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Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in the film Citizen Kane, among others, which remains one of the most influential films ever made.
Watch a short video about Orson Welles and how he spooked America with his radio rendition of the "War of the Worlds" in 1938.
On October 30, 1938, a young Orson Welles performed a radio version of "The War of the Worlds" presented as a news bulletin.
Full trailer for the documentary film "Citizen Hearst" about William Randolph Hearst and the Hearst media empire.
Watch a short video about Steven Spielberg and uncover the ways that this director used his street smarts to learn the fundamentals of film making.
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Even while drawing the ire of some of his listeners, the broadcast cemented Welles' status as a genius, and his talents quickly became a fascination for Hollywood. In 1940 Welles signed a $225,000 contract with RKO to write, direct and product two films. The deal gave the young filmmaker total creative control, as well as a percentage of the profits,
and at the time was the most lucrative deal ever made with an unproven filmmaker. Welles was just 24 years old.
Success wasn't immediate. Welles started and then stopped an attempt at adapting Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness for the big screen. The daring behind that project paled in comparison to what became Welles' actual debut film: Citizen Kane (1941).
Modeled after the life and work of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, the film told the story of newspaperman Charles Foster Kane (played by Welles), tracing his rise to power and his eventual corruption from that power.
The film outraged Hearst, who refused to allow mention of the movie in any of his newspapers, and helped drive down the film's disappointing box-office numbers. But Citizen Kane was as revolutionary as it was revolutionary and earned Welles a 1941 Oscar for best screenplay.
In the film, which was nominated for a total of nine Academy Awards, Welles deployed a number of pioneering filmmaking techniques, including the use of deep-focus cinematography, which presented all objects in a shot in sharp detail. Welles also anchored the film's look with low-angle shots and told its story with multiple points of view.
It was only a matter of time before the genius of Citizen Kane would be lauded. It's now considered one of the greatest films ever made.
Welles' second film for RKO, The Magnificent Ambersons, was a far more straightforward project and one that helped send Welles running from Hollywood. Toward the end of its filming, Welles made a quick trip to Rio de Janeiro to do a documentary. When he returned he discovered that RKO had made its own edit of the film's ending.
Welles, who disowned the movie, raged. A bitter public relations spat between the filmmaker and RKO ensued, and Welles, successfully cast by RKO as difficult to work with and with no appreciation for budgets, never truly recovered.
For several years Welles stuck around Hollywood. He married "love goddess" Rita Hayworth in 1943, then directed The Stranger (1946) and Macbeth (1948). But Welles wasn't long for California. The same year he made Macbeth, he divorced Hayworth and began what amounted to a 10-year self-imposed exile from Hollywood.
He later appeared onscreen in films like The Third Man (1949), and directed other projects, including Othello (1952) and Mr. Arkadin (1955). He returned to Hollywood in 1958 to direct Touch of Evil, which registered low box-office numbers, and took a further hit with an adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial (1962).
Hard times plagued Welles throughout much of the 1970s.
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In the 1940s and 1950s, the United States was in the grips of a "red scare." Many prominent individuals suspected of sympathizing with liberal or humanitarian causes were branded a communist threat, and even accused of espionage. Hollywood was a major focus of the accusations, and after 10 actors refused to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the blacklist was created. Hundreds of actors, actresses, directors, screenwriters and other entertainment professionals were barred from working. Here are some of the famous people who were on the Hollywood blacklist.
Blacklisted 25 people in this group
Actors Turned Directors 56 people in this group
Best Screenplay Oscar Winners 34 people in this group