Welles, Orson (1915–1985) By Miguel García-Mainar, Luis
Orson Welles was born on May 6, 1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to Richard Head Welles, a prosperous wagon manufacturer and inventor, and Beatrice Ives Welles, a gifted concert pianist. Noted for a deep resonant voice, imposing personality, and overflowing talent, he was an actor, director, writer, and producer in theater, radio, and film. Welles succeeded in innovating in all those fields but left his mark mostly on cinema with a series of stylistically original films. His Citizen Kane recounted the life of newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane, fashioned after media magnate William Randolph Hearst, from five different points of view. Made for RKO in 1941, it has been placed at the top of “Best Films” lists by critics and specialized magazines ever since. Citizen Kane was followed by The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), a story about declining family fortunes and the rise of the automobile that echoed his own life. Welles’s films were praised for their ingenious techniques—long takes and compositions in depth that reinforced realism and gave spectators the freedom to scan the scene in ways that classical editing did not allow, while also producing a stylized, unnatural cinema (Bazin 2005; 1991: 64–82; Naremore 1989: 35).