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Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  265 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"Easily the best book on Orson Welles."--The New Yorker

Orson Welles arrived in Hollywood as a boy genius, became a legend with a single perfect film, and then spent the next forty years floundering. But Welles floundered so variously, ingeniously, and extravagantly that he turned failure into "a sustaining tragedy"--his thing, his s
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Paperback, 480 pages
Published September 30th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1996)
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(showing 1-30)
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Tfitoby
Nov 20, 2014 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, film, bio
More biographies should be this well written, this interesting, this honest in its appraisal of its subject; David Thomson readily admits to having a great admiration for Welles but this is no attempt to laud the man in posterity, it is as much an attack on a flawed genius, a selfish glutton incapable of identifying with other people or understanding their feelings as it is a deeply affectionate portrait of a man capable of doing things other artists couldn't even conceive of. This juxtaposition ...more
Matt

Virtuoso Thomson's on a tour de force here, writing about one of his absolute favorite filmmakers, his cornerstone film, the life, the dreams, the lies, the energy, the magic...wonderfully realized.

And, as a nice formal innovation Thomson has a kind of shade, an interior voice, politely but insistently inquiring about the narrative a la Welles. It sort of articipates the readers' reaction, further interrogates the narrative ("I want to hear more about the women!" "When do we get to Kane?") as it
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Bérénice
Dec 11, 2008 Bérénice rated it did not like it
David Thomson thinks he's some kind of superior being and criticizes in a pompous and condescendent manner everything Welles ever did. He's one of those people who think that Welles never achieved anything after Kane. He wonders if he was even really responsible for Kane? He states that Welles did not write any of the script (false), that Greg Toland was director of photography while Robert Wise was responsible for the editing. SO what did Welles do? He directed! Apparently, that's not enough to ...more
Jeff Jackson
Aug 10, 2008 Jeff Jackson rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Anyone running low on logs for the fire
Shelves: celluloid-dreams
Less a biography than a character assassination, founded on unsubstantiated rumors, misleading assumptions, incorrect information, and outright LIES.
Matt
Jan 14, 2017 Matt rated it did not like it
The worst most lazily compiled biography I have ever read by a complete fraud film writer.
Myles
Oct 27, 2014 Myles rated it it was amazing
(5.0/5.0) Monumental, the biography by which I will judge all others. Thomson is painfully adept at conveying the life and work of Orson Welles,
this beautiful, monstrous, tragic fraud, so selfish he had to create his own archetype. The man made only 3 and 3/4 great films (F for Fake, The Magnificent Ambersons, Citizen Kane, and Touch of Evil-- ranked in that order), but he somehow managed to become unsurpassable, to "plumb the depths of film even if it is a shallow medium," and "steal perfectio
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Russio
Apr 15, 2014 Russio rated it really liked it
I found that I had to plough through the vast pretension in the writing style to get to the heart of this excellent biography of a truly astonishing film maker. Thomson portrays Welles as part genius/part walking disaster area and the forces of talent and intense narcissism that fuelled his work are investigated and analysed here with real skill.

Perhaps Thomson felt that a postmodern metafictive dialogue between himself and his editor would have some resonance for the work and it is the sort of
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Djll
Jul 06, 2012 Djll rated it really liked it
Shelves: movies
I'm just starting it. It's a wild bio! But a good fit for the subject, who was, in the best sense of the word, unruly. Also brilliant, preening, manipulative, victimized, self-inventing, self-destructing, polymathic, hypersensitive, doomed. In case you didn't realize it already, by the first few pages it dawns that Citizen Kane was always about the boy genius, Orson himself, and all his cherished fantasies and worst fears about himself.

... nearly done with it now. My thoughts above stand. Thomso
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Steve
Aug 14, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid 3. Thomson has provided his version of a warts-and-all biography of the acclaimed director of what most critics maintain is the greatest film ever made. Yet, in asserting that from this apogee of success and artistic achievement, the remainder of Wells' career can be discarded to the cultural dustbin is to fail to appreciate other features of his work and to provide far too unfavourable a judgement on Wells as performer and as an individual of vision and ambition. Thus, despite the inclusion ...more
Justin  K. Rivers
Nov 12, 2014 Justin K. Rivers rated it did not like it
The least accurate book on Orson Welles, widely discredited among film scholars and basically anyone who knew the guy.

The prose is pretentious and the "facts" are dramatic (though essentially all fiction) I guess that's why it has remained popular. But don't expect any remotely accurate information - as can easily be ascertained by books that actually did research, such as the Simon Callow biographies, the critical works of Naremore, McBride, and Rosenbaum, and, perhaps most luminous - the comp
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Dan Geddes
Mar 07, 2013 Dan Geddes rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Film buffs
Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles is an intriguiging biography mainly because its subject, Orson Welles, led an interesting, colorful productive life. Thomson does an adequate job with the material, but also uses weird devices such as writing short dialogues with himself at various points. He also tends to enjoy pilloring Welles for his excesses. He appreciates Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, but has a less charitable view of Welles' many independent, European films (many of which a ...more
Robert Simpson
Nov 06, 2012 Robert Simpson rated it liked it
Thomson's prose isn't to everyone's taste I'm sure. A little light on detail at times, and full of the author's own speculation on Welles rather than a straight factual biography. That said, I did find myself falling into admiration for Welles as a director once again and by the end of the book was pulling out my Welles DVDs for a watch/rewatch.

Thomson sees Welles as a man who peaked his creativity too soon, who was obsessed with his own mythology and never quite lived up to his early potential
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Kathy  Petersen
Orson Welles has intrigued me for a good portion of my life. Having read this "biography," I might say the same on behalf of David Thomson. This volume, much as I enjoyed it, should be sprinkled with a generous amount of salt; Thomson assumes some Welles motives and motivations that might be considered speculative. However, Thomson makes his personal intrusion abundantly clear, and his analyses are entirely feasible -- and could be points of departure for some enchanting conversations.
Michael
Jan 18, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing
Despite Thomson's distaste for nearly everything post-Kane, this book is still a fascinating look at Welles' life both on and off-screen. I happen to strongly disagree with the author's negative appraisals of many films (especially "Lady from Shanghai", "Mr. Arkadin" and "The Stranger", all films I enjoy immensely), however I still enjoyed his discussion of them because his views are insightful, if strangely harsh.
Jon
Jan 01, 2012 Jon rated it really liked it
Intriguing biography of one of the 20th century's great artistic innovators who nonetheless squandered his talent with narcissistic self-destruction. If nothing else, the book will unlock "Citizen Kane" in the way only David Thomson can.
Mari
May 17, 2012 Mari rated it did not like it
One of the few books I have started and did not finish. Just too much detail. I don't care to know what Orson ate for breakfast on each day he was filming a movie.
Mickie
Sep 09, 2014 Mickie rated it liked it
Enjoyed this. Filled in the gaps about Welles's life. Very interesting. Would have given it a better review if the author hadn't had an obvious agenda and attitude about his subject.
Nico
Nico rated it really liked it
Mar 12, 2013
Elizabeth
Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Nov 30, 2016
Sabra
Feb 10, 2008 Sabra rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
While you start this biography already knowing that Welles was a larger than life character,
Parapraxis
Parapraxis rated it liked it
Nov 09, 2008
Jonathan
Jonathan rated it did not like it
Jan 27, 2010
Rhu
Rhu rated it really liked it
Aug 06, 2011
Alex Henderson
Alex Henderson rated it liked it
Nov 09, 2014
Greg Dean
Greg Dean rated it it was amazing
Aug 15, 2013
Andrew Moore
Andrew Moore rated it really liked it
Jul 25, 2010
Matt
Oct 16, 2008 Matt rated it it was ok
More of a blow job than a biography.
Frédérique
Frédérique rated it it was amazing
Mar 28, 2010
Jennifer
Jennifer rated it did not like it
Oct 18, 2014
Nino Padova
Nino Padova rated it liked it
Oct 13, 2012
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David Thomson is the author of more than twenty books, including biographies of David O. Selznick and Orson Welles, and The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.
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