Orson Welles' Sketch Book
6 May 2015
To mark the centenary of Orson Welles' birth, BBC Arts has gathered together The Orson Welles Sketch Book: a series of six storytelling films made for BBC Television in 1955. Writing in The Guardian in 2009, Ben Walters observed that "the one-to-one timbre of the programme comes off like a monochrome forebear of Skype or YouTube."
The Early Days
Welles discusses a timely earthquake, first-night audiences at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, and how he came to be an actor.
Welles talks about a Boston performance of Five Kings, his collage of Shakespeare's history plays, the consequences of Percy Hammond's negative review of "Voodoo Macbeth", the Haiti-set Macbeth with an all-black cast directed by a 20-year-old Welles, and a curse placed on the film It's All True.
Welles relates the story of Isaac Woodward, a decorated Second World War veteran. Woodward, who was black, was blinded after a brutal beating by South Carolina police shortly after returning to the United States in 1946. Welles supported the campaign around Woodward's case on his radio show throughout 1946. Here he meditates on the role of the police in a free society.
People I Miss
Welles remembers Harry Houdini, under whom he studied magic and who at a command performance caused the bells of the Kremlin to ring; and American actor John Barrymore.
The War of the Worlds
The famous 1938 Mercury Theatre broadcast of HG Wells' The War of the Worlds, mistaken by many listeners for a real Martian invasion; Welles discusses the incredible impact of the broadcast, which he intended partly as a commentary on the truthfulness and credibility of the 'magic box'.
Welles tells the true story of Bonito the bull. Welles partially filmed Robert Flaherty's story in 1942 for the unfinished film, It's All True.