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RE: [F_minor] Idea of north and 'crys of London'.
Oh, there he goes and mentions the great enfant terrible of filmdom.
Good on yah Bob. And you're right. Wells's magic was
that....spontaneity was all contrived; something like GG interviewing
Wells was by far one of the most visionary and creative people in
film/stage/radio history. Not only was he one of the best actors ever,
possessed of one of natures most beautiful voices, a fantastic writer,
etc., etc. We go on about his greatness until we come to the chapter
that relates how sad a life of multiple disappointments he lived
through. His many projects that suffered financial neglect and the
fallout that haunted his entire film career after Citizen Kane. No
matter: Wells is still one of my great heroes and I adore his body of
work. (Downloaded "The Third Man" and have yet to get time to watch -
have seen before and it is sensational). I have yet to watch the
Amberson film - one that broke his heart....when released.
In closing: Wells habit of stepping on the other actors lines at first I
found to be confusing, as if he had made a mistake but then I realized,
as most do, that it is intentional. It adds a sense of tension in the
dialogue that has its own flavor. I came to like that habit quite a
Saluting great artists!
[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Robert Merkin
Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2008 2:31 PM
Subject: RE: [F_minor] Idea of north and 'crys of London'.
Orson Welles was another Larger-Than-Life Wunderkind whose achievements
mere mortals gape at in awe. Among the "Cahiers du Cinema" crowd, one of
his greatest achievements was the revolutionary act of mixing many
simultaneous conversations and voices in crowded, public scenes,
starting with "Citizen Kane," and it's also a distinctive feature of
"The Magnificent Ambersons."
Sound films began with "The Jazz Singer" in 1929, and if the cineastes
are to be believed, not a single director ever mixed multiple voices
before Welles did in 1941. (He's also credited with inventing ceilings
for interior room scenes -- previously interior room sets in sound
stages had no ceilings.)
This suggests that like Gould, Welles was an obsessive technology
innovater and even, if necessary, an inventer. The mixing in Kane and
Ambersons gives the audience the ultra-realistic "random" sensation of
listening to other patrons in a diner or dozens of guests at a fancy
But in Welles' movies it's not random at all, it couldn't be more
controlled and synthetic. Welles wants you to hear particular snatches
and phrases, he wants you to very clearly hear specific snippets of idle
gossip and chitchat. He uses them as very specific and very important
details to construct and reflect nuance of character, and to emphasize
the calendar moment -- "... saw one of those flying machines yesterday
..." -- far beyond the visual cues of costume and architecture that try
to depict 1910 to the audience.
But his previous work with sound -- stage drama and live broadcasts of
radio dramas -- would tend to force him to think about simultaneous
conversations. An actor who starts his line before the previous actor's
line is finished is said to have "stepped on" the first actor's line.
Unwanted silence on stage is a director's nightmare, and "dead air" in a
live radio broadcast is worse, so there's a lot of intentional stepping
on lines to hustle the pace and beat the clock.
Welles was also the (anonymous, uncredited) voice of radio's biggest
hit, "The Shadow."
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