This is a fun way for any filmmaker or fan to end the week. Eyes on Cinema recently uploaded a full 24-minute interview with Orson Welles, originally broadcast in 1955. The discussion aired as part of “Press Conference – A series in which personalities who make the news answer impromptu questions from men who write the news.”
Then 39-years-old, Welles had yet to make any notable television appearance, a fact which moderator William Hardcastle readily points out. Right out of the gate, he asks the master thespian and filmmaker why has he avoided television when he has seized every other medium? Hardcastle narrows his question down further, and this is where it really gets interesting (especially in hindsight). Hardcastle asks, “What do you think of television as an art form? Can it ever be as good like cinema?”
Given that we’re living in the golden age of TV right now, with such inimitable shows as “The Sorpanos” and “Breaking Bad” and “The Wire” and “Mad Men” routinely gracing airwaves, it’s fascinating to think that was Hardcastle’s lead-in. And without pause, Welles answered, “Oh I think so. I think it is. I think it is already very good. I think it’s certainly as interesting as the cinema is today.” Another moderator, John Beavan, presses Welles, asking where he thinks the television medium is going. Almost prophetically, Welles tells him that, “We’re going to find new forms of television. We’re going to return to old forms, too. To the storyteller. I do thin that television is going up a blind alley when it makes imitation movies.”
The conversation then rapidly shifts gears, with the group asking after “The War of the Worlds” broadcast, which terrified radio listeners across the country in 1938, many of whom took the program as truthful accounts of an extraterrestrial invasion. Welles answers the questions quickly, before the conversation redirects again, focusing for a little while on the filmmaker’s 1948 “Macbeth” adaptation, as well as his preference for film vis-à-vis plays.
A little later in the talk, the interviewers highlight “Citizen Kane” (arguably Welles’ most famous picture), but he doesn’t linger, explaining, “It’s a terribly pompous sort of thing to say, I know, but I am really only interested in what I am going to do, and I find that I dislike rather intensely everything I’ve completely finished.”
The interview is broken up into two parts, check it out below.