Film Directors with their Trousers Off #1

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Orson Welles in THREE CASES OF MURDER.

Lord Mountdrago has a nightmare, one many would recognise. Welles is really good in his segment of this anthology film, as a Tory MP persecuted by a rival (Alan Badel, very Welsh) in his dreams. Orson even steps outside his usual comfort zone of dramatic pauses and voice-going-up-at-the-end, as when he resolves to murder his enemy in dreamland, certain that this will eradicate him in life also. Mountdrago’s psychiatrist (the reliable AndrĂ© Morell) asks what will happen if, nevertheless, next time Lord M is in the House, his opponent is still sitting opposite. “He won’t be,” whispers Welles, in a strange, demented, coquettish manner, sly and full of interior bubbles, rather like Audrey Hepburn’s last line in this scene from her screen test.

George More O’Ferrall (THE HEART OF THE MATTER) directed this episode, the last in the film, in an efficient manner, occasionally showing touches of the required imagination.

David Eady’s middle section is interesting only for showing up the inadequacy of John Gregson in any role that requires a bit of neurosis or passion (Gregson seems kind of like a better-looking Kenneth More, the blokey bulking agent of 50s British doldrums-era film). But the first episode, directed by the fascinating Wendy Toye, is worth a whole piece in itself, which I shall now go write.

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10 Responses to “Film Directors with their Trousers Off #1”

  1. Arthur S. Says:

    Welles is priceless in this scene.

    I’d like to see the whole scene if it’s available somewhere in YouTube.

    Welles is usually so prudish in his own films always covering his characters in suits and capes or jackets.

  2. That’s an interesting point, Arthur. Welles, for most of his career, was in the practice of displaying beautiful and/or fascinating women — but not really dealing with sex. Marlene Dietrich was crazy about him. And he was crazy about her (who wasn’t?) and went into ecstacies over Dolores Del Rio. But on film Welles doesn’t really get to sex until F For Fake where he puts Oja on display, and The Other Side of the Wind where he REALLY puts her on display.

    It seems that in his dotage Welles was deep into voyeurism.

    In this he joins Fellini and Ferrari — two great auteurs of waning sexual prowess.

  3. On other sexual fronts that link about Gus interviewinf Zac Ephron was pretty funny. Gus would appear to be raiding High School Musical for casting. He put Lucas Gabreel (who plays a coded-gay character in the Disney series) into Milk as budding gay photographer Danny Nicoletta.
    Lucas is a lively guy. Zach strikes me as WAY too bland. But there’s no accounting for taste.

  4. One gets the impression that Welles was a considerable ladies’ man in his youth, but kept it off the screen. Chimes at Midnight deals with an impotent character who still has a need for women, and this may have had some resonance for him — sex must have been difficult as his weight got out of control, but he was obviously very physically in love with Kodar.

    Dietrich says that Welles was a chum, and only looked at her with desire when he saw her in her (hideous) black wig in Touch of Evil. He had no interest in blondes, I think, and was drawn to duskier women throughout his life.

    I suspect that Welles’ being the first to spot Lucille Ball’s comic talent may ben connected to him not seeing her as a prospective lover. Everyone else only cottoned to her gifts after she passed the engenue stage.

    I have uploaded a bit of 3 Cases onto Youtube, but I’m afraid it features not Welles, but that other great 20th century genius, Eammon Andrews.

  5. You’re quite right about Welles and Lucy. One of his proposed first feature films was a project called The Smiler with the Knife. He wanted her to star, but RKO (which thought of her only as a B-player) dissuaded him. So he made Citizen Kane instead. But his friendship with Lucy went on. He guest-starred as himself (performing his magic act with her as his assistant) on I Love Lucy and she produced his great unsold pilot The Fountain of Youth.

    It’s obvious that Welles appreciated Jeanne Moreau much as he did Dietrich.

  6. Here’s Orson sawing Marlene in half in Follow the Boys (Richard Thorpe, 1944)

    There is absolutely no question that he directed this sequence himself, though he gets no credit for it.

  7. Well even if he didn’t oversee camera placement, he’s in complete control of both performances. It’s fascinating seeing him in this joky mode. A lot of Wellesians are embarrassed by the comedy sketches in One Man Band, but I dig them — Welles is entitled to be silly once in a while.

  8. Arthur S. Says:

    Welles like his hero John Ford called Bogdanovich’s THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, “a dirty movie”. Pretty old-fashioned guy. F FOR FAKE obviously brought that out more.

  9. Christopher Says:

    lookie at Audrey!….id’nt she cyuuute? :o)….I BALLETIED FOR THE FBI!

  10. The Resistance is not QUITE the same as the FBI!

    Arthur, I’m confused. The Other Side of the Wind is a Welles movie, which Boggy is IN. Welles is responsible for its erotic content, as he is in F For Fake, and The Big Brass Ring was intended to have a powerful and explicit sex scene too — the script falls silent at this point, saying only that the action must be shown and cannot be written without becoming pronographic.

    Kodar said that Welles was shy, and that her influence brought out the erotic side more in his work, although also he’s responding to the changing times.

    Plus there his stint as editor on Gary Grover’s hardcore classic 3am, cutting what is rated by some as the best hardcore lesbian scene ever…

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