The New York Times Book Review somehow thought to ask the legendary Budd Schulberg to review the new book on Orson Welles, Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios. The Times review would be worth linking to if only for the New York Post-style pun in the heading: “The Kane mutiny.” But Welles is an interesting subject, and Schulberg is the Dartmouth alum, ex-Communist screenwriter who collaborated with Elia Kazan on “On the Waterfront.” At age 91, Schulberg must be the oldest reviewer ever to have a piece in the Times Book Review.
Everyone knows that Welles’s first film was the great “Citizen Kane.” What was his second film? Welles’s second film was “The Magnificent Ambersons.” Even in its butchered form — discussed by Schulberg in the review — it must be one of the most beautifully composed films ever made.
Heylin is the author of warts-and-all, deeply researched books on Bob Dylan, the late Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny, and, most recently, Van Morrison. He’s not a particularly good writer — Schulberg describes the writing in the Welles book as “workmanlike” — but he is a dogged researcher.
UPDATE: Professor Rob Maddock of Sierra College writes:
Your readers might be interested in two films. The first, on Welles and Hearst (“The Battle over Citizen Kane”) was done for the American Experience in 1996. It may be the best documentary ever made because the writers and producers had the courage to follow their research. They started out sympathetic to Welles and slowly realized that the material was taking them in a very different direction. Showtime then did a film on the documentary (“RKO 281”) which was excellent.