Orson Welles Remembers his Stormy Friendship with Ernest Hemingway

In this fas­ci­nat­ing clip from a 1974 inter­view by Michael Parkin­son of the BBC, Orson Welles describes his “very strange rela­tion­ship” with Ernest Hem­ing­way, cast­ing him­self in a sto­ry of their first meet­ing as a torero opposed to Hem­ing­way’s bull.

The two men met in New York in the ear­ly sum­mer of 1937, when Welles was asked to nar­rate The Span­ish Earth, a doc­u­men­tary orga­nized by Hem­ing­way and oth­er artists to pro­mote the Rebubli­can cause dur­ing the Span­ish Civ­il War. Welles was a great admir­er of Hem­ing­way, who was 16 years his senior. When he was 18 years old he went to Spain to study bull­fight­ing after read­ing Hem­ing­way’s Death in the After­noon. But despite some sim­i­lar­i­ties, the two men were poles apart, as Welles’ anec­dote of their first meet­ing sug­gests.

The brava­do in Welles’s sto­ry may have some­thing to do with a need to com­pen­sate for his own injured pride over the recep­tion of his nar­ra­tion for The Span­ish Earth.  Under pres­sure from Lil­lian Hell­man and oth­ers in the project, who com­plained that Welles’ per­for­mance was too the­atri­cal for the doc­u­men­tary, direc­tor Joris Ivens decid­ed to scrap it and asked Hem­ing­way to come back in to read his own words. Welles lat­er drew on the inci­dent in the pro­jec­tion room as inspi­ra­tion for his script “The Sacred Beasts,” about the rela­tion­ship between a young bull­fight­er and an old­er film direc­tor. The script was even­tu­al­ly devel­oped into The Oth­er Side of the Wind, an unfin­ished film star­ring John Hus­ton as the Hem­ing­way-inspired film­mak­er Jake Han­naford. Welles was work­ing on the project when the inter­view with Parkin­son took place. You can see the com­plete inter­view on YouTube, and read a tran­script at Wellesnet.

via 3 Quarks Dai­ly

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Span­ish Earth, Writ­ten and Nar­rat­ed by Ernest Hem­ing­way

Remem­ber­ing Ernest Hem­ing­way, Fifty Years After His Death

Orson Welles’s Last Inter­view, Two Hours Before His Death

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  • William says:

    Ear­ly on in his career Orson was brand­ed with a total­ly bogus rap by the Hol­ly­wood machine-he was labeled as “dif­fi­cult”, “a mon­ey waster”, “controlling”…and so on. Grant­ed, he did bust his bud­get on sev­er­al of his projects, espe­cial­ly so on his treat­ment of Booth Tark­ing­ton’s “The Mag­nif­i­cent Amber­sons”, which went 20% over-bud­get. And he was dif­fi­cult in that he would­n’t fall in step with the long estab­lished meth­ods employed by Hol­ly­wood’s major film stu­dios.

    Stu­dio’s like RKO were far more inter­est­ed in the bot­tom line than in nur­tur­ing a cagey artis­tic genius. I am not one to throw that des­ig­na­tion around, but in this case, there is no doubt.

    Orson Welles was like­ly the most gift­ed genius of the movie business…ever. Instead of receiv­ing the recog­ni­tion he deserved, he got a bum rap, a slam which haunt­ed him his entire life and is only now, 30 years after his death, being re-thought.

    We treat­ed him very bad­ly, mak­ing him the butt of an end­less vari­ety of crude and thought­less jokes (John Can­dy’s humil­i­at­ing lam­poon­ing comes imme­di­ate­ly to mind). Yet, ever the class act, he laughed along. He was a great man, and should be remem­bered that way.

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