Orson Welles: The One-Man Band


Vassili Silovic’s 90-minute documentary about the uncompleted films of Orson Welles’ later years was a revelation when it appeared in 1995. Orson Welles: The One-Man Band was shown on UK TV as The Lost Films of Orson Welles but “one-man band” is more appropriate, not only because of the bizarre song-and-dance sequence he filmed in London, but also because it’s an apt description of Welles’ approach to filmmaking. Directors who also write and produce are rare but not too uncommon; directors who write, produce and also act in major roles are in a minority. Welles did all those things and often much more, including editing, set decoration and providing voices for minor characters. The latter habit can be distracting in some of the films, especially Mr Arkadin where it often seems he was doing the voices for everyone who wasn’t already a known actor.


The One-Man Band is a compendium of clips from footage bequeathed to his partner, Oja Kodar, together with interviews, TV appearances, a witty and duplicitous trailer for F for Fake, and other odds and ends. This was the first public airing of scenes from The Deep, an unfinished feature based on a thriller, Dead Calm (1963) by Charles Williams (later filmed by Philip Noyce as Dead Calm in 1989.) There’s also a sequence from The Other Side of the Wind, another feature that was closer to completion, and which may yet receive a proper release. The sequence showing Welles discussing The Trial with an audience is now available in full on YouTube. The London clips were intended for US TV, part of an unfinished special entitled Orson’s Bag. These were filmed in the late 60s, and the song-and-dance sequence is probably the strangest thing he directed. I’m more taken with the Tailors sketch which has Jonathan Lynn and the wonderful Charles Gray as a pair of disrespectful outfitters.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Immortal Story, a film by Orson Welles
Welles at 100
The Fountain of Youth
The Complete Citizen Kane
Return to Glennascaul, a film by Hilton Edwards
Screening Kafka
The Panic Broadcast