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Archive for September, 2009

Modern Day Myths: Creationism and Intelligent Design

 

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, through the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.

Albert Einstein (Nobel Prize Physicist and greatest scientist of the Twentieth Century, 1879-1955)

 

This Blog will address the issues of Creationism and (ID) Intelligent Design. The intellectual decline of Christianity didn’t begin recently with the nonsense of Creationism and Intelligent Design (ID).

 

According to George Marsden,

 

By the mid-twentieth century being evangelical and being a scholar were widely viewed as incompatible traits…Evangelical academia, if noticed at all, seemed from the prevailing humanist perspective the vestiges of a lost civilization. In 1950, however, persistent ideas of intellectual progress encouraged the view that traditional religious outlooks were declining irreversibly. Advanced scientific views were supposed to be replacing backward religions, superstitions, and prejudices throughout the world. The actual decline of evangelical academia during the past two generations lent credence to such hypotheses.[1]

 

Current Controversies

 

Today, there no longer exists an evangelical academia. Instead, all that exists since the Scopes Trial in 1925 was creationism, and its modern oxymoron counterpart, (ID) Intelligent Design.

 

Creation Science

 

Creation science is not science but pseudoscience. It is religious dogma masquerading as scientific theory. Creation science is put forth as being absolutely certain and unchanging. It assumes that the world must conform to its understanding of the bible. What is most revealing about creation scientist’s lack of any true scientific interest or merit, is the way they willingly and uncritically account for even the most preposterous of claims, if those claims seem to contradict traditional scientific facts about evolution. While science is continuously open to change, creation science is locked into the notion that once it has interpreted the bible to mean something, no evidence can be allowed to change that interpretation. Instead the evidence must be refuted.[2]

 

It is interesting that Ian G. Barbour, professor emeritus of physics and religion at Carleton College, has said

 

I believe creation science is a threat to both religious and scientific freedom. It is understandable that the search for certainty in a time of moral confusion and rapid cultural change has encouraged the growth of biblical literalism. Some of the same forces have contributed to the revival of Islamic Fundamentalism and the enforcement of orthodoxy in Iran and elsewhere. We can see the danger to science when proponents of ideological positions try to use the power of the local school board or the state to reshape science. The scientific community can never be completely autonomous or isolated from its social context, yet it must be protected from political pressures that would dictate scientific conclusions. Science teachers must be free to draw from this larger scientific community in their teaching.[3]

 

In Alabama, geology textbooks carry a warning that says that evolution is a “controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life’s origins should be considered as theory, not fact.”[4]

In Alabama, it seems, if you wake up to snow on the ground, but no one saw it snowing, then you may only propose a theory as to the origin of the snow. If God created the world when no one was present, would God’s acts be considered by creationists also to be just a theory because no one saw it?[5] Circuitous reasoning and lack of critical thinking skills runs rampant in creationist circles.

 

This kind of illogical reasoning and nonsense is the reason why creationists have failed to get their work published in real peer-review scientific journals. The work they present is rather inferior, is biased, and lacks any kind of scientific credibility. What creationists fail to admit is that, besides evolution theory being the most eminent theory (almost 150 years of data collection in support of it across a myriad of sciences), there are literally thousands upon thousands of scientific studies whose research findings and data point the way to a convergence of the evidence that supports the conclusion that [like it or not] modern man evolved from the great apes. Just consider the following statement as to how some line of the Great Apes eventually became us: The relationship between meat (rich in protein), stone and/or bone tools, significant increases in the size of the brain, along with bipedalism, made modern man (Homo sapiens) the sole survivor of Hominid evolution.

 

 

Intelligent Design

 

Intelligent Design (ID) is sometimes called neo-creationism.[6] It is the latest version of fundamentalist’s efforts to invade secular society through the school systems. ID refers to the theory that intelligent causes are responsible for the origin of the universe and of life in all its diversity. No where does one find in creationist literature an explanation of what it is that makes Intelligent Design, in fact, intelligent? What is it that makes intelligent, intelligent?

 

The eighteenth-century theologian William Paley made,

 

One of the most famous creationist arguments: Just as a watch is too complicated and too functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, he purposefully designed. It was Charles Darwin’s brilliant discovery that put the lie to these arguments. But only Richard Dawkins could have written this eloquent riposte to the creationists. Natural selection-the unconscious, automatic, blind, yet essentially nonrandom process that Darwin discovered-has no purpose in mind. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.[7]

 

Dawkins goes on to say,

 

Paley’s argument is made with passionate sincerity and is informed by the best biological scholarship of his day, but it is wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong. The analogy between the telescope and the eye, between watch and living organism, is false. All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way.[8]

 

While Paley once talked about a watchmaker, current anti-Darwinians like to talk about the eye and its complexity. Darwin’s critics like to say that the eye couldn’t possibly be the product of accidental mutations. Since the eye acts like a camera it must have been designed. The analogy, however falsely conceived, is if a camera must be designed by a designer, the eye must have been produced by an eye designer since both the camera and the eye are so complex.

 

Most biologists would point out that this is nonsense.

 

It’s easy to imagine how a random mutation might have produced a patch of light-sensitive cells that helped a primitive creature tell day from night. You can also imagine how another mutation might have bent this patch of cells into a concave shape that could detect the direction a light or shadow was coming from–helping creatures with the mutation stay clear of predators. Simple structures that enable an organism to do one thing–follow the light–can easily get co-opted for a different and more complex function, like sight. The fact that there is no fossil evidence of the interim steps cannot be taken as proof that a designer–intelligent or otherwise–deliberately skipped them.[9] 

 

 Advocates of ID maintain, despite not operationally defining any of its variables, that their theory is scientific and provides empirical proof for the existence of God. The word empirical means “based on observation or experience.” They believe that intelligent design is empirically detectable in nature and in living systems. Their line of reasoning is not unlike the ancients or early man who interpreted volcanoes, thunder, lightening, and earthquakes as caused by the gods.

 

ID supporters claim that intelligent design should be taught in science classroom because it is an alternative to the scientific theory of natural selection. It is fair to say that ID supporters are only rehashing creationist arguments and have not been correct in the assumptions they make about natural selection or evolutionary science.[10]

The subtleties of natural selection and evolution are overlooked by neo-creationists. The only way a theory can be displaced is by someone presenting a better explanation of the observed data i.e., a better explanation of the facts. This is what happened when Albert Einstein put to rest the explanations of Newtonian physics in the 20th Century. Paleoanthropologists, and other scientists are a lot closer, along with modern DNA scientists, in defining the path from the great apes to modern man.

 

Fundamentalist believers see the world in black and white; there are no shades of gray. They believe they know what truth is. All who do not see it their way are responsible for the world’s ills and therefore must be vilified and fought with every trick and tactic available.

 

The Totality of the Arguments

 

 According to Frazier,

 

Creationism and its latest spiffed-up manifestation, the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, have almost nothing to do with real science and real scientific controversies and everything to do with value-laden and belief-laden personal and religious politics. But their promoters use scientific language and pretend they are presenting politicians, school board members, and a media with alternative scientific views.[11]

 

 Those who buy into the kind of nonsense presented by these hucksters really show they just fell off the supernatural turnip truck.

Creationism is considered to be a metaphysical theory which claims that a supernatural being created the universe. All people demand proof of alien creatures and UFO’s, then why not the metaphysical assumption and exaggerated claims for some monotheistic God?

 It is also a pseudoscientific theory which claims that (a) the stories in Genesis are accurate accounts of the origin of the universe, life on earth, and (b) Genesis is incompatible with both the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution. Many consider, as do I, that the term “Creation Science” is an oxymoron since science is concerned only with naturalistic explanations of empirical phenomena, and does not concern itself with supernatural explanations or metaphysical phenomena.

Creation scientists claim that Genesis is the word of God and thus infallibly true. They also claim that Genesis contradicts the Big Bang Theory and the theory of evolution. Thus, the creationists assert that those theories are false and anyone who believes such theories is ignorant of the truth about the origins of the universe and life on earth.

 Once again they also claim that creationism is a scientific theory and should be taught in our science curriculum as a competitor to the theory of evolution. Despite the fact that nearly 100% of the scientific community considers evolution of species from other species to be a fact, the creation scientists proclaim that evolution is not a fact but just a theory, and that it is false. When scientists do disagree about evolution, they disagree as to how species evolved, not as to whether species evolved.

 

Real science is always open to revision. It’s all part of the scientific process. In the past when the scientific community has been wrong, it has been proved wrong by other real scientists, not by pseudo-scientists. Examples of this are when people believed that the earth was the center of the universe, then Galileo showed up, or when Edward Hubble discovered the universe wasn’t static, but was in fact expanding.

 

It is said that creationism is not a scientific alternative to natural selection any more than a stork theory is an alternative to sexual reproduction. Creationists try to debate evolution. But their efforts are about as useful as a debate over whether the earth is flat or round. Since creationists don’t collect or analyze data, or test theories or create hypotheses in the field, or in the laboratory, one may ask what gives them the right to call their field a science.

 

Regardless, the approach creation scientists take is to attack what they see at every opportunity to be the theory of evolution. Rather than point out or display the strengths of their own theory, they rely on trying to find and expose weaknesses in evolutionary theory. Most creation scientists actually have no interest in scientific facts or theories. Their interest is in defending the faith against what they see as attack on God’s Word. This author likens Creation Science and Intelligent Design (ID) to a popular parlor game, but with none of the knowledge, intellectual curiosity and challenge that the actual game offers. The parlor game is known as Trivial Pursuit.

 

 

In Defense of the Unknown

 

Most of the natural phenomena in the universe will someday be revealed by science. However, one must leave room for the possibility that the richness of the mystery of the universe, and even the mysteries of our planet, might not ever be revealed. The universe(s) in particular will therefore always be a source of awe, wonder, and respect as we stand apart from the unknown.

What we have some control over is the way we approach the unknown. That is, one can simply be philosophical, religious, or rational and scientific about it. And I will argue that the rational and scientific approach is the best road to take to knowledge and for addressing the unknown. But there is a philosophical component to this approach as well.   

When it comes to non-believers there are 1.1 billion worldwide. They are a sizable minority where the other 4.9 billion inhabitants of the world are concerned. An Agnostic may be defined as a person who believes that the existence of God, or a primal cause, can be neither proven nor unproven. The word agnostic comes from the Greek word meaning “unknown” or “unknowable.” Another term used to refer to one’s position on a God or a primal cause is Atheist.

 Atheists, as a group of non-believers, have certain disadvantages in the position they take. The first disadvantage is a verbal assertion about what is unknown, unknowable, supernatural, or invisible. That assertion is that something does not exist. Such an assertion is patently “unscientific.” By asserting that something does not exist one immediately clashes with what science has long held as a limitation. That is, it is impossible to prove a negative hypothesis. Science doesn’t work that way for what data would one collect (and data is the cornerstone of all science) in order to test one’s hypothesis that something does not exist. Put very simply–it is impossible to do that. Ironically, to make an assertion about non-existence of a God is strikingly similar to the person who lives by faith that God does exist.

Many people don’t realize it but the religious zealot and the atheist share a common perspective i.e., they are both trying to make a “leap of faith.” Measurement is what makes one different from the other.  The scientist can’t use his tools to collect data on the question of the non-existence of God because there is no data to collect. Creationists and ID supporters on the other hand are simply in the wrong business. They confuse a search for facts with a search for meaning.  They confuse mythos with logos.

But the burden of proof still lies with those who make claims of a supernatural nature, otherwise they are only assertions of belief unsubstantiated and without the benefit of actual proof for the claim(s) one is making.

It is interesting to note that the 20th Century’s greatest scientist Albert Einstein once said, “I didn’t arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind.” His imagination may have played a key role in his discoveries and insights. However, religious beliefs played no role as well in his discoveries or insights. Albert Einstein, you see, didn’t believe in a personal God. He was a Pantheist and felt awe toward the mystery of the universe. What people should feel is the beauty, awe and mystery of the universe, and take a Pantheist view of the world and universe and all the wonder in it. It is easy for the religious person to be confused and engage in the transcendental temptation with the belief that a God caused it in the same way that the ancients once believed hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanoes were the result of some invisible spirit.

The influence of science on religion is, despite the current culture wars, having a profound cultural impact that wasn’t there three hundred years ago. Today many theologians are reformulating traditional ideas of God and human nature, taking the findings of science into account while trying to be faithful to the central message of their religious heritage.

This is a difficult and troubling road to travel for many theologians. They need to pursue more sophisticated issues, namely how to help people in this lifetime achieve meaning in their lives. A slightly different take on religion comes from the late Professor Joseph Campbell. He often explained when discussing mythology, metaphor and religion, “we do not seek the meaning of life from religion, but rather a genuine and vital experience of being alive.”[12] After all mythos is what they’ve been trying to accomplish for thousands of years i.e., to give personal meaning to the experience of being alive. Why abandon that goal now just because the beliefs regarding a “sky God who judges you” and many other religious beliefs are being shattered by science?

A humanistic perspective on life coupled with a desire for social justice, along with a strong interest in helping mankind through direct action, can help people achieve the meaning in life they so desperately need. For the religious person Creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) concepts provide a road to nowhere. Whether transcendentalism is the next answer you seek in providing a meaningful life for yourself and others remains to be seen. It’s time to become an adult now, and abandon childish notions of supernatural fairy tales. What is the biggest fairytale of all time? It is that we are all ruled by a supernatural entity called God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] George Marsden, “The Collapse of American Evangelical Academia,” In Faith and Rationality,  eds. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983), 219

[2] “Creationism and Creation Science,” [online]; accessed 15 May 2005; available from http://skeptic.com/creation.html.

[3] Ian G. Barbour, When Science Meets Religion (New York: Harper San Francisco, 2000), 16

[4] Creationism and Creation Science

[5] Ibid.

[6] Massimo Pigliucci, “Design Yes, Intelligent No: A Critique of Intelligent-Design Theory and Neocreation,” In Science and Religion ed. Paul Kurtz  (New York: Prometheus Books, 2003), 99

[7] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, (New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996), back cover

[8] Ibid., 5

[9] Claudia Wallis, “Evolution Wars,” Time, 15 Aug. 2005, 30

[10] Creationism and Creation Science.

[11] Kendrick Frazier, “Creationism versus Evolution,” In  Science and Religion , (New York: Prometheus Books, 2003), 84

[12] Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth  New York: Anchor Books Division of Random House, Inc. 1991

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ORSON WELLES

SPECIAL TRIBUTE: A TOUCH OF GENIUS

 

 

Introduction

 

CONNECTIONS

    As a blogger, nothing gives me more pleasure than to write about people that I admire and have respect for. One who is at the very top of my list is the late Orson Welles. Orson Welles was an American film director, writer, actor and producer, narrator and magician who worked extensively in film, theatre, television, and radio. He was the very essense of the Renaissance man. In some strange ways there is a personal connection between Orson Welles and myself that may, in part, have been responsible for why he was at the top of my list of people I thought was deserving to be honored.

     One of my friends and former work colleague once commented to me that I reminded him of Orson Welles. At the time I didn’t know what to make of the comment. It was probably due to the fact that I often in the 1970s wore old fasioned double-breasted suits, or that over the years I had occasionally sported a beard and had gained a few extra pounds. Or, maybe because I had been an actor and director in community theatre, and had many other creative interests such as oil painting, composing a love song on the piano for my beloved wife, or had just started to write books and publish a lot.  In any event, I wasn’t offended by the comment; quite the opposite—I was honored to be thought of as a person like Orson, whatever the reason(s).

      At the request of a family member I was asked to think of any other connection I might have had to Orson Welles. Initially, I didn’t want to do this because it would perhaps sound too vain. But, on reflection, there were a couple of other reasons besides  respect I had for the man’s accomplishments, that readers might find interesting. One has to do with the famous H.G. Wells novel, War of the Worlds. The War of the World’s radio production took place in 1938, broadcast from CBS at the Mercury Theatre in New York.

      In 1966 I was living in Novato, after my military days, and there was this San Francisco radio station that was going to broadcast the original production in its entirety to listeners in the bay area. I recorded (on an old fashioned tape recorder) the entire program. To say the least (except for subtle clues) one would almost believe what one was hearing as real, the production was that good.  And it was apparent to me just how easily gullible people thought it was real in 1938. Lawsuits followed, one person had committed suicide thinking that aliens were actually taking over the world, and there were investigations conducted of Orson Welles and staff of the Mercury Theatre following this Holloween eve prank radio broadcast.

       The second reason I think readers might be interested in my connection with Welles, is that I played the drunken Miller in Canterbury Tales on stage in 1984 for Theatre El Dorado. Not only did I look like Orson, I sounded like him as well. This leads me to think that I identify with Welles, not only because of his accomplishments, but because of that voice, a dramatic voice like no other on the planet at the time he was alive. During the 1970s Orson did a television commercial (Paul Masson wines) where he said, “We will sell no wine before its time.” For awhile that became a household slogan. The success of the commercial was due in no small measure to Orson’s acting demeanor, and his great resonant voice.

      In my opinion, Orson Welle’s mind was always agile and creative. His projects were always a mental mile ahead of his competition in his ability to think outside the box (pardon the cliché) in unexpected ways. Aside from my personal identification with Orson Welles, I just admire any person (of any age or gender) who has talent in stage, screen, television, radio, or dramatic narration, and/or otherwise has the talent to do fine art oil painting, draw, write, play piano, sing, act, create ceramic art, or do magic.

      Now it’s time to take a journey through the life of one of the twentieth century’s greatest dramatic artists and noteworthy individuals—Orson Welles.

 The Creative Genius of Orson Welles

      Welles starred in troop variety spectacles in the war years. Noted for his innovative dramatic productions as well as his distinctive voice and personality, Welles is widely acknowledged as one of the most accomplished dramatic artists of the 20th century. His first two films with RKO: Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons are widely considered two of the greatest ever made. His other films, including Touch of Evil and Chimes at Midnight, are also considered masterpieces.

      He was also well-known for a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds which, performed in the style of a news broadcast, reportedly caused widespread panic when listeners thought that an actual extraterrestrial invasion was in progress.

     In 2002 he was voted as the greatest film director of all time in the British Film Institute’s poll of Top Ten Directors.

     It’s been almost 24 years since the death (October 10, 1985) of Orson Welles in Hollywood (Heart Attack). Orson was once asked by a reporter how did he get ahead in Hollywood. He responded by saying, “I first started at the top then worked my way downward.” And indeed, Orson Welles experienced a lot of ups-and-downs during his career. Yet, when I looked at his theatrical and cinematic resume it went on for pages and pages. His productivity as an artist was staggering.

      The stream of brilliance coming from Orson Welles during his short 70 years was also mind-boggling. And his personal experiences would cause people to observe that, despite being a creative genius, he was far from perfect in his relationships with people and experienced a good deal of tragedy in his life. The place to start in order to give the reader a sense of who this great man really was—is at the beginning.

 

 EARLY LIFE

     Welles was born May 6, 1915, in Kenosha,Wisconsin and was brought up a Roman Catholic. He had English ancestry.  His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, fine art oil painting) as a child. Despite his parents’ affluence, Welles encountered many hardships in childhood. In 1919, his parents separated and moved to Chicago, and his father became an alcoholic and stopped working.

     Welles’s mother died of jaundice on May 10, 1924, in a Chicago hospital, four days after Welles’s ninth birthday. After his mother’s death, Welles ceased pursuing his interest in music. After his mother’s death he traveled the world with his father. Richard Welles died when Orson was 15 – the summer after Orson’s graduation from Todd School for Boys, an independent school in Woodstock, Illinois – whereupon Maurice Bernstein, a Russian-born physician from Chicago, became his guardian.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF ORSON’S CAREER

      There is literally too much material to write about on the life of Orson Welles, including his diverse and highly creative success in radio, television and the movies. Personally, I think his private life and politics are as interesting as his career. Consequently, I’d like to describe some highlights from his career, his movie masterpieces, his personal life and his politics in order to give the reader a broader sense of who he was. I’ll describe his famous quotes and provide further reading for those interested in more detail on the life and career of Orson Welles.

    When Orson Welles graduated in 1931 from the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois; he turned down college offers in favor of a sketching tour of Ireland. He tried unsuccessfully to enter the London and Broadway stages, traveling some more in Morocco and Spain (where he fought in the bullring). Recommendations by Thornton Wilder and Alexander Woollcott got him into Katherine Cornell’s road company, with which he made his New York debut as Tybalt in 1934.

     The same year he married, directed his first short, and appeared on radio for the first time. He began working with John Houseman and formed the Mercury Theatre with him in 1937. In 1938 they produced “The Mercury Theatre on the Air”, famous for its broadcast version of “The War of the Worlds” (intended as a Halloween eve prank).

     His first film to be seen by the public was Citizen Kane (1941), a commercial failure losing RKO $150,000, but regarded by many as the best film ever made. Many of his next films were commercial failures and he exiled himself to Europe in 1948. In 1956 he directed Touch of Evil (1958); it failed in the U.S. but won a prize at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. In 1975, in spite of all his box-office failures, he received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1984 the Directors Guild of America awarded him its highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award.  His reputation as a film maker has climbed steadily ever since.

 

 FAMOUS WELLES MOVIE PLOTS [Summaries]

 CITIZEN KANE

     The newspaper baron Charles Foster Kane, one of the richest and most powerful men in America if not the world, dies. A newspaperman digs into his past seeking the meaning of his enigmatic last word: “Rosebud.” He finds evidence of a child torn away from his family to serve Mammon. Grown into manhood, Charles Foster Kane becomes a newspaperman to indulge his idealism. He marries the niece of the man who will become President of the United States, and gradually assumes more and more power while losing more and more of his soul. Kane’s money and power does not bring him happiness, as he has lost his youthful idealism, as has the America he is a symbol for. Written by Jon C. Hopwood

 THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS

      The young, handsome, but somewhat wild Eugene Morgan wants to marry Isabel Amberson, daughter of a rich upper-class family, but she instead marries dull and steady Wilbur Minafer. Their only child, George, grows up a spoiled brat. Years later, Eugene comes back, now a mature widower and a successful automobile maker. After Wilbur dies, Eugene again asks Isabel to marry him, and she is receptive. But George resents the attentions paid to his mother, and he and his whacko aunt Fanny manage to sabotage the romance. A series of disasters befall the Ambersons and George, and he gets his come-uppance in the end. Written by John Oswalt {jao@jao.com}

 TOUCH OF EVIL

      An automobile is blown up as it crosses the Mexican border into the United States. Mike Vargas, a high ranking Mexican narcotics official on honeymoon with his bride Susie is drawn into the investigation because a Mexican national has been accused of the crime. The figurative and physical presence of Hank Quinlan as the 330 pound sheriff looms all over. Quinlan is a fanatic where “justice” is concerned, even if obtaining it involves planting evidence. Quinlan’s reputation for law and order enables him to bend the law without question until Vargas confronts him. From that point on, it’s a battle of wits between the two that, with an accelerating pace, rushes to a climax. Written by filmfactsman

 CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT 

      The legendary Shakespearean character Sir John Falstaff, the notoriously drunken, obese, and yet charming companion of the young Henry V, steps up from supporting character in several plays to the central focus of Orson WellesChimes at Midnight, considered by many critics the best of the director’s acclaimed Shakespeare films. The script borrows scenes from several plays, but draws most heavily on the two parts of Henry IV, focusing on the shifting relationship between Falstaff and Prince Hal. Beginning as the prince’s companion in debauchery and idleness, the corpulent jokester finds himself falling out of favor as the prince comes to terms with the importance of his destiny as England’s future leader.

      While Falstaff’s ample wit is still much in evidence, the film places greater emphasis on the tragic character beneath all the joviality, with Welles perfectly embodying this mixture of spiritually youthful prankster and sad adult. While his towering performance naturally takes center stage, the other cast members are also superb. The film’s visual elements are also strong, with Welles’ attention to composition matching his sensitivity to character. There are technical imperfections due to the film’s extremely limited budget, including an inconsistent soundtrack, but they are unable to overshadow the film’s many achievements. – Judd Blaise, All Movie Guide 

 

PERSONAL LIFE

     In 1932, Welles fell in love with the Mexican actress Dolores del Rio. They lived a torrid romance between 1938 and 1942, though he was ten years her junior. They collaborated together in the movie Journey into Fear but the affair ended soon afterward.

     In 1934, Welles married actress and socialite, Virginia Nicholson. Welles married Rita Hayworth in 1943. The couple had been estranged during the making of The Lady from Shanghai. After five years, Rita filed for divorce, her reason to the press being, “I can’t take his genius any more.” During his last interview and only two hours from his death, Welles answered Merv Griffin’s lustful comment “But one of your wives-oh, I have envied you so many years for Rita Hayworth.” by calling her “one of the dearest and sweetest women that ever lived” and saying that he was “lucky enough to have been with her longer than any of the other men in her life.” Welles lived with Croatian-born actress Oja Kodar for the last twenty years of his life.

      Welles had three daughters: children’s author Christopher Welles, or Chris Welles Feder (born in 1937, with Virginia Nicholson), Rebecca Welles Manning (born in 1944, with Rita Hayworth) and Beatrice Welles (born circa November 1955, with Paola Mori).

      According to a 1941 physical exam taken when he was 26, Welles was 6 feet (180 cm) tall and weighed 218 pounds (99 kg). His eyes were brown. Other sources cite that he was 6 feet 4 inches (190 cm) tall. Welles suffered from a serious weight problem in later life that rendered him morbidly obese, at one point weighing nearly four hundred pounds (200 kg). His obesity was severe to the point that it restricted his ability to travel, aggravated other health conditions, including his asthma, and even required him to go on a diet in order to play Sir John Falstaff. Some have attributed his over-eating to depression over his marginalization by the Hollywood system.

      In April 1982, Merv Griffin interviewed Welles and asked about his religious beliefs. Welles replied, “I try to be a Christian, I don’t pray really, because I don’t want to bore God.” After the success of his 1941 film Citizen Kane, Welles announced that his next film would be about the life of Jesus Christ, and that he would play the lead role. However, Welles never got around to making the film. He narrated the Christian-documentary The Late, Great Planet Earth as well as the 1961 Biblical film about the life of Christ, King of Kings.

      Some of Welles’ claimed familial ties have not held up under scrutiny. Despite the persistent urban legend, promoted by Welles himself, he was not the great-grandson of Abraham Lincoln’s wartime Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. Perhaps the genesis of the myth dates to a 1970 interview on The Dick Cavett Show during which Welles remarks about his venerable great-grandfather Gideon Welles. Orson Welles’ father was Richard Head Welles, son of his paternal grandfather Richard Jones Welles; Gideon Welles had no son by that name. His sons were Hubert (1833-1862), John Arthur (1845-1883), Thomas G. (1846-1892), and Edgar Thaddeus Welles (1843-1914).

 

 THE POLITICS OF ORSON WELLES

       Welles was politically active from the beginning of his career. He remained a man of the left throughout his life, and always defined his political orientation as “progressive.” He was a strong supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, and often spoke out on radio in support of progressive politics. In particular, he was an early and outspoken critic of American racism and the practice of segregation. He campaigned heavily for Roosevelt in the 1944 election. For several years, he wrote a newspaper column on political issues and briefly toyed with running for office. In 1970, Welles narrated (but did not write) a satirical political record on the administration of President Richard Nixon entitled The Begatting of the President.

       In his 2006 book, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?, writer Joseph McBride made several controversial claims about Welles. Though Welles said otherwise during his lifetime, McBride claimed Welles left America in the late 1940s to escape McCarthyism and the blacklist. McBride also claimed, in spite of the sexual content of Welles’ contemporary work (F for Fake and the unfinished Other Side of the Wind), that Welles was extremely puritanical about sex based on his comment to Peter Bogdanovich that The Last Picture Show was “a dirty movie.”

       Welles once told Cahiers du Cinema about sex in film, “In my opinion, there are two things that can absolutely not be carried to the screen: the realistic presentation of the sexual act and praying to God.”

 

ORSON WELLES FAMOUS QUOTES

 A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.

A good artist should be isolated. If he isn’t isolated, something is wrong.

Ask not what you can do for your country.  Ask what’s for lunch.

At twenty-one, so many things appear solid, permanent, untenable.

Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.

Criminals are never very amusing. It’s because they’re failures. Those who make real money aren’t counted as criminals. This is a class distinction, not an ethical problem.

Did you ever stop to think why cops are always famous for being dumb? Simple. Because they don’t have to be anything else.

Ecstasy is not really part of the scene we can do on celluloid.

Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that’s printed about him.

Everybody denies I am a genius – but nobody ever called me one!

Fake is as old as the Eden tree.

Gluttony is not a secret vice.

Hollywood is the only industry, even taking in soup companies, which does not have laboratories for the purpose of experimentation.

I do not suppose I shall be remembered for anything. But I don’t think about my work in those terms. It is just as vulgar to work for the sake of posterity as to work for the sake of money.

I don’t pray because I don’t want to bore God.

I don’t say we all ought to misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could.

I feel I have to protect myself against things. So I’m pretty careful to lose most of them.

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.

I have a great love and respect for religion, great love and respect for atheism. What I hate is agnosticism, people who do not choose.

I have an unfortunate personality.

I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.

I passionately hate the idea of being with it; I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.

I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won’t contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That’s what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.

I’ve always found it very sanitary to be broke.

If there hadn’t been women we’d still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girlfriends.

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.

Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.

Movie directing is a perfect refuge for the mediocre.

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.

Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.

Nobody who takes on anything big and tough can afford to be modest.

Now I’m an old Christmas tree, the roots of which have died. They just come along and while the little needles fall off me replace them with medallions.

Now we sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations.

Only very intelligent people don’t wish they were in politics, and I’m dumb enough to want to be in there.

Personally, I don’t like a girlfriend to have a husband. If she’ll fool her husband, I figure she’ll fool me.

Popularity should be no scale for the election of politicians. If it would depend on popularity, Donald Duck and The Muppets would take seats in senate.

Race hate isn’t human nature; race hate is the abandonment of human nature.

The best thing commercially, which is the worst artistically, by and large, is the most successful.

The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.

The enemy of society is middle class and the enemy of life is middle age.

The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a flying trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it.

The laws and the stage, both are a form of exhibitionism.

They teach anything in universities today. You can major in mud pies.

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.

When you are down and out something always turns up – and it is usually the noses of your friends.

 

 FURTHER READING SOURCES

Bibliography

  • Anderegg, Michael: Orson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture, Columbia University Press, 1999
  • Bazin, Andre: Orson Welles, Harper and Row, 1978
  • Benamou, Catherine: It’s All True: Orson Welles’s Pan-American Odyssey, University of California Press, 2007 (forthcoming)
  • Beja, Morris, ed.: Perspectives on Orson Welles, G.K. Hall, 1995
  • Berg, Chuck and Erskine, Tom, ed.: The Encyclopedia of Orson Welles, Checkmark Books, 2003
  • Bessy, Maurice: Orson Welles: An investigation into his films and philosophy, Crown, 1971
  • Bogdanovich, Peter and Welles, Orson This Is Orson Welles, HarperPerennial 1992, ISBN 0-06-092439-X
  • Brady, Frank: Citizen Welles, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989
  • Callow, Simon: The Road to Xanadu. Jonathan Cape, 1995.
  • Callow, Simon: Hello Americans. Jonathan Cape, 2006.
  • Carringer, Robert: The Making of Citizen Kane, University of California Press, 1985
  • Carringer, Robert: The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction, University of California Press, 1993
  • Ciment, Michel: ‘Les Enfants Terrible’ in American Film, December 1984 (French)
  • Comito, Terry, ed.: Touch of Evil, Rutgers, 1985
  • Conrad, Peter: Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life, Faber and Faber, 2003
  • Cowie, Peter: The Cinema of Orson Welles, Da Capo Press, 1973.
  • Toni D’Angela (edited by), Nelle terre di Orson Welles, Alessandria, Edizioni Falsopiano 2004.
  • Davies, Anthony: Filming Shakespeare’s Plays, Cambridge University Press, 1988
  • Drazin, Charles: In Search of the Third Man, Limelight, 2000
  • Estrin, Mark: Orson Welles Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2002
  • France, Richard, ed.: Orson Welles on Shakespeare, Routledge, 2001
  • France, Richard: “The Theatre of Orson Welles”, Bucknell University Press, 1977
  • Garis, Robert: “The Films of Orson Welles”, Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Gottesman, Ronald, ed.: Focus on Citizen Kane, Prentice Hall, 1971
  • Gottesman, Ronald, ed.: Focus on Orson Welles, Prentice Hall, 1976
  • Greene, Graham: The Third Man, Faber and Faber, 1991
  • Heyer, Paul: The Medium and the Magician: Orson Welles, The Radio Years, Rowman and Littlefield, 2005
  • Heylin, Clinton. Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios, Chicago Review Press, 2005.
  • Higham, Charles: The Films of Orson Welles, University of California Press, 1970
  • Higham, Charles: “Orson Welles: The Rise and Fall of an American Genius”, St. Martin’s Press, 1985
  • Howard, James: “The Complete Films of Orson Welles”, Citadel Press, 1991
  • Ishaghpour, Youssef: Orson Welles, cinéaste, une caméra visible, éditions de la différence, 2001 (in French)
  • Jorgens, Jack J.: Shakespeare on Film, Indiana University Press, 1977
  • Leaming, Barbara: Orson Welles, Viking, 1985
  • Lyons, Bridget Gellert, ed.: Chimes at Midnight, Rutgers, 1988
  • Mac Liammóir, Micháel. Put Money in Thy Purse: The Filming of Orson Welles’s Othello, Virgin, 1994
  • McBride, Joseph: Orson Welles, Harcourt Brace, 1977
  • McBride, Joseph: Orson Welles, Da Capo Press, 1996.
  • McBride, Joseph: Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?, 2006
  • Mulvey, Laura: Citizen Kane, BFI, 1992
  • Naremore, James. The Magic World of Orson Welles, Southern Methodist University Press, 1989.
  • Naremore, James, ed.: Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane: A Casebook, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Noble, Peter: The Fabulous Orson Welles, Hutchinson and Co., 1956
  • Perkins, V.F.: The Magnificent Ambersons, BFI, 1999
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan: ‘Orson Welles’s Essay Films and Documentary Fictions’, in “Placing Movies”, University of California Press, 1995
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan: ‘The Battle Over Orson Welles’, in Essential Cinema, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan: ‘Orson Welles as Ideological Challenge’ in Movie Wars, A Capella Books, 2000
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan: Discovering Orson Welles, University of California Press, 2007
  • Shakespeare Bulletin, Volume 23, Number 1, Spring 2005: Special Welles issue.
  • Simon, William G., ed.: Persistence of Vision: The Journal of the Film Faculty of the City University of New York, Number 7, 1988: Special Welles issue
  • Simonson, Robert. “Orson’s Shadow Talkback Series Continues May 4 with Welles’s Daughter.” 3 May 2005
  • Taylor, John Russell: Orson Welles: A Celebration, Pavilion, 1986
  • Taylor, John Russell: Orson Welles, Pavilion, 1998
  • Walsh, John Evangelist: Walking Shadows: Orson Welles, William Randolph Hearst and Citizen Kane, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004
  • Walters, Ben: Welles, London: Haus Publishing, 2004 (Paperback: ISBN 978-1-904341-80-2).
  • Welles, Orson: Les Bravades, Workman, 1996
  • Welles, Orson and Bogdanovich, Peter: This is Orson Welles, Da Capo Press, 1998.
  • Welles, Orson: Mr. Arkadin, Harper Collins, 2006
  • Welles, Orson: The Big Brass Ring, Black Spring Press, 1991
  • Welles, Orson: The Cradle Will Rock, Santa Teresa Press, 1994
  • Welles, Orson: “The Other Side of the Wind”, Cahiers du cinéma/ Festival International du Film de Locarno, 2005
  • White, Rob: The Third Man, BFI, 2003
  • Wood, Bret: Orson Welles: A Bio-Bibliography, Greenwood blue, 1990

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