in one place for very long. He stayed with friends of his mother’s immediately after her death before being taken in by his father where he attended school for a short while.
Orson Welles Fact 4: At this point his father completely gave up on work and his father to him to Jamaica and then the Far East. Upon their return the lived in the Grand Detour hotel that his father owned however when the hotel burned down father and son went back on the road.
Orson Welles Fact 5: While attending the Todd School one of his teachers, Roger Hill, who would also become his headmaster, had a great influence on the boy and allowed him to study such subjects that were of interest to him largely in theatrics and production.
Orson Welles Fact 6: The Todd School also had its own radio station which Orson was able to use.
Orson Welles Fact 7: Orson’s father died in December of 1930 and Orson blamed himself. As a boy of fifteen, in the hopes of getting his father to stop drinking, he refused to see him. His father died of a heart attack and kidney failure aged just fifty eight. In his will he allowed Orson to choose his own guardian and when Roger Hill refused Orson chose his parents friend Maurice Bernstein.
Orson Welles Fact 8: Once he had completed his education Orson traveled on a small amount of money left to him by his father. Orson had traveled to Ireland and while there visited the Gate Theatre in Dublin where he told them he was a Broadway star. He was not believed but his boldness got him work where he was able to prove himself.Orson Welles Fact 14: Another of Welles great success was the radio adaptation of War of the Worlds which he wrote and performed in.
Orson Welles Fact 9: In 1934 Virginia Nicolson and Welles were married.
Orson Welles Fact 10: By 1935 Welles’s radio career was such that he was earning almost as much as movie actors.
Orson Welles Fact 11: His next bit project was on the stage. John Houseman, the director of the Negro Theatre Unit in New York asked Orson to join him in the Federal Theatre Project. The first production staged by Orson was Macbeth with a cast of one hundred and fifty African Americans. He set the scene in a mythical Haitian court and the Scottish witchcraft role was portrayed as Haitian vodou. The play was a great success and toured the country.
Orson Welles Fact 12: Having gained the attention of George Schaefer the president of RKO Radio Pictures, he would be offered and accept, what would become considered one of the paramount contracts ever offered to an untried filmmaker. The contract required Welles to write, produce, direct, the right of final cut, which was unprecedented and perform in two motion pictures.
Orson Welles Fact 13: His first two proposed moves were rejected however his third was Citizen Kane and was given the go ahead. Filming took ten weeks, the cast primarily made up of his Mercury Theatre actors. The subject material of the film was controversial and once released in 1941 did not do as well as was expected however, post war, particularly in Europe the film became a success. In the U.S. it was shown on television in 1956 and became re-released in theatres where it became described as “the great American film” and is hailed as one of the “greatest films ever made”.
Orson Welles Fact 15: He would act as goodwill ambassador to Latin America during World War II.
Orson Welles Fact 16: Much of Welles’ work was conducted on the radio and in 1944 he presented The Orson Welles Almanac.
Orson Welles Fact 17: Over the next several decades he continued to star in, write and direct radio, television and movies in Hollywood and around the world.
Orson Welles Fact 18: Welles’ marriage to Virginia Nicolson was short lived, they divorced and the affair he was having with Mexican actress Delores del Rio was made public and although Delores divorced her husband they did not marry. His next would however by Rita Hayworth who he married in 1943 and they divorced in 1947. In 1955 he married an Italian aristocrat and actress Paola Mori who he did not divorce. He had three children the first with Virginia, Christopher, the second with Rita, Rebecca and the third with Paola, another daughter, Beatrice.
Orson Welles Fact 19: Orson Welles died on October 10th 1985 of a heart attack the day after his last television interview had been recorded, he was seventy years of age. His body was cremated and as per his wishes his remains were buried on an estate of his friend in Ronda, Spain.
Influence & Legacy: He has inspired untold men and women to attain their dreams whether in front of the camera or behind it, in movies, radio or on television. Sadly he left many projects unfinished but amongst others that he did complete were Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Macbeth, Othello, Touch of Evil and Chimes at Midnight.