Monthly Archives: June 2013

On ORSON WELLES AND ROGER HILL: A FRIENDSHIP IN THREE ACTS

Almost seven years have passed since I quoted from the manuscript of this wonderful book in the Introduction to my own Discovering Orson Welles. At that point the subtitle of Todd Tarbox’s book was A Friendship in Four Acts, but if anything, the book has only grown since then, both physically and in terms of readability. In short, it’s been well worth the wait. (June 2014 footnote: For more details, including an excerpt from one of the Welles/Hill conversations, go to Todd Tarbox’s recent radio interview with Rick Kogan, here.) — J.R.

The major and longest-lasting close friendship of Orson Welles’s life was with one of his earliest role models — his teacher, advisor, and theatrical mentor at the Todd School who later became the school’s headmaster, Roger Hill. By editing and arranging many of their recorded conversations at the end of Welles’s life and career, Hill’s grandson, Todd Tarbox, has given us invaluable and candidly intimate glimpses into many of its stages, especially ones towards the beginning and end of that diverse and complicated saga. In the process, he also confounds and complicates the array of “weak” and flawed father figures that populate most of Welles’ films, all the way from Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersonsthrough The Trial, Chimes at Midnight, Don Quixote, and The Other Side of the Wind, with a bracing and ennobling alternative to that pattern, an unwavering relationship of mutual admiration and respect that was a clear source of strength to both of them.Read more »

Review of THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE, THE GOVERNMENT AND FILM CULTURE, 1933-2000

From the online Screening the Past,  issue 36, posted 17 June 2013. — J.R.

BFI Strike August 1974_NEW_0001

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and Christophe Dupin (ed.)

The British Film Institute, the Government and Film Culture, 1933-2000

Manchester/New York: Manchester University Press, 2012

ISBN: 978 0 7190 7908 5

US$95/UK£65

288pp (hc)

(Review copy supplied by Footprint Books/Warriewood)

The most interesting job I’ve ever had was my two and a half years of working for the British Film Institute, between 1974 and 1977–as both assistant editor of the Monthly Film Bulletin (under Richard Combs) and staff writer for Sight and Sound (under Penelope Houston, who was directly responsible for my getting hired), occasioning at the time a move from Paris to London. This is what sparked my particular interest in this impressively detailed history, coedited and mostly written (apart from four of its 15 chapters) by the University of London’s Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and the International Federation of Film Archives’ Christophe Dupin after more than six years of research—and the fact that it retails for $95 at Amazon in the U.S. and 65 quid at Amazon in the U.K. meant that the only reasonable way I could acquire it was to ask to review it. (By contrast, my hardcover copy of Ivan Butler’s long out-of-print and much sketchier–albeit useful–208-page “To encourage the art of the film”: The Story of the British Film Institute [London: Robert Hale, 1971], which includes a comparable number of illustrations, carries a price of only £2.30on its flyleaf.)

This is a pity, because it’s the sort of book that should be more widely available to more than the university libraries that can still afford it.… Read more »