The complete ORSON WELLES’ SKETCH BOOK (1955)

Today’s (rather glorious) find comes courtesy of Cinephilia & Beyond: the complete collection of Orson Welles’ Sketch Book (1955).

As that wonderful blog explains,

Orson Welles’ Sketch Book is a series of six short television commentaries by Orson Welles for the BBC in 1955. Written and directed by Welles, the 15-minute episodes present the filmmaker’s commentaries on a range of subjects. Welles frequently draws from his own experiences and often illustrates the episodes with his own sketches.

Episodes:

- ‘The Early Days’ — Welles discusses his early days in the theatre. (First broadcast 24 April 1955.)

- ‘Critics’ — Welles discusses his love-hate relationship with critics. (First broadcast 8 May 1955.)

- ‘The Police’ — Welles relates the story of Isaac Woodard, a decorated black World War II veteran who was blinded in a brutal 1946 beating by South Carolina police. Welles first told the story in July 1946 on his radio show, Orson Welles Commentaries (ABC), and made the case a focus of his weekly broadcasts throughout September 1946. Welles’s comments on his BBC-TV series foreshadow a speech made in Touch of Evil (1958): ‘I’m willing to admit that the policeman has a difficult job, a very hard job. But it’s the essence of our society that a policeman’s job should be hard. He’s there to protect the free citizen, not to chase criminals — that’s an incidental part of the job.’ (First broadcast 22 May 1955.)

- ‘Houdini/John Barrymore/Voodoo Story/The People I Missed’ — Several anecdotes from Welles. (First broadcast 5 June 1955.)

- “The War of the Worlds” — Welles recounts the story of the famous 1938 Mercury Theatre broadcast that was mistaken by many listeners for a real Martian invasion, and the mass panic caused. (First broadcast 19 June 1955.)

- ‘Bullfighting’ — Commentary includes the true story of Bonito the bull, a story written for the screen by Robert Flaherty that Welles filmed in 1942. It was to make up the first third of his unfinished film, It’s All True. (First broadcast 3 July 1955.)”

About the Author

Spencer Everhart curates the Worth Viewing video blog for The Seventh Art. He joined the team after his first video essay ("Malick's Lyrical Branches - The Tree of Life") was published in our seventh issue. He currently resides in Michigan and holds a cinema studies degree from Grand Valley State University.