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Orson Welles: A Biography
 
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Barbara Leaming
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Orson Welles: A Biography

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3.91  ·  Rating details ·  266 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Here is a firsthand portrait of the flamboyant American genius who became a titanic figure in twentieth-century popular culture. Orson Welles revolutionized theatre, terrified a nation of radio listeners, and made cinematic history with Citizen Kane, regarded by many as the greatest American film ever made. Building on two years of uninhibited, in-depth interviews with Wel ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published February 26th 1987 by Penguin (first published April 1985)
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John Tipper
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this bio to read because I'm a fan of Welles's acting and directing. I remember him also as a TV talk-show personality in the '60s. Sometimes he performed magic on those shows, which was something he started doing as a child.

The Wunderkind truly showed talent early on, directing a version of Richard III, at his prep school when he was 15 years old. His bohemian mother and her lover (they at one point formed a ménage a trois with Orson's biological father) encouraged him in his pursuits,
...more
Liz Estrada
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just an amazing biography from start to finish. Learned so much about this enfant-terrible/precocious child/genius, but most importantly, realized how Hollywood, then and now, is not quite equipped to deal with such genius! A sad state of affairs, but he was, regardless how you view him, a man who did things his way, with incredible integrity. TOTALLY RESPECT!! Wish there were more like him, but he broke the mold!
Marti
I thought I knew a fair amount of superficial things about Orson Welles (the Harlem production of Macbeth, infamous War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane). However, his precocious childhood, in which he really was more like a miniature adult, and entire subsequent life were much stranger than I had ever imagined. His patrician, yet at the same time Bohemian, upbringing account for his love for high-brow Shakeseare as well as the shameless hucksterism of vaudeville and magic acts.

Hence, this biograp
...more
Bob Schnell
Barbara Leaming's biography of Orson Welles is now at the top of my biography list. Not only did Welles contribute vast amounts of time and personal information, but his advice to put the biographer in the story was spot on. The short chapters of Ms. Leaming's personal anecdotes of dealing with her subject's often unpredictable moods and actions really added depth to the overall persona of Orson Welles. Along with the reminisces and tales from many of Welles' friends, family and foes, I can't im ...more
Carolyn
This book is a fairly thorough review of Orson Welles' life, and in particular his background. But there was so much emphasis on his childhood and early years, it makes the rest of his life zip by. One thing I particularly didn't like about this biography is that the author very rarely cites the date of anything, so as a reader you have no idea if the Orson Welles project you're reading about was in the 1940s or 50s, or for that matter, the 60s. It was written while Welles was still alive, but ( ...more
Don
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great wealth, Kenosha, praised at youth as genius min public school, age 9 lost mom found sex, doctor for unusual children, repeat lurid dreams, play doctor, vacant father, watch porno as child, too much adulation, father drunk dead 58, high opinion of self as actor, phony left wing radicals of nyc he said, taxes owed leave country, like any other pervert.
Kek-w Kek-w
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome Orson - he's one of my heroes anyway (this is not the first biography of his I've read and certainly won't be the last!), but this one was enlivened by his own willing (and witty) participation. Well-written and engaging. Orson's life remains unique and inspirational.
Stephan
Nov 20, 2009 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
It's very inspiring to read about Welles' beginning and early efforts. He's an inspiration to all independent minded theater artists. He may have been megalomaniacal but he led the way. Also intriguing to read about the period when Broadway was still the focus of theatrical efforts.
Paul Spence
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Barbara Leaming wrote this biography of the great actor and director Orson Welles with his cooperation, and as you might expect it is full of quotes from Welles and of his side of things in general. It’s a sympathetic portrait and as such includes a laudatory portrait of his life with a special emphasis on his unique artistry which began to form during his early years of famous theatre productions in New York and radio productions like the The War of the Worlds show that’s probably the only radi ...more
David Fulmer
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barbara Leaming wrote this biography of the great actor and director Orson Welles with his cooperation, and as you might expect it is full of quotes from Welles and of his side of things in general. It’s a sympathetic portrait and as such includes a laudatory portrait of his life with a special emphasis on his unique artistry which began to form during his early years of famous theater productions in New York and radio productions like the The War of the Worlds show that’s probably the only radi ...more
Reid
Nov 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, 3-stars, review
"Rose-bud... Rose-bud..." I liked the first half a lot when I read it long ago, but for some reason I lost interest about half way through. She's a good writer, and he's a fascinating character. Thumbs up if you're interested in the alter ego of Charles Foster Kane. The one thing I recall was that when Welles had house guests he would put a chemical in his pool that would cause visible coloration of billowing urine.
Michael P.
I have been reading a lot about Orson Welles lately and find that most biographies dip into his life here and there, even when they seem to go from cradle to grave. The writers just do not tell you about the bits they leave out and if they mention those bits, they only include the details that interest them, not necessarily the details that are interesting. This preamble is by way of explaining that Barbara Leaming seems obsessed by some of the things that matter least to me, such as Welles as a ...more
Kevin Dumcum
Less of a biography, and more of an alibi, Leaming takes Welles’ own explanations for his string of “bad luck” over the last 40 years of his career without challenging him for his string of bad decisions. Still, it leaves you wondering “what might have been” if Welles had ever learned to match his undeniable talent with a bit more personal discipline.
Lisa
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
#101 of 120 books pledged to read during 2018.

Good comprehensive biography; I'm deducting one star since Orson Welles gave his complete cooperation to the book, completed about a year before his death. I feel the author downplayed his flaws and faults as a result, but the sections on "Citizen Kane" and on his early years are particularly compelling.
Pablo
Nov 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excelente biografía de la estudiosa Leaming. Llena de detalles nutritivos e informaciones inéditas.
Francesca
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hollywood, biography
Amazing book about a brilliant artist that humanizes the towering myth. Lots of gossip and humorous details. Highly recommended!

(I listened to the audio version of this book.)
Derek James Baldwin
Engrossing if relatively uncritical biography of the great man. It pulls off the trick of managing to still have things to say about the many years after Orson had already peaked.
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Barbara Leaming is the author of “Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter” (Thomas Dunne Books, April 12, 2016). She has written three New York Times bestsellers, including her recent book “Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis”. Leaming’s book “Churchill Defiant” received The Emery Reves Award from the International Churchill Centre. Her groundbreaking biogra ...more

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