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Archive for Friday, October 19, 2007

Welles’ legacy proves ‘wearying’ and ‘unpleasant’

October 19, 2007

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It was announced Tuesday that the Academy Award won by Orson Welles for co-writing the screenplay to "Citizen Kane" will be heading for the auction block.

Still esteemed by many sources to be the greatest movie of all time, "Kane" also earned the young Welles Oscar nominations for directing, acting and producing the 1941 drama.

And yet, 25 years later, Welles found himself on a downward slide from where there was no climbing back. Once considered the finest actor (and voice) of his generation, he had become virtually blacklisted by Hollywood. It left him an embittered egotist who was desperate for work.

A fitting illustration of this can be found in a package of frozen peas.

Around the late '60s or early '70s - the dates are uncertain - Welles was hired to supply narration in a series of British television ads for Findus. Welles' stentorian voice was to be utilized for hawking products such as frozen peas, hamburgers and fish sticks.

Somebody kept a raw recording of this entire process, which is peppered by constant, belittling arguments with the producer and director of the commercial, along with Welles' verbal disdain for the script's quality.

It represents a clinic in abusive language. It is also excruciatingly hilarious.

The complete audio recording can be found HERE, in addition to video parodies 1 and 2 of the incident.

With each new sentence, Welles becomes more audibly perturbed with his collaborators (whom he calls "pests"). This culminates in an argument with the director, who asks Welles to emphasize the wrong part of the phrase "in July."

Welles: "Why? That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with 'in' and emphasize it. Get me a jury and show me how you can say 'in July' and I'll go (expletive) on you. That's just idiotic. ... I'd love to know how you emphasize 'in' in 'in July.' Impossible! Meaningless!"

Nearly every line of the 4-minute recording offers a quote-worthy quip of epic proportions.

A personal favorite is when Welles reacts to the prosaic ad copy by saying: "You see, this is a very wearying one. It's unpleasant to read. Unrewarding."

The actor eventually becomes insulted enough to walk out of the studio. There is no evidence to suggest he ever returned or that the commercials were aired.

Welles' Oscar for writing "Citizen Kane" is expected to fetch a price in the neighborhood of $1.2 million. Similarly, the "Frozen Peas" recording remains comedically priceless.

- Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet in Net Worth. He can be reached at 832-7178.

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