Welles is certainly enjoying a boom; soon after the first volume of Simon Callow's Orson Welles (Forecasts, Nov. 20, 1995) comes this study by the author of The Life of David O. Selznick and A Biographical Dictionary of Film. Thomson does not pretend to have done vast scholarship or delved extensively into original sources. As a boy in England, he says, he fell under Welles's spell, and his book is a sort of vast, almost novelistic examination of the showman's rich and ultimately deeply frustrating life; it is an attempt to come to terms with the fascination Welles continues to exert, although it is generally agreed that his last 40 years were an anticlimax. Determined to be compulsively readable, Thomson indulges in highly tendentious asides, interrupts himself with questions he imagines his publisher asking and works in chunks of scenes from Welles's movies and snippets from the interviews the star tirelessly gave all his life. The result is a vivid patchwork, a swift, impressionistic take on Welles that is also an often moving tribute to his oblique mix of genius and charlatanism. Not by any means the only book on Welles to read, but a stimulating and diverting one, with some unusual judgments: that his Macbeth, for instance, is better than his Othello, and that the late F for Fake is a neglected masterwork. Illustrated. 50,000 first printing. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996 Release date: 05/01/1996 Genre: Nonfiction
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