Orson Welles - Hollywood (1939–1948)

Hollywood (1939–1948)

RKO Radio Pictures president George Schaefer eventually offered Welles what generally is considered the greatest contract ever offered to an untried director: complete artistic control. RKO signed Welles in a two-picture deal; including script, cast, crew, and most importantly, final cut, although Welles had a budget limit for his projects. With this contract in hand, Welles (and nearly the entire Mercury Theatre troupe) moved to Hollywood. He commuted weekly to New York to maintain his commitment to The Campbell Playhouse. (DEBATE: Film historians have cast doubt on the accuracy of this claim of complete control. Based on much later access to the said contract, UK film critic Alexander Walker averred, in a BBC radio documentary about Kane, that Welles did NOT have final cut of his films. Something that would seem to be confirmed by RKO's mashing of Welles' follow-up movie to Kane, "The Magnificent Ambersons"?).

Welles toyed with various ideas for his first project for RKO Radio Pictures, settling on an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which he worked on in great detail. He planned to film the action with a subjective camera (a technique later used in the Robert Montgomery film Lady in the Lake). When a budget was drawn up, RKO's enthusiasm cooled because it was greater than the previously agreed limit. RKO also declined to approve another Welles project, The Smiler With the Knife, based on the Cecil Day-Lewis novel, ostensibly because RKO executives lacked faith in Lucille Ball's ability to carry the film as the leading lady.

Welles left The Campbell Playhouse in 1940 due to creative differences with the sponsor. The show continued without him, produced by John Houseman. Welles's first experience on a Hollywood film was narrator for RKO's 1940 production of The Swiss Family Robinson.

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Orson Welles - Hollywood (1939–1948) - Post-war Work (1946–1948) - Macbeth
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