Around the World with Orson Welles

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Around the World
with Orson Welles
Around-the-World-with-OW-1955.jpg
Directed by Orson Welles
Produced by Louis Dolivet
Written by Orson Welles
Starring Orson Welles
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Release date
  • 1955 (1955)
Running time 26 minutes
No. of episodes 6 (7th episode unfinished)

Around the World with Orson Welles is a series of six short travelogues originally written and directed by Orson Welles for Associated-Rediffusion in 1955, for Britain's then-new ITV channel. Despite its title emphasizing the world, it was entirely filmed in Europe. Among the more notable episodes, Welles visited Jean Cocteau and Juliette Gréco in Paris, attended a bullfight in Madrid (with co-hosts Kenneth Tynan and Elaine Dundy) and visited the Basque Country.

Production[edit]

In March 1955, Associated-Rediffusion had originally commissioned a series of 26 half-hour programmes, but in the end, only 6 were broadcast, and even then, in rather troubled circumstances. Before a contract had even been signed, Welles had rapidly shot a pilot episodes himself (the third episode broadcast, "Revisiting Vienna") using loaned money and on the basis of an informal agreement. As Welles had made an agreement with producer Louis Dolivet in 1953 to work exclusively for him (beginning with their troubled film production Mr. Arkadin), Dolivet was brought on board as the series producer.[1]:198

The filming schedule was ambitious. Once the contract was signed, Welles was expected to make a further 25 episodes in 25 weeks spread out over nine months, with the first broadcast scheduled for September 1955. However, Welles's other commitments interfered with his ability to meet deadlines, and much of the series was left incomplete. Welles spent much of 1955 working on writing, directing and acting in his London stage production Moby Dick—Rehearsed, and after that flopped on the West End, he switched to shooting an (aborted) film adaptation of the play, first in London, and then in Rome - filming Moby Dick—Rehearsed in Rome was under the pretext of working on the Around the World with Orson Welles TV series.[1]:198

Although Associated-Rediffusion retained a number of rights, including approval of episode synopses, script approval, music approval, and viewing rights for the rushes and final cut, film scholars Jean-Pierre Berthomé and Francois Thomas argue that Welles remained in control much of the time, due to the fragmentary, piecemeal way in which much of the footage was shot, with the writer/director/presenter being the only person who could piece it all together. For instance, Welles shot most of his interviews with only one camera, focussed on the interviewee, and all of the reverse shots of him asking questions had to be shot later in a studio. Frequently, Welles's entire episodes would be heavily studio-dependent; his entire participation in an episode on bullfighting consisted of filming himself entering and sitting down at a bullfight, then filming the bullfight; and the reconstructing part of the audience seats in a studio, so he could record his bullfight commentary months after having watched it.[1]:200

The first episode missed its initial broadcast deadline, and it was still not finished when it went out the following month - Welles had to provide the voiceover himself, live from Rome, when it was broadcast in the UK. The second episode was missing a voiceover in several sections. The third and fifth episodes, were the most complete.[1]:202

Welles had effectively abandoned the production to move back to the USA at the end of 1955, so the fourth and sixth episodes were particularly badly hit. Episode four, on the Paris district of St.-Germain-des-Prés, had to be padded out with stock footage from other documentaries. Episode six had only half the necessary footage, so it was padded out by having two friends of Welles's, Kenneth Tynan and Elaine Dundy (who had been present at the same bullfight he recorded), become guest hosts for the first half of the episode, until the existing footage of Welles could be used. The seventh episode was not originally completed or broadcast.[1]:202

Episodes[edit]

  1. "Pays Basque I (The Basque Countries)", first broadcast 7 October 1955
  2. "Pays Basque II (La Pelote basque)", first broadcast 21 October 1955
  3. "Revisiting Vienna" (also known as "The Third Man Returns to Vienna"), first broadcast 4 November 1955
  4. "St.-Germain-des-Prés", first broadcast 18 November 1955
  5. "Chelsea Pensioners", first broadcast 2 December 1955
  6. "Madrid Bullfight", first broadcast 16 December 1955

Rediscovered episode[edit]

For many years, it was believed that the third episode broadcast, "Revisiting Vienna",[2] was lost. (The episode is also known as "The Third Man Returns to Vienna";[3] Welles starred in The Third Man in 1949.) In June 2011, the episode was found in the archives at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in Madison, Wisconsin, completing the series.[4][5]

Posthumously completed episode[edit]

Orson Welles also worked on a seventh episode entitled "The Tragedy of Lurs", which was left incomplete. It was a documentary based on the controversial Dominici murder case in France, and contained interviews with many of the principals shortly after the trial. Production on this episode was halted, but in 2000, French filmmaker Christophe Cognet gathered together all of Welles's footage to complete the 27-minute episode, integrating it into a 52-minute documentary on the making of the film. Titled The Dominici Affair by Orson Welles, the documentary was released in France on VHS and DVD. Cognet's documentary offers one possible explanation for the episode's lack of completion, citing pressure from the French government.[6]

Home video release[edit]

A set of the five known surviving episodes has been released on DVD, and The Dominici Affair was separately released on both VHS and DVD, but Third Man Returns to Vienna has not yet enjoyed a home release since its rediscovery.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Jean-Pierre Berthomé and Francois Thomas, Orson Welles at Work. London: Phaidon, 2008. ISBN 9780714845838
  2. ^ "Revisiting Vienna" at the British Film Institute
  3. ^ Around the World with Orson Welles, "The Third Man Returns to Vienna" at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Ray Langstone, "Two AR TV confirmed finds - 50's". Missing Episodes.com, June 23, 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-10.
  5. ^ Round the World with Orson Welles [sic] at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2013-08-10.
  6. ^ The Dominici Affair by Orson Welles – a documentary film by Christophe Cognet

External links[edit]