One Man Band (unfinished film)
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|One Man Band
aka Swinging London
aka Orson's Bag
|Directed by||Orson Welles|
|Written by||Orson Welles|
|Running time||29 min|
One Man Band, also known as London and Swinging London is an unfinished short film made by Orson Welles between 1968 and 1971. The film started life as a part of a 90-minute TV special for CBS, entitled Orson's Bag, consisting of Welles' 40-minute condensation of The Merchant of Venice, and assorted sketches around Europe. This was abandoned in 1969 when CBS withdrew their funding over Welles' long-running disputes with US authorities regarding his tax status, he continued to fashion the footage in his own style.
The film consists of five segments, all of them comic: Churchill, Swinging London, Four Clubmen, Stately Homes and Tailors.
The first segment is filmed entirely in silhouette. Welles plays Winston Churchill fielding press questions and then exchanging bon mots with Nancy Astor (Oja Kodar). Each line spoken by Churchill is a well-known witticism commonly attributed to him.
2. Swinging London
The longest segment of the film (9 mins) has a bowler-hatted reporter (Tim Brooke-Taylor) wandering through "Swinging London", searching for Carnaby Street with limited success. Most of the supporting roles are played by Welles in a variety of disguises: a British policeman, a Morris dancer, an old lady selling "dirty postcards", a Chinaman luring customers into a strip club, and the omnipresent one-man band. This segment is noteworthy for what reviewers have called its "Pythonesque" style - which is significant as it was filmed before Monty Python's Flying Circus first aired in October 1969. A shortened, not restored version of Swinging London appeared in the documentary Orson Welles: One-Man Band on the 2005 Criterion DVD of F for Fake.
3. Four Clubmen
Apart from Welles' introduction, the soundtrack has been lost for this segment. It is set in a London club in which Welles plays four different members, all under heavy make-up, plus a noisy waiter who drops things.
4. Stately Homes
This segment features Welles as a journalist wandering around the stately home of Lord Plumfield. Welles also plays the eccentric, penniless Lord Plumfield. Tim Brooke-Taylor has a cameo as Plumfield's son.
The bulk of filming was completed in 1968-9, although assorted linking narrations and inserts were filmed by Welles in 1971. The 1971 sequences are noticeable because Welles had grown a long beard by then, whereas he was clean-shaven in all the parts he played in 1968-9. The film was left unfinished in Welles' lifetime.
After Welles' death in 1985, all of his unfinished films were bequeathed to his long-term companion and mistress Oja Kodar, and she in turn donated many of them (including One Man Band) to the Munich Film Museum for preservation and restoration. In 1999 the Munich Film Museum then edited together the complete footage into a 29-minute cut, which has subsequently been screened at numerous film festivals.
The full restored footage has never been released on video or DVD, although an unrestored print is used in Vassili Slovic's 1995 documentary Orson Welles: the One Man Band, which includes the segments Churchill, Stately Homes and Tailors in their entirety, as well as clips from Four Clubmen and One Man Band.
The non-London sketch segments of Orson's Bag were edited by the Munich Film Museum into the 9 minute short Vienna.
- Orson Welles as Presenter / Winston Churchill / One-man band / Policeman / Morris dancer / Old lady / Chinaman / Four clubmen / Waiter / Journalist / Lord Plumfield / American tourist
- Tim Brooke-Taylor as Reporter / Young aristocrat
- Charles Gray as Tailor
- Jonathan Lynn as Tailor's Assistant
- Oja Kodar as Nancy Astor