It’s not the ultimate movie–no car chases or dialogue about playing a song again or wearing badges (stinking or otherwise). However, when I saw Me and Orson Welles this week, I thought it came close. The film offers a stellar ensemble cast, evocative period (1937) sets and costumes, and a charming premise. It’s based on Robert Kaplow’s novel of the same name (available from the library). The story follows a week in the life of a teenager who chances upon Orson Welles’ modern-dress staging of Julius Caesar just before its New York debut at the now-famous Mercury Theatre.
The screenplay parallels Welles, poised on the brink of acclaim, with Richard, simultaneously initiated into two new worlds–adulthood and the theatre milieu. The coming-of-age theme extends to the stage production, enduring its own overwrought adolescence right up until the opening curtain. By that point, I’d been privy to enough behind the scenes insights and intrigue to believe that I, like the actors, was absolutely dependent upon the play-going audience’s response.
I expect to enjoy post-movie possibilities, too: for example, watching Christian McKay, who played Welles, accept his Oscar. Real critics have also responded extravagantly to McKay’s portrayal. You can sample their comments on the film’s Internet Movie Database page.
If you’d like to know more about the enigmatic Orson Welles, consider these offerings from the library shelves: In My Father’s Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Wells by Chris Welles Feder, or actor Simon Callow’s well-regarded biographical volumes: Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu and Orson Welles: Hello Americans. You’ll also find some of Welles’ many films (acting and/or directing), including Citizen Kane, The Long Hot Summer, A Man for All Seasons, The Stranger, A Touch of Evil, and The Third Man in the library’s DVD area.
The best cinema about the theatre world demonstrates that what happens on stage is nothing, entertainment-wise, compared to the goings-on backstage. These are some favorites that you may want to try (or watch yet again): My Favorite Year, Topsy-Turvy, Shakespeare in Love.