Orson Welles, the supremely gifted progenitor of such motion pictures as Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Touch of Evil, The Lady From Shanghai, and Chimes at Midnight was a man of protean talent who broke new ground in whatever medium he chose to explore, as actor, director, writer, producer, and magician.

His New York stage productions of Macbeth, The Cradle Will Rock, Doctor Faustus, and Julius Caesar were landmarks in American Theatre, in the same way that his radio presentation of H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds both thrilled and terrified audiences in that medium.

Practically from the beginning of his career, however, Welles had difficulty raising the money required to realize his enormous vision. His critics deemed it a character flaw, this inability to attend to the "business" side of showmanship, yet viewed from the perspective time allows, it seems clear that Orson Welles simply had too many ideas. He grew impatient with the pace of contracts and guarantees, of paybacks, cash advances and gross versus net. There was always another project, another Brave New World to invent.

Ironically, Welles came to Hollywood, to raise money for an ambitious Mercury Theatre project back in New York, an amalgam of Shakespeare's plays called Five Kings. He stuck around Tinsel Town in the early 40's just long enough to deliver the unparalleled Citizen Kane and a version of The Magnificent Ambersons that the studio thought was too long, before he was off to South America to shoot a documentary.

What Orson Welles really needed in his kaleidoscopic life was a producer with the vision to match his own; a producer who could pony up a lot of money--say the price of one Pauly Shore film in mid-20th century dollars. Imagine what Orson Welles could have done with the budget for Dumb and Dumber when Harry Truman was in office. Sadly, Orson's Angel never appeared, and it was with his hat perpetually in his hand that Welles pursued his antagonistic muse.

It is well-known that he had numerous proposed, planned, in-progress, and/or aborted projects. It will no-doubt come as a surprise to the reader, however, to realize the magnitude of world-class loss that might have been avoided if somebody had just gotten off the dime.

Here are The Unseen Films of Orson Welles,
originally compiled for the WorldWideWelles website by JRJ:

  • The Hearts of Age (1936)
    Welles's first short film was rarely seen for over 50 years.
  • Too Much Johnson (1938)
    Footage was shot to incorporate into his stage play but was never used. It was supposedly destroyed in a fire in Spain in 1970.
  • The Green Goddess (1939)
    Footage was shot as a prologue to the stage play. It has been lost.
  • Heart of Darkness (1939)
    A screenplay was written, sets designed, and test footage shot. It never reached production.
  • The Pickwick Papers (1940)
    A film developed for W.C. Fields and John Barrymore.
  • Cortez (1940)
    A concept about the Spanish explorer and his relationship with the King of the Aztecs.
  • The Borgias and Their Time (1940)
    A developed film. .
  • Around the World in 80 Days (1940)
    A concept for a film that was later made by Mike Todd.
  • The Invasion from Mars(1940)
    A concept for a War Of The Worlds spin-off.
  • Santa (1940) The screenplay was written for Dolores Del Rio.
  • The Smiler With a Knife (1940)
    The screenplay was written. It never reached production.
  • Mexican Melodrama (1940)
    Completed screenplay. Never reached production.
  • The Ox-Bow Incident (1941)
    The only Western Welles considered making.
  • The Life of Christ (1941)
    A completed screenplay. Welles called it "The greatest drama ever written."
  • The Way to Santiago (1941)
    A completed screenplay. Never reached production.
  • It's All True (1941)
    It was comprised of :
    a) The Story Of Jazz (color tests shot; never reached production). b) Love Story (Screenplay to be revised; Never reached production).
    c) Bonito The Bull (Filming almost completed; Not fully edited).
    d) Carnival (Footage shot, roughly edited; Unfinished).
    e) The Story Of Samba ( Footage shot, roughly edited; Unfinished).
  • Jangadeiros aka Four Men and a Raft (1940's)
    A treatment was written. Footage was shot and has been roughly edited. The film remains unfinished.
  • Bolivar (1940's)
    A screenplay written for a short film.
  • Aristas in Uniform (1940's)
    A developed short film.
  • The Outer Gate (1940's)
    A developed short film.
  • Untitled "Charlies' American Bar" (1940's)
    A completed screenplay.
  • The Little Prince (1943)
    A completed screenplay for an animated film of the classic novella. It never reached production.
  • War and Peace (1943)
    A completed screenplay.
  • Don't Catch Me (1944)
    The rights were acquired. Welles never managed to see the idea.
  • The Landru Story (1944)
    An idea by Welles later used by Charlie Chaplin.
  • Salome (1946)
    A completed screenplay that never reached production.
  • The Master of Ballantrae (1946)
    It was developed but Welles was unable to acquire the rights.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (1946)
    The screenplay was written by Ben Hecht, but abandoned before production.
  • Carmen (1946)
    Developed. To star Paulette Goddard.
  • The Autobiography of Cellini (1940's)
  • Evidence (1947)
    Developed. Based on an Isaac Asimov story.
  • Around the World in 80 Days (1947)
    Again. Footage was shot to incorporate into the stage play.
  • Henry V (1947)
    A screenplay was written.
  • Enrico Caruso (1949)
  • Portrait of an Assassin (1949)
    Developed, but filmed by another director.
  • Julius Caesar (1949)
    A concept for a modern dress version.
  • The Odyssey and The Iliad (1949)
    Developed, with Welles in the role of Odysseus.
  • Ulysses (1949)
    A screenplay was written.
  • The Unthinking Lobster (1950)
    A concept for a film version of Welles's stage play. It was never realized.
  • The Miracle of St. Anne (1950)
    This was introductory footage shot for The Unthinking Lobster play.
  • Importance and Henry (1950)
    A vignette. Footage was shot but scrapped.
  • Caesar (1953)
    A screenplay was written for a modern dress version of Shakespeare's play to star Richard Burton.
  • Masquerade (1953)
    This screenplay later became Mr. Arkadin.
  • V.I.P aka Une Gross Legume (1953)
    A treatment was written.
  • Operation Cinderella (1953)
    A screenplay Welles called "The greatest screenplay I ever wrote."
  • Paris By Night (1953)
    Sketches and stories to be filmed.
  • Two by Two (1953)
    A screenplay of the Noah story.
  • Around the World With Orson Welles (1955)
    A series of 13 half hour programs for BBC TV. Never completed.
  • Moby Dick Rehearsed 1955)
    75 minutes shot for TV. Filming stopped.
  • Don Quixote (1955-65)
    I believe this film was completed. It was screened at the NuArt theatre in West Los Angeles in 2000.
  • The Orson Welles Sketchbook (1956)
    A rarely seen series of 6 programs for BBC TV.
  • Lonely Life (1957)
    A screenplay about sexual obsession.
  • The Sacred Beast (1950's)
    A concept for a bullfighting film.
  • Camille, the Naked Lady and the Musketeers (1956)
    An unsold 30 minute European TV pilot.
  • Portrait of Gina Lollabrigida (1958)
    An unsold European TV Documentary.
  • Orson Welles At Large (1958)
    One reel of 16mm film shot for ABC TV.
  • The Fountain of Youth (1958)
    An unsold 30 minute CBS TV pilot.
  • The Method (1961)
    Welles directed a documentary on the Actors Studio for BBC TV.
  • The Tempo Show (1961)
    He wrote and directed an episode on bullfighting for ABC TV.
  • Taras Bulba (1961)
    A completed screenplay.
  • Crime and Punishment (1963)
    He considered adapting the novel for many years.
  • King of Paris (1963)
    Considered adapting.
  • CATCH-22 (1963)
    He considered adapting and eventually acted in Mike Nichols' flawed version, filmed in Guaymas, Mexico in 1969.
  • Julius (1963)
    A concept for a modern dress version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for Italian TV).
  • King Lear (1963)
    (A concept.
  • Treasure Island (1963)
    A concept.
  • Fully Dressed and in His Right Mind (1960's)
    Developed. It never reached production.
  • Lord Jim (1964)
    A screenplay for Joseph Conrad's famous novel.
  • In the Land of Don Quixote (1964)
    A ten-episode series produced for European TV of which only five episodes were aired.
  • The Bible (1966)
    Welles wrote the Abraham episode. It wasn't used.
  • The Deep (1967-69)
    This film was shot, roughly edited, and unfinished. It remains unreleased.
  • Around the World with Orson Welles (1968)
    A series of CBS TV specials that never aired.
  • Italian TV Productions (1969)
    Welles directed numerous productions for Italian television.
  • Soldier, Soldier (1969)
    Welles wrote the script for this comedy.
  • Untitled Female Pirate Film (1969)
    Developed for Pearl Bailey and Jane Fonda.
  • No Flowers for a Duchess (1969)
    A screenplay.
  • Con Man (1969)
    A screenplay.
  • Because of the Cats (1969)
    A screenplay.
  • The Magic Show (1969-85)
    Footage was shot over the years with fellow magician Ab Dixon.
  • Midnight Plus One (1970)
    Developed for Jack Nicholson and Robert Mitchum.
  • The Merchant of Venice (1970)
    40 minutes of footage was shot. The film was stolen.
  • Orson's Bag (1970)
    80 minutes, three short films, part of a TV Special which included:
    a) The Tailor's Shop (with Charles Gray)
    b) Swinging London (Welles in many roles)
    c) Spying In Vienna
  • The Other Side of the Wind (1970-76)
    Filming and editing are complete. Distribution is held up by the Iranian government, which owns the rights.
  • Moby Dick (1971)
    30 minutes of 16mm footage shot.
  • Surinam (1971)
    Written as a starring vehicle for Ryan O'Neal.
  • Alexandre Dumas (1971)
  • Crazy Weather (1972)
    Screenplay written.
  • Saint Jack (1972)
    Developed. Later beautifully filmed by Welles's good friend, Peter Bogdanovich.
  • Sunset Boulevard (1974)
    Welles had a concept for a remake of the classic.
  • Untitled Film on the Life of Patty Hearst (1970's)
    A concept.
  • the Other Man (1977)
    A completed screenplay.
  • Dead Giveaway (1977)
    A completed screenplay.
  • The Assassin (1977)
    A screenplay about Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy.
  • Filming Othello (1978)
    A documentary shot by Gary Graver; 90 minutes, never commercially released.
  • The Old Chevalier (1978)
    To be shot on Betacam video. It never happened.
  • De Capo (1978)
    The screenplay was written and later became The Dreamers.
  • The Dreamers (1978-85)
    Footage was shot in Welles's backyard. It was never finished.
  • The Big Brass Ring (1981)
    With financing available, six stars turned it down and it never got to production.
  • The Cradle Will Rock (1984)
    A film adaptation of his famous theatre production. Financial backing fell through in the eleventh hour.
  • Tip on a Dead Jockey (1980's)
    Welles co-wrote this one and hoped to direct.
  • King Lear (1985)
    Another last-minute financing disappointment, alas. Can you imagine him in the title role?
  • Mercedes(1985)
    The last screenplay ever written by Orson Welles. Probably.

    This fascinating list was originally compiled on the WorldWideWelles website owned by JRJ.

    Two thoughts come to mind:

    Got a screenplay you want to get made? Good luck. You're not Orson Welles.

    Imagine how Orson would have loved Everything2,
    where everything is possible.

    On Hollywood and filmmaking:

    Below the Line

    sex drugs and divorce

    a little life, interrupted
    1. Hecho en Mejico
    2. Entrances
    3. Sam's Song
    4. Hemingway and Fortuna
    5. Hummingbird on the Left
    6. The Long and Drunken Afternoon
    7. Safe in the Lap of the Gods
    8. Quetzal Birds in Love
    9. Angela in Paradise
    10. And the machine ran backwards

    a secondhand coffin
    how to act
    Right. Me and Herman Melville
    Scylla and Charybdis Approximately
    snowflakes and nylon

    I could've kissed Orson Welles
    the broken dreams of Orson Welles
    the last time I saw Orson Welles
    The Other Side of the Wind

    Below the Line
    Charles Durning
    completion bond
    Film Editing
    Film Editor
    Final Cut Pro
    forced development
    HD Video
    king of the queens
    Kubrick polishes a turd
    movies from space
    Persistence of Vision
    Sven Nykvist
    Wilford Brimley

    21 Grams
    Andrei Rublyov
    Apocalypse Now Redux
    Ivan's Childhood
    The Jazz Singer
    The Sacrifice
    We Were Soldiers
    Wild Strawberries

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