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This Is Orson Welles

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  922 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Innovative film and theater director, radio producer, actor, writer, painter, narrator, and magician, Orson Welles (1915–1985) was the last true Renaissance man of the twentieth century. From such great radio works as "War of the Worlds" to his cinematic masterpieces Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Othello, Macbeth, Touch of Evil, and Chimes at Midnight, Welles wa ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published March 22nd 1998 by Da Capo Press (first published 1992)
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4.23  · 
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Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: movies
Excellent series of interviews with Welles, late in his life, by Welles disciple and fellow director Bogdanovich. Welles is fiercely intelligent, funny, opinionated, testy, and a great storyteller - just a wealth of great insights, ancedotes and arguments here, and should be fascinating to anyone with any interest in film - heck, even if you're not interested in film you are likely to be entertained by Welles' conversation.

As an fanastic bonus, one of the appendixes is a script reconstruction of
Roz  Milner
Kind of a messy biography, This Is Orson Welles is either a treasure of first-hand information on the life and works of Welles and a rambling conversation with a pompous liar. I think it's probably both, usually at the same time.

Back in the early 70s, Peter Bogdanovich and Welles hit on the idea of a book of interviews, kind of like Francois Truffaut's book with Alfred Hitchcock. They hung out a bunch, drinks were served and tape rolled. After a while, life started getting in the way: Welles go
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Bogdanovich is the perfect foil for Welles in this collection of entertaining and enlightening interviews, coaxing details out of the elder director and, when necessary, calling bullshit on some of Welles' broad pronunciamentos (e.g. "I never use symbolism," etc.)

Welles' wit, good humor, and passion for his art make this a really inspiring book, even when the discussion turns to depressing subjects like the routine mutilation of Welles' work at the hands of studio executives.

This is an essenti
Simon Rindy
Sep 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone thinking of going into the movie business, those who need perspective
Shelves: lfpl-org
So far: Welles is clinically mad genius with skewed perspective, Bogdanovich is savant genius without boundaries, and that either qualifies as brilliant dinner guest (that is, if we're doing the "living or dead" dinner party).

The Da Capo Press reprint/scan (isbn-13: 978-0-306-80834-0 or isbn-10: 0-306-80834-x $24.00) has unforgivably poor images/photos/stills. I don't know if all editions have this problem (although one can search the films themselves for certain scenes), but I found this partic
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. There are certain Orson Welles films that I greatly admire. First and foremost among these is Citizen Kane, then Touch of Evil, The Lady from Shanghai, Macbeth , and even F for Fake. On a tier just below these, for me, are films like Chimes at Midnight, The Trial, and The Magnificent Ambersons. And then of course there is the brilliant War of the Worlds broadcast and his wonderful performances in films like The Third Man and Compulsion.

This book of interviews was first conceived when
Harriett Milnes
Enjoyed reading the conversations between Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich. Welles does NOT want to talk about certain subjects, like his old movies, or other directors and other movies, and Bogdanovich sort of tries to circle around and get his opinions anyway. And there is a complete chronology and notes and the whole thing is just wonderful.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: movies
I'm enjoying this immensely. Great lessons in film-making and flim-flamming. What a polyglot. What a talker. "He was some kind of a man."

Example (from page 239 of the paperback ed. To appreciate this quote, know that Welles and Bogdanovich have been engaging in verbal jousting throughout the interviews. Welles dodges and pooh-poohs many questions of the "what is art?" variety, but is usually blunt in his self-assessments, not to mention ironic):

PB: When you wrote the novel of Mr. Arkadin
OW: Pet
May 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cinema
Orson Welles never was a man to talk truthfully and clearly about himself or his work. I suspect his pampering as a child genius made him immune to the polite culture and questioning adults were thought of as dolts at an early age. Much later in life he opened up to interviews with Bogdonavich and subjected himself to questioning on everything from his theater days all the way up to his struggle to get Don Quixote committed to the screen. It was his only such opening up (not unlike Hitchcock to ...more
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-bought
Anything with the two words "Orson & Welles" is usually a fascinating ride into 20th Century film culture. He's both a man of great talent and perhaps terrible luck -but lucky with respect to living well.

His genius was living his life. But his great taste was in the movies. This is a super fun book full of the Welles charm. Also it is fascinating how he deals with his past.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
#96 of 120 books pledged to read during 2018
Eric Althoff
Jun 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Much has been written about Orson Welles extraordinary career, and about as much about his failures. I'm of the opinion tis' always a good idea to go to the source, and so that's just what Peter Bogdanovich did over several decades of friendship with Welles, recording their conversations with the express purpose of crafting a book—which Bogdanovich and editor Jonathan Rosenbaum did after Welles' death in 1985.

This is a true film nerd tome, and I don't think I'd recommend it to non-cineastes whos
Hannah Hormell
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wish this book would have never ended. This is the last book about Orson that I have that is mostly his own words, which is the best way to read about him, even with all the embellishing he does. Quite often I found myself relating to his experiences, and the way he felt about things, which surprised me. He was a terribly sensitive man who gave quite a bit to an industry that didn't appreciate him until after he was gone, and this was a heartbreaking read at times. I'm sure I will revisit it i ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book, with Welles holding court like the amazing party guest he must have been. A peek behind the curtain revealing flaws and quirks but a massive intellect and wit, this has to be considered required reading for any Welles fan. It’s not definitive, but incredibly valuable.
Joseph R.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Film director Peter Bogdanovich conducted several interviews with Orson Welles from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The plan was to publish the transcripts as an autobiography. The project sat on the back burner for them and the book was only published in 1992, seven years after Welles' death. Bogdanovich turned the project over to an editor to complete. The book includes an in-depth chronology of Welles' career in radio, theater, and film, along with an appendix summing up the cuts and chang ...more
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This Is Orson Welles is an edited series of interviews that director Peter Bogdanovich did with Welles in the 1960's and 1970's. The topics run the gamut from Welles's life and career (he considered the book his autobiography) to people he knew to his thoughts on all things art. Even for someone as familiar with Welles's life and work as I am, there were some surprises in this book.

It is quite well known that when Orson arrived in Hollywood, his first picture was going to be an adaptation of Jos
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
scattered thoughts

he makes a lot of excuses for himself, and for his films. I'm tempted to call him a poor director, if only because it might be a director's job to ensure that all the little things go right. his flightiness, which seems to stem from an inner perfectionism, is familiar to me. it's easy to be self-critical to the point of failure. but I don't think it's a virtue.


- Howard Hughes
- Gregg Toland
- Fritz Lang
- Saint Sebastian
- Stanley Kramer
- Jean Renoir
- Stanislavski
- Whistler's
Has anyone ever asked you to come up with a list of guests, living or dead, that you'd like to invite to your ideal dinner party? If you've ever included Orson Welles on your imaginary list, then this is the book for you.

Made up of a series of interviews between Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles, the book covers a variety of topics, from Orson's early and prolific radio career to his later projects like The Trial. While PB's questions occasionally grated on me (and Orson, too, apparently, as he
Oct 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First read this one in college. Up to that point, I had seen Welles as an intelligent guy who made a movie in his youth, burned some bridges, and faded away into obscurity. One movie to both define and swiftly ruin his career. In short, a one trick pony.

Wrong, Past Me. Very wrong indeed.

Here was a man who could very well have done anything with his life, but since the love of the theatre and performing arts held him so, he couldn't ignore the joy it brought; this joy led him to spending most of
Keith B.
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book on a extraordinary man who I would loved to had met. He was defiantely a renassiance man. He was obsolutely one of the best directors alive during his time and if he was alive today. He was a giant and reading this book, it's very intimate, Peter (the interviewer-close friend to Welles) ask the right questions and covers a wide spectrum of Welles films. Pluse The Magnificent Ambersons script is in the back of the book.
What I learned was, well, to be tenacious, ambitious, work har
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Film director Mat Whitecross has chosen to discuss Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich’s This is Orson Welles Dury , on FiveBooks ( as one of the top five on his subject – Film Directing, saying that:

“…Orson Welles has always been my favourite director. I remember catching films of his late at night. Here he is sitting down with his friend Peter Bogdanovich, who is another great film director, and the two of them just talk about Welles’s career. Welles is a great conversati
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film-crit
This is the essential Welles book. I will love it to change that opinion, but so far I ain't budging off it. Jonathan Rosenbaum's chronology of Welles' life is a wonder to behold, and entertains a much different picture of Welles than the standard biographies. Welles himself, of course, is a fluent but flighty, if not downright evasive interviewee -- make that, raconteur. A fact that will surprise no one who loves his movies. And while this does not amount to a critical "take" on those movies, i ...more
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you aren't interested in Welles, beware, but then again you probably wouldn't be reading the book if you weren't. It isn't an in depth autobiography, but rather a series of interviews (and interrogations) conducted by Peter Bogdonavich. The result is an unusually candid look at a man wrapped in enigma, contradictions, and myth (sometimes of his own making.) I'm not going to debate Welles as a great filmmaker, but this book proves that he was one of the most interesting.
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
There are many books about Welles out there, and I'd recommend looking for the Barbara Leaming biography, the Simon Callow volumes and Joseph McBride's "Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?". But this book is as good a place to start as any, thanks not only to the intimacy of Bogdanovich's interviews but also to Jonathan Rosenbaum's exhaustively detailed chronology of Welles' life.
Nov 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Orson Welles or filmmaking
Through interviews conducted over a significant period of time, Welles emerges as a real person: eccentric, difficult, intelligent, always interesting. While it's true that he cannot be trusted with every fact, I believe this book gives us a portrait of the man whose reputation has been bandied about his entire life and beyond.
Aug 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Bogdanovich really knew Welles initimately and their conversations in this book go well beyond the usual hollywood bs. A must for any Welles fan or anyone who loves classic films.
If you can, find a documentary or (if you're lucky) go see Bogdanovich talk about Welles - he does a really good impression. (He does a good one of Hitchcock too.)
Gregory Roth
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of one-on-one conversations Bogdanovich had Orson Welles. I like this book very much and often use it for reference. The back of the book has detailed information on Welles projects throughout his career (e.g Mercury Theater on the Air, Magnificent Ambersons, ect.).
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-ten
The Bible. If I could only have a handful of books, this would be one of them. It consists of a series of interviews between Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich. They discuss film, Hollywood, world cinema, art, music, god...just about everything. The central text for Wellsians.
Jun 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Humans
It is unlikely we'll see a talent as great as Orson's for a very long time. These interviews don't provide a lot of insight into how that talent operated artistically, but they're immensely readable anyway. Bogdanovich gets a little tiresome but Orson usually picks up the slack.
I've read this twice, and probably will read it again sometime. It's a cherished part of my collection. This book is as close as one could hope to get to an intimate dinner conversation with Welles. It just feels that way; it's that good.
Feb 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-biographies
Enjoyable and fascinating view of one of the cinema's great artists. Welles rarely liked to look back over his career to discuss or analyze his work, but his conversations here with Peter Bogdanovich are entertaining and illuminating.
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George Orson Welles, best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio. Noted for his innovative dramatic productions as well as his distinctive voice and personality,

Welles is widely acknowledged as one of the most accomplished dramatic artists of the twentieth century, esp