The Magnificent Orson Welles

Orson WellesOn this day back in 1856, Sigmund Freud was born. I’m not a huge fan of the man, but there is no doubting his importance. And silent film legend Rudolph Valentino was born in 1895. He died at the age of 31 due to complications from appendicitis. In many ways, I think that’s not a bad age to die at. Leave them wanting more. I often think that would have been a good career move for me. Regardless, it worked well for Valentino, although I’m sure he would have preferred to live longer. His life was good.

The great Willie Mays is 82 today. Singer-songwriters Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Bob Seger are both 68. I doubt Seger still has “the fire down below”—if he ever did. Spineless war monger Tony Blair is 60. I still maintain that if Blair had not gone along with the Iraq War, Bush could not have done it. So I blame Blair almost as much as I do Bush. One half of They Might Be Giants, John Flansburgh is 53.[1] And George Clooney is 52.

Before getting to the day’s winner, there are a couple of important events today. The Hindenburg exploded over New Jersey on this day back in 1937. To this day, no one is certain what happened. I’ve always focused on the fact that it was filled with hydrogen, which is explosive around, you know, oxygen. Regardless of what went wrong, there would have been no explosion if it used helium. So why didn’t they use helium? The same reason that people usually die pointlessly: profits. Helium was much more expensive than hydrogen. People come and go, but profits are something a company always has! And speaking of which, three years later to the day, John Steinbeck was given the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath.

But the day belongs to the great film innovator Orson Welles, who was born on this day back 1915. You can’t have read me for long without knowing my fondness for Welles. But that doesn’t mean I’m one of these guys who thinks he was some sort of a god. The truth is that I pretty much go along with Simon Callow who says that Welles was primarily interested in experimenting on film. But that doesn’t mean that Welles was not also a great storyteller. But I will allow that we might have gotten more storytelling from him if he hadn’t been such a master of the art. Here is a little bit of my writing about him:

Falstaff “Railed Against Our Person”?

Rotten Tomatoes for Orson Welles

The Other Side of the Wind

The Magnificent Ambersons

Happy birthday Orson Welles!


This is the only cover I ever remember They Might Be Giants doing. It is perfect for them:

[1] Interesting coincidence: In the film They Might Be Giants, Mr. Small thinks that he is Rudolph Velentino.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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