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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

Orson Welles' Sketch Book: The Early Days

Welles discusses first-night audiences and how he came to be an actor.

Welles discusses a timely earthquake, first-night audiences at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, and how he came to be an actor.

Critics

The Orson Welles Sketch Book: Critics

Welles' 1939 collage of Shakespeare's history plays, Five Kings, and "Voodoo Macbeth".

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.

The Police

The Orson Welles Sketch Book: The Police

Welles meditates on the role of the police in a free society.

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

The Orson Welles Sketch Book: People I Miss

Welles remembers magician Harry Houdini and American actor John Barrymore.

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 Orson Welles Sketch Book: The War of the Worlds

The famous 1938 Mercury Theatre broadcast of HG Wells' 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'.

Bullfighting

The Orson Welles Sketch Book: Bullfighting

In the final episode, Welles tells the true story of Bonito the bull.

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.