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Orson Welles: What Went Wrong

Orson Welles, as you may know, lacked discipline. He's kind of the poster boy for lack of discipline in the creative arts. He wasn't good at finishing things. Didn't like the messy details. According to Richard Schickel in The Los Angeles Times, an almost pathological attention to detail runs through the careers of all great Hollywood directors:

"The rebel pose makes for fine romantic copy, but the fact is that genius in the movies is the antithesis of genius as Welles flightily defined it. It is akin to an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Every great director I've ever known spends months in the editing room, more months on the dubbing and scoring stages, driving themselves and everyone around them crazy with their slavish devotion to detail. When they're not doing that, they're wheedling money out of their backer or fending off suggested improvements. It is how great movies are made. And great careers."

Schickel says Welles doesn't belong in the same company as "Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Ernst Lubitsch and a dozen other American cinematic masters" and concludes that the "history of the 20th century offers no more grandiose conversion of high promise into sad failure."


But I still love the opening tracking shot of "Touch of Evil" and every moment of "Citizen Kane."

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 21, 2006; 5:40 PM ET
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