Quotations from

Orson Welles

(1915–1985), actor, writer, director
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    Orson Welles
    Actor, writer, director
    May 15, 1915, in Kenosha, Wisconsin
    Died: November 22, 1985

    Other Orson Welles Sites

    A Welles Biography

    The Estate of Orson Welles

    Orson Welles materials in the Lilly Library, Indiana University

    Orson Welles Picture Gallery

    Orson Welles: Ten Years After His Death

    Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin — A Maze of Death

    A Tribute to Orson Welles

    The Man and His Genius

    Was Citizen Kane Really About Hearst? by Orson Welles

    Orson Welles Films

    The Hearts of Age, 1934
    Too Much Johnson, 1938
    Citizen Kane, 1941
    The Magnificent Ambersons, 1942
    The Stranger, 1944
    The Lady from Shanghai, 1945
    Macbeth, 1947
    Othello, 1952
    Don Quixote (unfinished), 1954
    Confidential Report, 1955
    Mr. Arkadin, 1955
    Touch of Evil, 1957
    The Trial, 1962
    Chimes at Midnight, 1966
    Falstaff, 1966
    The Immortal Story, 1968
    F For Fake, 1975
    The Other Side of the Wind (unfinished), 1975

    The Swiss Family Robinson, 1940
    Journey Into Fear, 1942
    It's All True, 1942 (incomplete, released 1993)
    Jane Eyre, 1942 (as Edward Rochester)
    Follow the Boys, 1944
    Tomorrow is Forever, 1946
    Duel in the Sun, 1947 (narrator only)
    Black Magic, 1949
    Prince of Foxes, 1949
    The Third Man, 1949
    The Black Rose, 1950
    Return to Glennascaul, 1951
    Ghost Story, 1951
    Trent's Last Case, 1953
    The Beast, 1953
    Trouble in the Glen, 1954
    Si Versailles M'Etait Contι, 1954
    Napoleon, 1954
    Three Cases of Murder, 1955
    Out of Darkness, 1955 (narrator only)
    Moby Dick, 1956
    Man with a Shadow, 1957
    Pay the Devil, 1957
    The Long Hot Summer, 1958
    Roots of Heaven, 1958
    South Seas Adventure, 1958 (narrator only)
    David and Goliath, 1959
    High Journey, 1959 (narrator only)
    Compulsion, 1959
    Ferry to Hong Kong, 1959
    The Tartars, 1960
    Lafayette, 1961
    King of Kings, 1961 (narrator only)
    Dιsordre, 1961
    Lafayette, 1962 (as Benjamin Franklin)
    Der Grosse Atlantik, 1962 (narrator)
    Rogopag, 1962
    The VIPs, 1963
    The Finest Hours, 1964 (narrator only)
    Marco the Magnificent, 1965
    A King's Story, 1965 (narrator only)
    In Paris Burning?, 1966
    A Man for All Seasons, 1966
    I'll Never Forget Whatshisname, 1967
    Casino Royale, 1967
    The Sailor from Gilbratar, 1967
    Oedipus the King, 1968
    Kampf um Rom, 1968
    House of Cards, 1969
    The Southern Star, 1969
    Tepepa, 1969
    Barbed Water, 1969 (narrator only)
    Una Su 13, 1969
    Michael the Brave, 1969
    The Kremlin Letter, 1970
    Start the Revolution Without Me, 1970 (narrator only)
    The Battle of Neretva, 1970
    Waterloo, 1970
    Catch 22, 1970
    Directed by John Ford, 1971 (documentary, narrator only)
    Sentinels of Silence, 1971 (narrator only)
    A Safe Place, 1971
    Malpertuis, 1972
    Get to Know Your Rabbit, 1972
    Necromancy, 1972
    Canterbury Tales, 1972
    Rogopag, 1972
    Treasure Island, 1972 (as Long John Silver)
    Ten Days Wonder, 1975 (narrator)
    Bugs Bunny Superstar, 1975
    Challenge of Greatness, 1976 (narrator only)
    The Other Side of the Wind, 1976 (unfinished)
    Voyage of the Damned, 1976
    The Filming of Othello, 1978
    The Late Great Planet Earth, 1979 (co-narrator only)
    The Muppet Movie, 1979
    Tesla, 1979
    It Happened One Christmas, 1979 (TV)
    The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, 1981
    Butterfly, 1982
    Someone to Love, 1987 (released posthumously)

    Orson Welles Photos
    Click on photo for larger version.

  • A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.
    — Orson Welles

    A good artist should be isolated. If he isn't isolated, something is wrong.
    — Orson Welles

    Almost all serious stories in the world are stories of failure with a death in it. But there is more lost paradise in them than defeat.
    — Orson Welles

    Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.
    — Orson Welles

    By nature, I am an experimentalist. I don't believe much in accomplishment.
    — Orson Welles

    Cinema as a means of expression fascinates me.
    — Orson Welles

    Create your own visual style... let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.
    — Orson Welles

    Criticism is the essence of creation.
    — Orson Welles

    Ecstasy is not really part of the scene we can do on celluloid.
    — Orson Welles

    Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that's printed about him.
    — Orson Welles

    Every true artist must, in his own way, be a magician, a charlatan.
    — Orson Welles

    Everybody denies I am a genius — but nobody ever called me one!
    — Orson Welles

    Everything I do today took me 25 years!
    — Orson Welles

    Fake is as old as the Eden tree.
    — Orson Welles

    For thirty years people have been asking me how I reconcile X with Y! The truthful answer is that I don't. Everything about me is a contradiction and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There is a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don't reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.
    — Orson Welles, to Kenneth Tynan (1967)

    Friendship creates only the illusion of not being alone.
    — Orson Welles

    Gluttony is not a secret vice.
    — Orson Welles

    He is as unaffected as Albert Einstein.
    — Orson Welles

    Hollywood expects you to experiment but on a film that makes money and if you don't make money, you're to blame. Your job is to make money.
    — Orson Welles

    Hollywood is a gold-plated suburb suitable for golfers, gardeners, assorted middlemen, and contented movies stars. I am none of these things.
    — Orson Welles

    Hollywood is the only industry, even taking in soup companies, which does not have laboratories for the purpose of experimentation.
    — Orson Welles

    I discovered at the age of six that everything was a phony, worked with mirrors. Since then, I've always wanted to be a magician.
    — Orson Welles

    I do not suppose I shall be remembered for anything. But I don't think about my work in those terms. It is just as vulgar to work for the sake of posterity as to work for the sake of money.
    — Orson Welles

    I don't pray because I don't want to bore God.
    — Orson Welles

    I don't say we all ought to misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could.
    — Orson Welles

    I don't want any description of me to be accurate; I want it to be flattering. I don't think people who have to sing for their supper ever like to be described truthfully - not in print anyway. We need to sell tickets, so we need good reviews.
    — Orson Welles, to Kenneth Tynan (1967)

    I feel I have to protect myself against things. So I'm pretty careful to lose most of them.
    — Orson Welles

    I hate it when people pray on the screen. It's not because I hate praying, but whenever I see an actor fold his hands and look up in the spotlight, I'm lost. There's only one other thing in the movies I hate as much, and that's sex. You just can't get in bed or pray to God and convince me on the screen.
    — Orson Welles

    I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.
    — Orson Welles

    I hate women, hate them generally, not in particular but in an abstract way. I hate them because one never really learns anything about them. They are inscrutable.
    — Orson Welles

    I have a great love and respect for religion, great love and respect for atheism. What I hate is agnosticism, people who do not choose.
    — Orson Welles

    I have an unfortunate personality.
    — Orson Welles

    I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.
    — Orson Welles

    I love informality. I hate dressing up. I hate to be conventional — and I hate every kind of snob.
    — Orson Welles

    I passionately hate the idea of being with it, I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.
    — Orson Welles

    I seem to have no dress sense at all. I'm always being listed in New York among one of the ten worst dressed men of the year. Someone once described me as "looking like an unmade bed." He was right!
    — Orson Welles

    I started at the top and worked my way down.
    — Orson Welles

    I think we're a kind of desperation. We're sort of a maddening luxury. The basic and essential human is the woman, and all that we're doing is trying to brighten up the place. That's why all the birds who belong to our sex have prettier feathers — because males have got to try and justify their existence.
    — Orson Welles

    I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won't contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.
    — Orson Welles

    I'd make my promises now if I wasn't so busy arranging to keep them.
    — Orson Welles, as Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane

    If I want to pursue the art of painting — or music or writing or sculpture — it requires only my time and a few dollars for materials. If, however, I want to produce a motion picture I have to go out and raise a million dollars!
    — Orson Welles

    If there hadn't been women we'd still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girl friends. And they tolerated it and let us go ahead and play with our toys.
    — Orson Welles

    If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.
    — Orson Welles

    I'm a lurid character!
    — Orson Welles

    In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!
    — Orson Welles, as Harry Lime in The Third Man

    It would be so much better if the critics would come, not on first nights, but on last nights, when they could exercise their undoubted flair for funeral orations.
    — Orson Welles

    Living in the lap of luxury isn't bad, except you never know when luxury is going to stand up.
    — Orson Welles

    Make up an extra copy of that picture and send it to the Chronicle.
    — Orson Welles, as Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane

    Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.
    — Orson Welles

    Movie directing is a perfect refuge for the mediocre.
    — Orson Welles

    My definition of success is not having things thrown at me!
    — Orson Welles

    My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.
    — Orson Welles

    Nobody who takes on anything big and tough can afford to be modest.
    — Orson Welles

    Now I'm an old Christmas tree, the roots of which have died. They just come along and while the little needles fall off me replace them with medallions.
    — Orson Welles

    Now we sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations.
    — Orson Welles

    Nowadays, people's interest in motion pictures is restricted to wanting to know whether Veronica Lake's hair is all her own. I don't see how it could be.
    — Orson Welles

    Only in a police state is the job of a policeman easy.
    — Orson Welles

    Only very intelligent people don't wish they were in politics, and I'm dumb enough to want to be in there.
    — Orson Welles

    Paris is the playwright's delight. New York is the home of directors. London, however, is the actor's city, the only one in the world. In London, actors are given their head.
    — Orson Welles

    Race hate isn't human nature; race hate is the abandonment of human nature.
    — Orson Welles

    — Orson Welles, final word of Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane

    The best thing commercially, which is the worst artistically, by and large, is the most successful.
    — Orson Welles

    The director is simply the audience. So the terrible burden of the director is to take the place of that yawning vacuum, to be the audience and to select from what happens during the day which movement shall be a disaster and which a gala night. His job is to preside over accidents.
    — Orson Welles

    The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.
    — Orson Welles

    The enemy of society is middle class and the enemy of life is middle age.
    — Orson Welles

    The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a flying trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it.
    — Orson Welles

    The ideal American type is perfectly expressed by the Protestant, individualist, anti-conformist, and this is the type that is in the process of disappearing. In reality there are few left.
    — Orson Welles

    The most personal thing I've put in [Touch of Evil] is my hatred of the abuse of police power. It's better to see a murderer go free than for a policeman to abuse his power.
    — Orson Welles

    [The movies] make the sort of comment only a novel can make, an allusion to the world in which people live, the psychological and economic motivations, the influences of the period in which they lived.
    — Orson Welles

    The trouble with a movie is that it's old before it's released. It's no accident that it comes in a can.
    — Orson Welles

    The word genius was whispered into my ear, the first thing I ever heard, while I was still mewling in my crib. So it never occurred to me that I wasn't until middle age.
    — Orson Welles

    There are a thousand ways of playing a good classic. If it were effective, I would play Hamlet on a trapeze.
    — Orson Welles

    There are three intolerable things in life — cold coffee, lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women.
    — Orson Welles

    They teach you anything in universities today. You can major in mud pies.
    — Orson Welles

    Today I believe that man cannot escape his destiny to create whatever it is we make — jazz, a wooden spoon, or graffiti on the wall. All of these are expressions of man's creativity, proof that man has not yet been destroyed by technology. But are we making things for the people of our epoch or repeating what has been done before? And finally, is the question itself important? We must ask ourselves that. The most important thing is always to doubt the importance of the question.
    — Orson Welles

    We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.
    — Orson Welles

    When you are down and out something always turns up — and it is usually the noses of your friends.
    — Orson Welles

    You could write all the IDEAS of all the movies, my own included, on the head of a pin.
    — Orson Welles, to his biographer, Barbara Leaming

    You long-faced, over-dressed anarchist!
    — Orson Welles, as Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane

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