Okay, so it might not be “The Other Side Of The Wind” —Orson Welles‘ unfinished movie that has been in various states of restoration for years— but “Too Much Johnson” is still a project from the famed filmmaker that’s been in the shadows for a long, long, long time. But now you can download it right to your desktop. Legally! But first, some backstory…
Last summer, Welles’ first feature film “Too Much Johnson” (his first short was 1934’s “The Hearts of Age,” made while still in high school and co-directed by William Vance) was discovered in a shipping warehouse in Pordenone, Italy. It was dusted off rather quickly, and last fall was unspooled at the 32nd Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy, before making its way stateside for a screening at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. And thanks to the efforts of the National Film Preservation Foundation you can stream it or download it right here (Fandor has it in HD).
However, there are a few things to note about this silent movie before you click. This is a workprint, with only the first seven minutes fully edited by Welles. Secondly, the project was intended to run in conjunction with a staging of William Gillette’s 1894 play of the same name, with each act introduced by a silent movie (Welles canned the film after previews went badly). Lastly, this workprint is missing intertitles as well. Needless to say, it’s a bit rough. But hey, you still get to see the Mercury Theatre players —Welles, Joseph Cotten, Mary Wickes, Arlene Francis, Virginia Nicholson (Welles’ wife at the time), and an uncredited Judy Holliday— doing their thing.
So hit the links above for a look at what Welles was doing three years before “Citizen Kane” would hit cinemas and change movie history forever.