Early film by Orson Welles is rediscovered

tags: NYT, Hollywood, Orson Welles, Citizen Kane



In 1941, Orson Welles made his debut as a feature film director with “Citizen Kane,” a fact well known to everyone who has ever taken Film 101.

Less well known is that “Kane” wasn’t Welles’s debut as a filmmaker. That distinction belongs to “Hearts of Age,” an eight-minute parody of an avant-garde allegory that Welles, as the world’s most precocious teenager, codirected with a friend, William Vance, at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Ill. Amazingly, that 1934 effort, in which Welles wears old-age makeup that anticipates the elderly Kane, has survived, and can even be seen on YouTube.

But neither was “Kane” Welles’s first professional encounter with the cinema. That happened three years before his Hollywood debut, in the form of about 40 minutes of footage intended to be shown with “Too Much Johnson,” a revival of an 1894 farce that Welles intended to bring to Broadway for the 1938 season of his Mercury Theater.

The cast of “Too Much Johnson” included several members of his Mercury troupe: Joseph Cotten, Arlene Francis, Howard Smith, Edgar Barrier, Mary Wickes and Welles’s wife at the time, Virginia Nicholson, billed under her stage name, Anna Stafford. The music was composed by Paul Bowles (who later wrote “The Sheltering Sky”); legend has it that an aspiring comedian named Judith Tuvim, later Judy Holliday, was one of the extras....



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