An Animation of Orson Welles’ Famous Frozen Peas Rant

If you get into a conversation with an Orson Welles enthusiast, try not to mention frozen peas. By now, even those who barely know Welles’ work — those who’ve barely seen Citizen Kane or heard War of the Worlds, let alone The Magnificent Ambersons or F for Fake — chuckle at the fact that, in the twilight of his career, the actor-auteur took on such theoretically easy-money jobs as presenting an “instructional film” on gambling for Caesars Palace and narrating a series of British television commercials for Swedish frozen-food giant Findus. But even in humble contexts like these, Welles, as his aforementioned fans would surely admit, could make headaches for his employers. The Findus people, with whose director and copywriter Welles apparently didn’t see eye-to-eye, would soon find this out — as would every listener to the uncut recordings from that unhappy day in the studio.

At the top, you can hear that very audio and watch it animated by Neil Williams. He visualizes Welles’ consternation in the face of the director’s request to emphasize the word “in” (“there’s no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with ‘in’ and emphasize it”) while pitching those frozen peas. And then there’s Welles’ objection to the difficult-to-enunciate “crumb crisp coating” on Findus fish sticks, and his blowup over how many times to say “beef” when describing their hamburgers as well. Veteran voice actor Maurice LaMarche, who has no doubt labored even longer in recording booths than Welles did, won an early burst of fame with his uncanny impression of Welles. When he used a version of that voice for The Brain, the Animaniacs‘ dour, world-domination-minded cartoon mouse, the idea for a frozen peas parody sketch, which you can watch above, must have suggested itself.

Related Content:

Orson Welles Teaches Baccarat, Craps, Blackjack, Roulette, and Keno at Caesars Palace (1978)

Orson Welles Narrates Plato’s Cave Allegory, Kafka’s Parable, and Freedom River

The Hearts of Age: Orson Welles’ Surrealist First Film (1934)

Orson Welles’ The Stranger: Watch The Full Movie Free Online

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (4)
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  • PeaNess says:

    Don’t forget about your green pea ness.nn

  • jidakida says:

    Dude that makes a ll kinds of crazy sense.

  • Victor Laszlo says:

    Go Orson, Go! nnIf you’re going to be a pain in the neck, do it in style, like Orson Welles did. Lol.nnGranted he’s being picky, but Orson is right in his criticisms of the awful ad copy and meaningless direction.nnAfter a lifetime of excellence and dreams which were never to be, to think he had to lend that great Shakespearean voice to hawking frozen peas. For anyone out there who has tasted success, or perhaps even a bit of greatness, to be relegated to taking direction from someone a quarter your age about a subject which has been your lifeblood, speaking, in Orson’s case, you can understand his frustration. Today, this does happen with celebrities in all kinds of gigs and functions.nnnRemember, all of us on our jobs,whatever they are, construction, web design, retail, whatever, have all ranted or wanted to about the mundane pains of our jobs. Orson’s just happened to have been recorded in quality audio, that’s all. nnnOrson, if you’re out there in the fjords of Finland know this: You were the most unique, diversely talented American entertainer we’ve ever had bar none. nnRest in Peas, I mean, Peace. ;)

  • Tygve Olof says:

    How on earth can you claim that Findus is Swedish? Check your facts. It’s Norwegian.

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