• 2 pictures of Orson Welles

Thursday Nights at the Cinematheque Fall Calendar

Orson Welles retrospective title

Orson WellesOrson Welles began his career in New York City theater and radio in the 1930s, attracting national attention with his 1936 Harlem stage production of a voodoo-themed Macbeth and his 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, so inventive and realistic that it duped many into frenzied fear of a Martian attack. By 1941, at the age of 26, Welles had co-written, produced, directed, and starred in his first Hollywood feature film, Citizen Kane, regarded by many as the greatest motion picture ever made. Subsequent films and projects, while not always commercially successful, continued to exhibit his creative genius and independent sensibilities as he continued to struggle for funding and distribution. Today, he is regarded as one of the last true Renaissance men of the twentieth century and a maverick cinematic artist and his life and films continue to be extensively written about and discussed. Welles was the recipient of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1975, and in 1984, the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award.

Charlie Chaplin with movie camera.  Announcement that screenings are open to the public and that admission is free.

Poster from Magician
Thurs, August 27 -- 7 PM


Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (2014), 95 mins.

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Chuck Workman provides a wonderful introduction to the life and remarkable genius of Orson Welles on the eve of his centenary. Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles examines the enigma of his career as a Hollywood star, a Hollywood director, and as a crucially important independent filmmaker. Together with several of Welles’s early short films.

Kane standing in front of election poster

Thurs, September 3 -- 7 PM


Citizen Kane (1941), 119 mins.

In his Hollywood debut, Welles directed, starred in, produced and co-wrote the story of a reporter attempting to uncover the meaning of a dying newspaper tycoon's last word, "Rosebud." The search reveals the life of a complex man, told through the eyes of colleagues and family. As brilliant and startling today as it was in 1941, Citizen Kane is routinely voted by international critics as the greatest film ever made.

Still from the movie


Thurs, September 10 -- 7 PM


The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), 88 mins.

Welles’s low-key, reflective follow-up to Citizen Kane, adapted from Booth Tarkington’s Pulitzer-winning novel, chronicles the decline of a prominent family and the end of an era. At work in Brazil on another RKO project, The Magnificent Ambersons was re-edited in Welles’s absence, its ending re-written and re-shot by others. Still, even in its current truncated form, it remains a stunning and memorable film.

Still from the movie

Thurs, September 17 -- 7 PM


The Stranger (1946), 95 mins. 

After the relationship with RKO ended, Welles returned to the director's chair after a four-year absence producing, and starring-in, a post World War II thriller about the hunt for a Nazi war criminal in a quiet Connecticut town. With a thrilling and hair-raising climax set in a 124-foot clock tower, The Stranger was the most financially successful film of Welles's career and his only “very profitable” picture.

Still from the movie

Thurs, September 24 -- 7 PM


The Lady From Shanghai (1947), 87 mins.

Footloose Irish seaman Michael O'Hara, played by Welles, is hired as a crew member on the yacht of wealthy attorney Arthur Banister and his alluring wife Elsa, played by Welles’s then-wife Rita Hayworth. Made as the director was in the process of breaking up with his star, The Lady from Shanghai remains one of the great film noir, highlighted by the legendary and outrageously inventive “Hall of Mirrors” finale.

Orson Welles as Macbeth
Thurs, October 1 -- 7 PM


Macbeth (1948), 107 mins.

Welles’s dark and moody screen version of the classic William Shakespeare tragedy about a presumptuous Scottish prince’s quest for power through patricide. Welles effectively mixes the use of shadow and oblique camera angles to achieve an ominous sense of a land in peril. Macbeth was originally cut to 89 minutes for the theatrical release, here presented complete with effected highland accents by the actors.

Still from the movie 

Thurs, October 8 -- 7 PM


Othello (1952), 91 mins.

Shot over a three-year period in Morocco, Venice, Tuscany and Rome, Othello sees Welles returning once more to the work of The Bard. Shakespeare’s classic of jealousy and retribution becomes one of Welles’s most dazzling works, from its baroque Venetian beginning to the stunning murder sequence in a Turkish bath. Winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952.

Still from the movie
Thurs, October 15 -- 7 PM


Mr. Arkadin (1955), 106 mins.

Welles’s Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report) tells the story of an elusive billionaire who hires an American smuggler to investigate his past, leading to a memorable procession of grotesques and a dizzying descent into a cold-war European landscape. While several different versions of the film exist, we will be screening the “Comprehensive Version,” compiled and edited by the Munich Film Museum in 2006.

Sketch Book title

Thurs, October 22 -- 7 PM


Orson Welles TV: Sketch Book, Around the World, The Fountain of Youth (1955-58), 120 mins.

 An evening of Welles television rarities, including episodes of his two series made for British television, Orson Welles’ Sketchbook and Around the World with Orson Welles. Also included will be his rare landmark TV pilot Fountain of Youth, excerpts from his starring roles in The Man Who Came to Dinner and King Lear; a compilation of classic television interviews, and even an episode of I Love Lucy.

Still from the movie
Thurs, October 29 -- 7 PM


Touch of Evil (1958), 112 mins.

A car bomb explodes in a town on the US-Mexico border and what follows is a noir tale of murder, racism, drugs, and official corruption, starring Welles himself as the deeply flawed and sinister chief-of-police. Touch of Evil was re-cut by Universal before its release but a 1998 restoration, based on details of a legendary 58-page memo to the studio, provided a version more in keeping with Welles's vision.

Still from the movie
Thurs, November 5 -- 7 PM


The Trial (1962), 118 mins.

Based on the Franz Kafka novel, Josef K. awakens one day to find investigators in his apartment, who inform him he is under arrest and will have to stand trial on unspecified charges. A deeply personal work for Welles (he dubbed 11 of the characters himself) with some of the most mesmerizing and baroque effects of his career, The Trial was Welles’s first film since Citizen Kane to be released as he intended.

Still from the movie
Thurs, November 12 -- 7 PM


Chimes at Midnight (1965), 119 mins.

Welles's lifelong fascination with the relationship between Prince Hal and William Shakespeare’s recurring fictional character Sir John Falstaff, played by Welles himself, made it to the big screen in a production Welles cited as his favorite and most personal film. Initially dismissed by critics, Chimes at Midnight (also known as Falstaff) is now regarded as one of Welles’s greatest cinematic achievements.

Still from the movie
Thurs, November 19 -- 7 PM


The Immortal Story (1968), 60 mins., and Don Quixote (1955-1985), 60 mins.

To make the tall tale of the title come true, an aging European merchant played by Welles hires a sailor to sleep with his wife, but the elaborate set-up soon starts to take on a life of its own. Based on a short story by the Danish writer Isak Dinesen, The Immortal Story is the shortest of Welles’s feature films and first aired on French television. Together with excerpts from Welles’s great unfinished film project, Don Quixote.

Orson Welles
Thurs, December 3 -- 7 PM


F for Fake (1974), 89 mins. 

In the free-form documentary essay film F for Fake, the self-described charlatan Welles gleefully reengages with the central preoccupation of his career: the tenuous lines between illusion and truth, art and lies. With inventive charm, Welles takes us on a dizzying journey that simultaneously exposes and revels in fakery and fakers of all stripes and becomes a clever examination of the essential duplicity of cinema itself.

John Houston and Orson Welles
Thurs, December 10 -- 7 PM


Special Orson Welles Event Screening