The Feynman Lectures on Physics, The Most Popular Physics Book Ever Written, Now Completely Online

feynman textbook1

Image by Tamiko Thiel, via Wikimedia Commons

Last fall, we let you know that Caltech and The Feynman Lectures Website joined forces to create an online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. They started with Volume 1. And now they've followed up with Volume 2 and Volume 3, making the collection complete.

First presented in the early 1960s at Caltech by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, the lectures were eventually turned into a book by Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands. The text went on to become arguably the most popular physics book ever written, selling more than 1.5 million copies in English, and getting translated into a dozen languages.

The new online edition makes The Feynman Lectures on Physics available in HTML5. The text “has been designed for ease of reading on devices of any size or shape,” and you can zoom into text, figures and equations without degradation. Dive right into the lectures here. And if you’d prefer to see Feynman (as opposed to read Feynman), we would encourage you to watch ‘The Character of Physical Law,’ Feynman’s  seven-part lecture series recorded at Cornell in 1964.

The Feynman Lectures on Physics is now listed in our collections of Free eBooks and Free Textbooks.

Photograph by Tom Harvey. Copyright © California Institute of Technology.

via Metafilter

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Philosopher Alain Badiou Performs a Scene From His Play, Ahmed The Philosopher (2011)

Alain Badiou occupies an odd place in contemporary philosophy. Showered with superlatives like “France’s greatest living philosopher” and “one of the greatest thinkers of our time,” he somehow doesn’t merit even a cursory entry in that definitive academic reference site, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Whether this is simply an editorial oversight or an intentional slight, I am not qualified to say.

Perhaps one of the difficulties of writing concisely on Badiou is that Badiou himself roams far and wide—from Hegel to Lacan, Kant, Marx, Descartes, and even St. Paul. Not easily identifiable as belonging to one school or another, Badiou’s work, though staunchly politically left, resists anti-humanist postmodernism and seeks to ground truth in universals. It’s an unsurprising tack given that he first trained in mathematics.

As if his philosophical work weren’t enough, Badiou also writes novels and plays. Of the latter, his Ahmed the Philosopher: 34 Short Plays for Children & Everyone Else has recently appeared in an English translation by Joseph Litvak. Just above, you can see Litvak as Ahmed and Badiou himself as “a curmudgeonly French demon,” writes Critical Theory, “who takes joy in informing for the police.” Filmed in Germany in 2011,

This scene, entitled “Terror,” serves as a commentary on French xenophobia towards Arab immigrants. Badiou at one point also draws reference to Nazi-occupied France, a sort of “good old days” for Badiou’s callous character.

Badiou as the “demon of the cities” spotlights the brute limitations imposed by violent, unjust police, who summarily execute innocent people in the streets. Taking perverse pleasure in describing such an occurrence, the demon leers, “I like to imagine that I’m hidden behind a curtain. I salivate!” before going on to describe with relish the even uglier scenario of a “bungled” shooting. The audience giggles uneasily, unsure quite how to respond to the exaggerated evil Badiou performs. It seems unthinkable, absurd, their nervous laughter suggests, that anyone but a cartoon devil could take such sadistic delight in this kind of cruelty, much less, as the demon does, initiate it with anonymous libel. It’s an unnerving performance of an even more unnerving piece of writing. Below, you can see more scenes from Ahmed the Philosopher, performed in English sans Badiou at UC Irvine in 2010.

If you like Badiou as an actor, this may be your only chance to see him perform. However, the extroverted philosopher hopes to break into Hollywood in another capacity---bringing his translation of Plato’s Republic to the screen, with, in his grand design, Brad Pitt in the leading role, Sean Connery as Socrates, and Meryl Streep as “Mrs. Plato.” I wish him all the luck in the world. With the blockbuster success of religous epics like Noah, perhaps we’re primed for a Hollywood version of ancient Greek thought, though like the former film, purists would no doubt find ample reason to fly up in arms over a guaranteed multitude of philosophical blasphemies.

via Critical Theory

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Download Footage from Orson Welles’ Long Lost Early Film, Too Much Johnson (1938)

We still think of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane as the most impressive debut in film history. In an alternate cinematic reality, however, Welles might have debuted not with a revolutionarily fragmented portrait of a tormented newspaper magnate, but a slapstick farce. This real 1938 production, titled — spare us your jokes — Too Much Johnson, ran aground on not just financial problems, but logistical ones. Welles conceived the film as part of a stage show for his Mercury Theatre company, they of the infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast. An adaptation of  William Gillette's 1894 play of the same name about a philandering playboy on the run in Cuba, this then-state-of-the-art Too Much Johnson would have given its audiences a filmed as well as a live experience in one. Alas, when Welles had the money to complete post production, he found that the Connecticut theater in which he'd planned a pre-Broadway run didn't have the ceiling height to accommodate projection.

Long presumed lost after a 1970 fire took Welles' only print, Too Much Johnson resurfaced in 2008. After a restoration by the George Eastman House museum of film and photography (along with collaborators like Cinemazero and the National Film Preservation Foundation), the film made its debut at last year's Pordenone Silent Film Festival. Though without its intended context — and for that reason never screened by Welles himself — the film nonetheless won no modest critical acclaim. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw calls it "breathlessly enjoyable viewing," praising not just Welles but star Joseph Cotten's "tremendous movie debut," an " affectionate romp through Keystone two-reelers, Harold Lloyd's stunt slapstick, European serials, Soviet montage and, notably, Welles's favoured steep expressionist-influenced camera angles." Bright Lights Film Journal's Joseph McBride frames it as "a youthful tribute not only to the spirited tradition of exuberant low comedy but also to the past of the medium [Welles] was about to enter."

You can download the restored Too Much Johnson footage, and read more about the film and the project of bringing it back to light, at the National Film Preservation Foundation's site. Or simply click here. (Don't forget to spend a little time at their donation page as well, given the expense of a restoration like this.) Have a look at the 23-year-old Welles' handiwork, laugh at its comedy, appreciate its ambition, and ask yourself: does this kid have what it takes to make it in show business?

Find many more silent classic films in our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

William S. Burroughs Sends Anti-Fan Letter to In Cold Blood Author Truman Capote: “You Have Sold Out Your Talent”

burroughs to capote

On July 23, 1970, William S. Burroughs wrote Truman Capote a letter. “This is not a fan letter in the usual sense — unless you refer to ceiling fans in Panama.” Instead, Burroughs's missive is a poison pen letter, blistering even by the high standards of New York literary circles. Of course, Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, was no stranger to feuds. He often traded witty, venomous barbs with the likes of Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. Yet Burroughs’s letter comes off as much darker and, with the benefit of hindsight, much more unnerving.

As Thom Robinson thoroughly details in his article for RealityStudio, the two had a long and complicated past filled with professional jealousy and personal disdain. They first met when Burroughs was a struggling writer and Capote was working as a copy boy at The New Yorker in the early 1940s. Burroughs was no doubt rankled by Capote’s meteoric rise to literary stardom just after the war, thanks to some highly-praised short stories that appeared in Harper’s Bazaar and other publications. Burroughs and his fellow Beat writers ridiculed Capote in their private letters. In a letter to Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac described Capote’s work as “full of bull on every page.” When Kerouac’s On the Road was published, Capote dismissed the book by saying, “[it] isn’t writing at all — it’s typing.”

When Naked Lunch was finally released in America in 1962, three years after its publication in France, William S. Burroughs became a literary icon. (Hear Burroughs read Naked Lunch here.) At the same time, Capote was starting to develop a genre he called creative non-fiction, which would eventually culminate with In Cold Blood. When talking about his book in a 1968 interview with Playboy, Capote compared Burroughs’s writing with his own. In Cold Blood “is really the most avant-garde form of writing existent today [...] creative fiction writing has gone as far as it can experimentally. [...] Of course we have writers like William Burroughs, whose brand of verbal surface trivia is amusing and occasionally fascinating, but there’s no base for moving forward in that area.” At another point, Capote quipped, “Norman Mailer thinks [he] is a genius, which I think is ludicrous beyond words. I don’t think William Burroughs has an ounce of talent.”

So when Burroughs put pen to paper in 1970, he already had plenty of reasons to dislike Capote. In the letter, though, Burroughs's ire was specifically directed at Capote's dubious ethics in writing In Cold Blood, a book that Burroughs described as "a dull unreadable book which could have been written by any staff writer on The New Yorker." (Note: You can read an early version of In Cold Blood in The New Yorker itself.)

The spine of In Cold Blood is the first-hand account of convicted killers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. Capote spent hours interviewing them and in the process grew close to them, especially Smith. In spite of this, Capote did little to help their defense. (This is the subject of not one but two movies, by the way, Capote and Infamous.) Critic Kenneth Tynan, in a scathing review for The Observer, cried foul. "For the first time an influential writer of the front rank has been placed in a position of privileged intimacy with criminals about to die, and--in my view--done less than he might have to save them," he wrote. "An attempt to help (by supplying new psychiatric testimony) might easily have failed: what one misses is any sign that it was ever contemplated." The fact of the matter was that the book worked better if they died. Though Capote's biographer Gerald Clarke argued that there was little that the writer could have done to save the two, he conceded that "Tynan was right when he suggested that Truman did not want to save them.”

Seemingly repulsed by Capote's entire project, Burroughs took the Tynan’s critique one step further. He argued that Capote not only sold out his subjects but served as a mouthpiece for those in power.

I feel that [Tynan] was much too lenient. Your recent appearance before a senatorial committee on which occasion you spoke in favor of continuing the present police practice of extracting confessions by denying the accused the right of consulting consul prior to making a statement also came to my attention. In effect you were speaking in approval of standard police procedure: obtaining statements through brutality and duress, whereas an intelligent police force would rely on evidence rather than enforced confessions. [...] You have placed your services at the disposal of interests who are turning America into a police state by the simple device of deliberately fostering the conditions that give rise to criminality and then demanding increased police powers and the retention of capital punishment to deal with the situation they have created.

For someone who had frequently been on the wrong end of the law and for someone who spent his life giving voice to the marginalized, this was an anathema. Burroughs then delivered a chilling, voodoo-style curse:

You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn. Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In Cold Blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out.

Burroughs' curse seemed to have worked. 1970 was the high-water mark of Capote’s career. He never wrote another novel after In Cold Blood, though he labored for years on a never completed book called Answered Prayers. He spent the rest of his life on a downward alcoholic spiral until his death in 1984.

You can read the entire letter, which is kept at the Burroughs Archive of the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection, below:

July 23, 1970
My Dear Mr. Truman Capote
This is not a fan letter in the usual sense — unless you refer to ceiling fans in Panama. Rather call this a letter from “the reader” — vital statistics are not in capital letters — a selection from marginal notes on material submitted as all “writing” is submitted to this department. I have followed your literary development from its inception, conducting on behalf of the department I represent a series of inquiries as exhaustive as your own recent investigations in the sun flower state. I have interviewed all your characters beginning with Miriam — in her case withholding sugar over a period of several days proved sufficient inducement to render her quite communicative — I prefer to have all the facts at my disposal before taking action. Needless to say, I have read the recent exchange of genialities between Mr. Kenneth Tynan and yourself. I feel that he was much too lenient. Your recent appearance before a senatorial committee on which occasion you spoke in favor of continuing the present police practice of extracting confessions by denying the accused the right of consulting consul prior to making a statement also came to my attention. In effect you were speaking in approval of standard police procedure: obtaining statements through brutality and duress, whereas an intelligent police force would rely on evidence rather than enforced confessions. You further cheapened yourself by reiterating the banal argument that echoes through letters to the editor whenever the issue of capital punishment is raised: “Why all this sympathy for the murderer and none for his innocent victims?” I have in line of duty read all your published work. The early work was in some respects promising — I refer particularly to the short stories. You were granted an area for psychic development. It seemed for a while as if you would make good use of this grant. You choose instead to sell out a talent that is not yours to sell. You have written a dull unreadable book which could have been written by any staff writer on the New Yorker — (an undercover reactionary periodical dedicated to the interests of vested American wealth). You have placed your services at the disposal of interests who are turning America into a police state by the simple device of deliberately fostering the conditions that give rise to criminality and then demanding increased police powers and the retention of capital punishment to deal with the situation they have created. You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn. Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In Cold Blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out. Are you tracking me? Know who I am? You know me, Truman. You have known me for a long time. This is my last visit.

The polaroids above were taken by Andy Warhol.

via: Flavorwire/Letters of Note/RealityStudio

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily. 

Fellini’s Three Bank of Rome Commercials, the Last Thing He Did Behind a Camera (1992)

It happened before, and it still happens now and again today, but in the second half of the twentieth century, auteurs really got into making commercials: Ingmar BergmanJean-Luc GodardDavid Lynch. Not, perhaps, the first names in filmmaking you'd associate with commerciality, but there we have it. Where, though, to place Federico Fellini, director of La Dolce VitaSatyricon, and Amarcord, movies that, while hardly assembled by the numbers, could never resist the entertaining and even pleasurable (or the somehow pleasurably displeasurable) spectacle? On one hand, Fellini went so far as to campaign against commercials airing during the broadcast of motion pictures; on the other hand, he made a few of the things, and not minor ones, either. In a post here on Fellini's own commercials, Mike Springer referenced a trio shot for the Bank of Rome, quoting on the subject Fellini biographer Peter Bondanella, who notes their inspiration by "various dreams Fellini had sketched out in his dream notebooks,” and other Fellini biographer Tullio Kezich, who describes them as "the golden autumn of a patriarch of cinema who, for a moment, holds again the reins of creation." Today, we present all three.

“Money is everywhere but so is poetry," Fellini himself once said. "What we lack are the poets.” In these three spots, the creator synonymous with Italian auteurhood brings poetry and money together — even more so than most commercial-making "creative" filmmakers, given the overtly financial nature of the client's business. You can read more about the project, "the last thing he did behind a camera," at Sight & Sound: "In 1992, the year before his death, [Fellini] realised his best corporate work. [ … ] Here Fellini comprehended, skilfully conveyed and exposed the ultimate essence of advertising: the creation of needs and fears that the given product will magically solve." The setup involves Paolo Villaggio as a nightmare-plagued man and Fernando Rey as his attentively listening analyst — and in addition to his professional interests, evidently quite a Bank of Rome enthusiast. The spot at the top of the post includes English subtitles, but as with Fellini's features, even non-Italophones can expect rich, long-form (by commercial standards) audiovisual experiences watching the other two as well — and ones, unlike any experience you'd have actually stepping into a bank, not quite of this reality. Today, we present all three, the last films Fellini ever made.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Flannery O’Connor Explains the Limited Value of MFA Programs: “Competence By Itself Is Deadly”

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Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “because fine writing rarely pays, fine writers usually end up teaching, and the [MFA] degree, however worthless to the spirit, can be expected to add something to the flesh.” That phrase “worthless to the spirit” contains a great deal of the negative attitude O’Connor expressed toward the institutionalization of creative writing in MFA programs like the one she helped make famous at the University of Iowa. The verbiage comes from an essay she wrote for the alumni magazine of the Georgia College for Women after completing her degree in 1947, quoted in the Chad Harbach-edited collection of essays MFA vs. NYC. Although fresh from the program, O’Connor was already on her way to literary success, having published her first story, “The Geranium,” the year previous and begun work on her first novel, Wise Blood. Nevertheless, her insights on the MFA are not particularly sanguine.

On the one hand, she writes with characteristic dark humor, writing programs can serve as alternatives to “the poor house and the mad house." In graduate school, “the writer is encouraged or at least tolerated in his odd ways.” An MFA program may offer some small respite from the loneliness and hardship of the writing life, and ultimately provide a credential to be “pronounced upon by his future employers should they chance to be of the academy.” But the time and effort (not to mention the expense, unless one is fully funded) may not be worth the cost, O’Connor suggests. Her own program at Iowa was "designed to cover the writer’s technical needs […], and to provide him with a literary atmosphere which he would not be able to find elsewhere. The writer can expect very little else.”

Later, in her collection of essays Mystery and Manners, O’Connor expressed similar sentiments. Concluding a lengthy discussion on the very limited role of the teacher of creative writing, she concludes that “the teacher’s work is largely negative […] a matter of saying ‘This doesn’t work because…’ or ‘This does work because….’” Remarking on the common observation that universities stifle writers, O'Connor writes, "My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." Creative writing teachers may nod their heads in agreement, and shake them in frustration. But we should return to that phrase “worthless to the spirit,” for while MFA programs may turn out “competent” writers of fiction, O'Connor admits, they cannot produce “fine writing”:

In the last twenty years the colleges have been emphasizing creative writing to such an extent that you almost feel that any idiot with a nickel's worth of talent can emerge from a writing class able to write a competent story. In fact, so many people can now write competent stories that the short story as a medium is in danger of dying of competence. We want competence, but competence by itself is deadly. What is needed is the vision to go with it, and you do not get this from a writing class.

O’Connor probably overestimates the degree to which "any idiot" can learn to write with competence, but her point is clear. She wrote these words in the mid-fifties, in an essay titled “The Nature and Aim of Fiction.” As Harbach’s new essay collection demonstrates, the debate about the value of MFA programs—which have expanded exponentially since O’Connor’s day—has not by any means been settled. And while there are certainly those writers, she notes wryly, who can “learn to write badly enough” and “make a great deal of money,” the true artist may be in the same position after the MFA as they were before it, compelled to “chop a path in the wilderness of his own soul; a disheartening process, lifelong and lonesome.”

via Everything That Rises

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Orson Welles Turns Heart of Darkness Into a Radio Drama, and Almost His First Great Film

There’s something about cinematic masterpieces that were never made that tantalize the imagination of film geeks everywhere. What would the world look like if Alejandro Jodorowsky actually managed to make his version of Dune, complete with Pink Floyd score and Moebius designed sets? How would have Stanley Kubrick’s career evolved if he got Napoleon to the screen? And would a collaboration between David Lynch and Dennis Potter, which almost happened with The White Hotel, be as completely amazing as I imagine?

Of all these ill-fated projects, the one that perhaps casts the biggest shadow over cinema is Orson Welles’s attempt to adapt Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. (Find Conrad's original text in our collection of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.) In 1939, Welles went to Hollywood, looking to conquer film in the same way that he conquered radio and the stage. By that time, he was already famous for his trailblazing Broadway production of Julius Caesar, his popular Mercury Theater radio program and for scaring the living crap out of the nation with his notorious version of The War of the Worlds. So he presented RKO studio with an audacious, grandiose 174-page script for Heart of Darkness but, after a couple months of wrangling, it proved to be just too audacious and grandiose for the execs. So then Welles pitched them Citizen Kane. That’s right, the film that would go down as the greatest film of all time was a plan B.

If you look at Welles’s script for Darkness, you can see why Hollywood might have thought twice about the project. Welles, who at that point hadn’t actually made a movie, was proposing to radically shake up the grammar of Hollywood storytelling. For instance, the movie was to be shot in the first person, where what the book’s protagonist/narrator Marlow sees is what the audience sees. Robert Montgomery tried the same gimmick a few years later in the adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Lady in the Lake with mixed results.

Hollywood's perennial nervousness about movies with overt political overtones is another reason why the movie got scotched. As with his modern reworking of Julius Caesar (find it here), Welles took a strong stance against the rise of fascism in Europe. “You feel that if this film had been made, Hollywood might have been a different place," said artist Fiona Banner in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. In 2012, she staged the first ever public reading of the script starring actor Brian Cox. “When [Welles] started writing it, fascism wasn’t such a big story in Hollywood, but by the time he finished it, in 1939, it must have been something of a hot potato. That was probably the main reason it didn’t get made. The more I’ve looked into it, the more I’ve realised how close he is to the stuff in Europe, and not just in the obvious ways of giving all these company men that Marlow meets German names. It’s central to the tale.”

Conrad’s story clearly fascinated Welles. As you can see above, he adapted the novella for his radio show in 1938. His producing partner, and legendary actor in his own right, John Houseman speculated why the director was so taken with Darkness.

We had done this Conrad story with only moderate success on the Mercury Theatre of the Air, and while it was a wonderful title, I never quite understood why Orson had chosen such a diffuse and difficult subject for his first film. I think, in part, he was attracted by the sense of corroding evil, the slow, pervasive deterioration through which the dark continent destroys its conqueror and exploiter—Western Man in the person of Kurtz. But, mainly, as we discussed it, I found that he was excited by the device—not an entirely original one—of the Camera Eye. Like many of Orson's creative notions, it revolved around himself in the double role of director and actor. As Marlow, Conrad's narrator and moral representative, invisible but ever-present, Orson would have a chance to convey the mysterious currents that run under the surface of the narrative; as Kurtz, he would be playing the character about whom, as narrator, he was weaving this web of conjecture and mystery.

Years later, Welles summed up why Heart of Darkness never got made in an interview with Barbara Leaming. "I wanted my kind of control. They didn't understand that. There was no quarrelling. It was just two different points of view, absolutely opposite each other. Mine was taken to be ignorance, and I read their position as established dumbheadedness."

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily. 

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