IU celebrates Orson Welles centennial with exhibition, films and symposium

Lilly Library show of one-of-a-kind items opens Jan. 20; cinema events begin in April

  • Jan. 16, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Whether you already regard Orson Welles as a creative genius or have yet to discover his work, Indiana University has something special to share with you in 2015.

"100 Years of Orson Welles: Master of Stage, Sound and Screen" will open Jan. 20 at the Lilly Library. The exhibition is part of "Orson Welles: A Centennial Celebration and Symposium," a series of anniversary events that culminate with a public film series and a scholarly gathering in the spring.

More than 150 illustrative, rare and one-of-a-kind items have been selected from IU's holdings of 20,000 pieces related to Welles. These items were drawn from a dozen different collections housed at the Lilly Library, including the Orson Welles Manuscripts and the papers of director Peter Bogdanovich, whose extensive interviews formed the book "This Is Orson Welles."

Welles was born in Kenosha, Wis., on May 6, 1915, to a creative family. His mother was a concert pianist, and his father worked as a manufacturer and inventor. The talents of the child prodigy were nurtured at the prestigious Todd School for Boys, where he began acting and directing. Welles dabbled in art and music before making his professional theater debut in Dublin and turning to Broadway and founding the Mercury Theatre with John Houseman.

The exhibition tells the Welles story through photographs, scripts, letters, sketches and personal ephemera, such as his birth certificate and a report card.

His radio plays, the film "Citizen Kane" and the stage production of the so-called Voodoo "Macbeth" are illustrated through annotated script pages. Other highlights include Mercury Theatre materials; letters from listeners to his historic "War of the Worlds" broadcast; items on his recently rediscovered film "Too Much Johnson"; and photographs and transcripts that document the original ending from his lost cut of the film "The Magnificent Ambersons." Welles' unreleased, unfinished or unmade films are also represented, including "Heart of Darkness," "The Little Prince" and "The Other Side of the Wind."

Exhibition curator Craig Simpson described Welles in a single word: changeable. "He never did the same thing twice. He was constantly evolving his craft and his art.

"People often complain, 'Well, he never made another 'Citizen Kane.' Well, he never wanted to make another 'Citizen Kane.' He made many different great films and all kinds of different works of theater and radio. He was constantly challenging himself and evolving."

Simpson will present the lecture "100 Years of Orson Welles" at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 12 in the Lincoln Room of the Lilly Library. An opening reception will follow. Both events are free and open to the public.

The exhibition runs through May 20 and can be viewed at the Lilly Library during its regular hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The library will close at 5 p.m. March 16-20 and May 11. 

Film series and symposium

The anniversary celebration continues with "Orson Welles: A Centennial Celebration and Symposium." The film series will present a broad range of his artistry, including classics such as "Citizen Kane" and "Touch of Evil"; rare and underappreciated works; unreleased materials; and the recently rediscovered lost film "Too Much Johnson." Director Chuck Workman also will attend a screening of his documentary "Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles."

In addition, scholars and other serious Welles enthusiasts may now sign up for a symposium, which runs April 29 to May 3. Tickets to each cinema screening are included, along with topical discussions, private tours and other programming. A symposium schedule, registration and travel information are available at the IU Cinema website.

Many distinguished Welles scholars, including Jonathan Rosenbaum, Joseph McBride and Indiana University Chancellor's Professor Emeritus James Naremore, are slated to participate in the symposium. Patrick McGilligan will discuss his upcoming biography, "Young Orson," and a panel of experts will discuss Welles' incomplete last film, "The Other Side of the Wind."

"Today Welles is widely regarded by film lovers as one of the two or three greatest motion-picture directors America has ever produced, but he was truly a man of all media, a figure appropriate for celebration by The Media School," Naremore said.

Film schedule

All of these film screenings and special events at IU Cinema are open to the public:

  • 7 p.m. April 28, "Chimes at Midnight" -- Welles directed this underappreciated and rarely seen 1965 film in which he also starred as Falstaff. He began work on this loose mixture of Shakespeare's history plays as a student, later adapting his dream project for stage and film decades later. The film, which has one of the best battles scenes in movie history, remained one of his personal favorites. A new digital restoration will be shown.
  • 7 p.m. April 29, "The Magnificent Ambersons" --  In a 1942 adaptation of a Booth Tarkington tale, debonair Eugene Morgan has fallen for Isabel, a society girl from Indianapolis. RKO studio executives controversially reshot the ending and cut 40 minutes from the Welles version. Notes and photographs documenting the lost footage are included in the Lilly Library exhibition.
  • 2 p.m. April 30, "Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles" -- An enigmatic life and career is examined in this 2014 documentary by Chuck Workman. The director will introduce and discuss his film.
  • 7 p.m. April 30, "The Immortal Story" and "F Is for Fake" -- In the first film of a double feature, Welles plays a 19th-century merchant who tries to act out the story of a sailor paid to sleep with the young wife of a wealthy man. The 55-minute piece will be followed by his last major film, in which he conjures himself as a magician who can’t be trusted.
  • 3 p.m. May 1, "Too Much Johnson" -- Made in the style of a silent-era comedy, the movie was meant to accompany Welles' 1938 theatrical staging of a farce with the same name. Due to the theater's limitations, the film was not shown. It was feared lost until a print recently turned up in Italy. A representative from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation/George Eastman House will provide live commentary.
  • 8 p.m. May 1, "Special Presentation" --  This surprise event is billed as a lecture, shorts program and sneak preview not to be missed. Closer to the event, more details will be published online.
  • 3 p.m. May 2, "Unreleased and Rare Welles Footage" -- The montage of fugitive works will include "Hearts of Age," "The Fountain of Youth" and other clips from television, recorded stage work and unfinished films.
  • 7 p.m. May 2, "Touch of Evil" -- Welles wrote, directed and starred in his most lurid and surreal film, playing a bad cop in a border town. Marlene Dietrich, Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh appear, among others, in this 1958 release.
  • 9:30 p.m. May 2, "The Trial" -- Welles directed this darkly comic Kafka tale, with Anthony Perkins starring as a criminal lost in the madness of bureaucracy as he awaits his day in court.
  • 3 p.m. May 3, "Macbeth" -- Welles reimagined the Scottish play and starred as its title character in this expressionistic, low-budget adaptation from 1948.
  • 6:30 p.m. May 3, "Confidential Report/Mr. Arkadin" -- In 1955, the filmmaker demonstrated equal parts charm and menace as Mr. Arkadin. Like "Citizen Kane," this film uses the plot device of one man investigating the life of another.
  • 6:30 p.m. May 6, "Citizen Kane" -- 100 years to the day since Welles was born, IU Cinema will present a new 4K restoration of what is often cited as the greatest film ever made. The life story of a fictional publishing mogul based on William Randolph Hearst is retold through flashbacks. Remarkably, the 1941 film was Welles' Hollywood debut.

Individual tickets for screenings will be sold for $3 each beginning Monday, March 2, when tickets for other April events become available. Tickets for IU Cinema films can be purchased at the IU Auditorium box office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; at the cinema one hour before any screening; or by phone at 812-855-1103 for a $10 service fee per order.

"Orson Welles: A Centennial Celebration and Symposium" is sponsored by The Media School, Lilly Library, IU Libraries Moving Picture Archive and IU Cinema. The series also is supported by the College Arts and Humanities Institute; Black Film Center/Archive; Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President; Department of Spanish and Portuguese; and Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.

Orson Welles

Orson Welles / Courtesy of Lilly Library

Print-Quality Photo

A case is installed for the exhibition "100 Years of Orson Welles: Master of Stage, Sound and Screen."

A case is installed for the exhibition "100 Years of Orson Welles: Master of Stage, Sound and Screen." | Photo by Chaz Mottinger

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Becky Wood

director of communications at Indiana University Libraries

  • "100 Years of Orson Welles: Master of Stage, Sound and Screen"
  • Office 812-856-4817
  • rewood@indiana.edu

Jon Vickers

director of IU Cinema

  • "Orson Welles: A Centennial Celebration & Symposium"
  • Office 812-855-7632
  • jwvicker@indiana.edu

Karen Land

arts specialist at IU Communications