Book Reviews

The Journal (Newcastle, England), June 5, 2006 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews


Orson Welles ( Hello Americans by Simon Callow (Jonathan Cape, pounds 25)

Orson Welles (1915-1985), the American film-maker and actor, was a boy wonder who never fulfilled the enormous promise of his early years.

Seldom has a fall from public and critical acclaim arrived so quickly.

At the age of 25, Welles was riding the crest of the wave, but within a couple of years he seemed unable to get much right ( and things stayed that way for the rest of his life.

In this second volume of a biographical trilogy, actor Simon Callow explores in great depth his subject's cinematic, theatrical, radio and journalistic output in America between 1941 and 1947, the period during which the slide began.

Paradoxically, it started soon after Welles's greatest success, the legendary film Citizen Kane, for which he was producer-director-actor and writer.

Before that, Welles had already achieved worldwide fame because of his War Of The Worlds radio play in 1938, about invaders from outer space.

It caused nationwide panic in America because many listeners who tuned in late thought it was really happening.

Welles was a victim of his early successes, which went to his head.

After Citizen Kane, he was given many opportunities to shine, but project after project bombed.

This was due to his undisciplined, unstructured approach to work and his huge ego, which made him always want to run the entire operation, usually with disastrous results.

Unfortunately this book is too wordy, technical and short on entertaining human-interest material.

Although it will be a valuable addition to film libraries and be read with interest by Welles fans, the question remains as to why Callow devoted a massive tome to such a short and not particularly interesting period in Welles's life.

Anthony Loach

Midnight Cactus by Bella Pollen (Macmillan, pounds 14.99)

DESPERATION runs through the heart of Bella Pollen's fourth novel, Midnight Cactus, which delves into murky dealings at the Mexican border.

Set in the Arizona desert, a barren, dry land dividing the haves and have nots, Midnight Cactus is full of people on the run, harbouring the dream of a better life.

Alice Coleman, escaping London and a loveless marriage, arrives in Temerosa with her two children and a plan to renovate the abandoned mining town.

She initially floats on in her own reverie, enjoying the isolation and romanticism of her new surroundings and the delicious feeling of a regained freedom they afford her. …

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