Orson Welles' Euro Adventure
Part One of the Mr. Arkadin Saga
I looked at the "notorious" Confidential Report (aka Mr. Arkadin)because Hulu Plus streams it in HD, giving (or rather, selling) us at last a crisp rendered image of Orson Welles' forever truncated Euro thriller. But am I amiss calling it a thriller? OW had high hopes of his independent effort being conventional enough (as in entertaining for all) to make "packets of money." There'd be optimism too for Touch Of Evil and similarly lowdown content. Both in fact were pulpy and Welles appreciated pulp. I like how he went off and did a trashy Euro pic after example of down-in-50's-dump Erich von Stroheim. Did they ever meet and discuss the parallel? EvS acted in French thrillers but didn't, to my knowing, direct any of them. Welles ran his Arkadin show as we wish he could have any number of ventures in which he too merely performed. Continental Orson was so prolific as to make me wonder if there might be a vault-hidden feature he directed that nobody knows about.
Having multiple versions of Mr. Arkadin just increases the fun. Best not to worry which is definitive, or reflects closest Wellesian "intent." Key question: Is this a show for scholars, or can anyone enjoy?, or better put, is Arkadin boring? To me, not at all, maybe because it's never in one place for long, and I mean that in terms of countries, OW having shot everywhere, speaking in close-up one place, then getting response from a thousand miles away. Ragtag Welles commands greater interest than slickest
The Third Man was what made it possible for Welles to do Arkadin, Harry Lime the signature role of his acting career (was there any other that so identified him?). Welles spun off the character to a radio series in the early 50's, and restaurants played the theme when he entered (did they comp meals as well?). That made a big impression on his visiting oldest child, Christopher. Welles was pleased with fame his Harry Lime conferred, arranging a father/daughter screening of The Third Man. He adapted parts of Arkadin from the radio scripts, it's said. Harry Lime dying at the end of The Third Man meant the character couldn't turn up in more movies, a regret. Could it still have been managed?, the early years of Harry Lime perhaps, before he became such a rotter. Possibly a Welles starring/directing series for Columbia, more-or-less B's, of course, but good for three to four a year, like ongoing Boston Blackies or Lone Wolves; a dumb notion, I suppose, as probably was my earlier suggest that Orson meg a fourth Creature movie for Universal-International. Blame my bad habit of re-imagining OW's career ...
He was himself an International Man of Mystery by the 50's, which explains the Lime glove fitting snug. Orson had to scare up his own cash to make pictures, and that's how he wound up a-bed with shady types who'd invariably turn on him and land the troupe in court. Did OW worry about litigation dropped on his stoop like morning papers? They would certainly have cost me sleep. He developed a line in schmooze to charm lettuce out of star-struck diners. Orson loved to eat, but most such meals were a waste of his valued time. A lot of big talkers matched him for blarney, each wanting something the other pretended to, but didn't necessarily, have (mainly $). A key moment in Mr. Arkadin is Welles telling the story of a scorpion and a frog. Being the sort of anecdote ideal for dinner banter makes me wonder --- did OW use the fable (in fact, devise it) for purpose of baiting investor hooks? I hear sixty-year-ago raucous laughter and visualize Orson hoping his table companion(s) will reach for a checkbook in addition to the check.
One among you must know: How many languages did Welles speak? I'd assume lots, as how else could he gadabout worldwide and engage crews surely not Yank conversant? I wonder too how actors felt about voices being dubbed later, often by Orson himself. And whether they got paid for work. So then you ask if his Arkadin cast ever saw the finished movie, but wait, it never really was finished, which is not to claim Arkadin didn't get a release ... there were several, but that's for Part Two. Let's just say you'd need to be a detective like Guy Van Stratten (played by Robert Arden) to locate Mr. Arkadin once the negative got wrested from Welles. For years it went largely lost and legendary, bulletins issued occasionally by Herman Weinberg in his Variety column, Coffee, Brandy, and Cigars, but virtually no (mainstream) place else.
Finally, there is a matter of screen ratio. Mr. Arkadin, says published timelines, was shot from early 1954 over a next eight months. There had to have been discussion about wider screens in