Orson Welles’ Birthday Bash: Three Movies, One Radio Classic, and Two Great Narrations

96 years ago today, Orson Welles, the “ulti­mate auteur,” was born in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin. Hence his ear­ly nick­name, The Kenosha Kid. Nowa­days, we remem­ber Welles as arguably the great­est direc­tor of the 20th cen­tu­ry, a superb actor on stage and screen, and a pio­neer­ing radio drama­tist. To cel­e­brate his 96th birth­day, we have dipped into our archives and pulled togeth­er some of Welles’ finest artis­tic works, all now freely avail­able online:

The Stranger

Welles’ third film, The Stranger, a 1946 film noir thriller, was a com­mer­cial suc­cess upon release. The same could­n’t be said for Cit­i­zen Kane. The Stranger fea­tures Edward G. Robin­son hunt­ing a Nazi fugi­tive (Welles him­self) who mar­ries the daugh­ter (Loret­ta Young) of a Supreme Court jus­tice. The film, now avail­able online in its entire­ty, is one of the first post WWII films to show footage of con­cen­tra­tion camps. You can find this film, and oth­ers men­tioned below, in our col­lec­tion of Free Movies Online.

The Third Man

The Third Man by crazedig­i­tal­movies

Welles famous­ly starred in The Third Man, a must-see noir film, which won the Grand Prix at the 1949 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val and an Acad­e­my Award for Best Black and White Cin­e­matog­ra­phy in 1950. A half cen­tu­ry lat­er, the British Film Insti­tute named The Third Man the best British film of the 20th cen­tu­ry. Quite a state­ment. You can watch it here.

Free­dom Riv­er

Almost 40 years (and sev­en pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tions) have passed since Orson Welles nar­rat­ed Free­dom Riv­er. And although the ani­ma­tion shows some age, the para­ble, a com­men­tary on Amer­i­ca, still res­onates today. Or, at least I sus­pect many view­ers will think so. You can get the back­sto­ry on this intrigu­ing lit­tle project here.

The War of the Worlds

Back in the late 1930s, Orson Welles launched The Mer­cury The­atre on the Air, a radio pro­gram ded­i­cat­ed to bring­ing dra­mat­ic pro­duc­tions to the Amer­i­can air­waves. The show had a fair­ly short run. It last­ed from 1938 to 1941. But it made its mark. Dur­ing these few years, The Mer­cury The­atre aired The War of the Worlds, an episode nar­rat­ed by Welles that led many Amer­i­cans to believe their coun­try was under Mar­t­ian attack. The leg­endary pro­duc­tion was based on H.G. Wells’ ear­ly sci-fi nov­el, and you can lis­ten to it here. We have more links to Mer­cury The­atre pro­duc­tions here.

Welles Reads Moby Dick

He only gives you two tan­ta­liz­ing min­utes. And he’s para­phras­ing more than read­ing the text itself. But it’s vin­tage Welles. You can find him read­ing anoth­er pas­sage from Melville’s clas­sic here

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Comments (2)
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  • he was a real tal­ent­ed per­son. it would real­ly be nice hear­ing him on radio. i am fond of lis­ten­ing to radio sta­tions using radi­ogad­get and it would be nice that one of the voic­es that i hear was from him.

  • Lance Drew says:

    he was a real tal­ent­ed per­son. it would real­ly be nice hear­ing him on radio. i am fond of lis­ten­ing to radio sta­tions using radi­ogad­get and it would be nice that one of the voic­es that i hear was from him.

  • Chris says:

    Orson was unique, no one is close to him and to the work he did dur­ing his life. He was a mas­ter, act­ing and direct­ing, it’s won­der­ful to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to lis­ten to him so long after his death and his radio show, his films, and the car­toon that I did­n’t know it even exist­ed. Pity of so many projects he would liked to do but he was unable to do due to many prob­lems he had along his life. Genious­es are often appre­ci­ate in his own time, Orson was one of them.

  • David J. Abbott says:

    Hap­py Birth­day Mr.Orson Welles’
    Even today we learn from work you have be a part of “Free­dom Riv­er” Is what Amer­i­ca is in up to its knees. Peo­ple have to give The Pres­i­dents Job Acts the GO ahead. Put Amer­i­cans to Work fix­ing and putting peo­ple to work mak­ing good hon­est money.Helping Amer­i­cans Feel at Home fix­ing up their Village,Towns,and Cities. But alway remem­ber­ing the Neighbors,to help them stand tall,and proud too.
    Again Hap­py Birth­day Mr.Orson Welles’

  • L.P. Hale says:

    “Free­dom Riv­er” is eeri­ly prophet­ic. Sub­sti­tute Lati­nos for the film’s eth­nic groups and cli­mate change for the dirty riv­er and we have our own mod­ern day arro­gance.

    Thanks Orson Welles …

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