The Genius of Orson Welles

Orson Welles is one of the most innovative directors in cinema history. Not only did he change how the camera moves and how scripts are written, but many critics believe he made the world’s greatest movie by the time he was 25.

Orson Welles’ mother was a beautiful concert pianist who passed away when he was nine year’s old. His father invented a bicycle lamp that made him rich, but died an alcoholic when Orson was 15. He was left a small inheritance and decided to travel to Europe. In 1931, back in the States he graduated but turned down college for a sketching tour of Ireland and travels in Morocco and Spain.

He made his New York acting debut as Tybalt in 1934 and formed the Mercury Theatre in 1937 but was fascinated with movies and the opportunities available in Hollywood to a rising star. To understand Welles’ incredible contribution to cinema it’s important to know that the first proper movie he made, Citizen Kane is regarded by many as the best ever made.

Citizen Kane is praised for its remarkable scenes and performances, cinematic and narrative techniques and experimental innovations in photography, editing, and sound. Welles was the director, producer, and star of a revolutionary work of art and was nominated for a total of nine Academy Awards, winning ‘Best Screenplay’. Welles introduced a number of pioneering techniques to tell the story including, multiple points of view, low-angle shots and deep-focus cinematography to present all objects in a shot in sharp detail. He was 25 years old.

Many of his next films were commercial failures and he exiled himself to Europe in 1948. In 1956, he directed Touch of Evil, which failed in the United States but won a prize at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. It contained one of the most memorable and technically innovative opening scenes in Hollywood history. With a camera mounted on a crane, the tracking shot sequence with no edits follows a car and a romantic couple on foot through a small border town for almost four minutes.

In the opening seconds, we see a figure place a time bomb in the car’s trunk. The camera follows, shaking as it goes suggesting it’s hand-held.  But then it bounds into the sky and begins to glide slowly and serenely above the decaying but vibrant streets.  Every time we see the car we expect an explosion.  It’s tense as it stops at a crossing, drives slowly past Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston before stopping again for goats, handcarts and customs officials.  It is only when the car exits the scene that it explodes of-screen.

The studios didn’t want Welles’ to direct this film. They thought he was a risk – difficult, troublesome, a bad boy who just wouldn’t do what the studio execs told him to do. Unlike a director such as Alfred Hitchcock who always had his films worked out shot by shot long before filming, Welles wrote and rewrote the script throughout filming—often improvising and collaborating with the actors on dialogue. One night he called up Marlene Dietrich saying he had just written her a scene in his new movie. Dietrich was delighted to appear, as were many actors who were taking pay cuts because they recognised Welles’ genius and wanted to work with him.

In 1975, despite his box-office failures, he received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1984, the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honour, the D.W. Griffith Award. His reputation as a remarkable filmmaker has climbed steadily ever since, until his death in 1985.

Innovation is vital in our offices in Denmark, Sweden and Guernsey because it gives PEA a real edge in the market. Some businesses don’t like change and would prefer if tasks were always done in the same tried and tested way. But, we believe that with creative thinking, problems can be solved differently and strategically.

If you are striving for excellence as we are, we encourage innovation to be part of your own business culture. That is why we acknowledge the genius that is Orson Welles and would urge everyone to take a look at his work.


James OrrickJames Orrick holds a Masters in Corporate Governance from Bournemouth University, a BSc (Hons) in Accounting and Finance from the University of Essex, is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Copyright © 2018 Private Equity Administrators