A legend of film and radio, Orson Welles is widely regarded as being one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. As well as directing, Orson Welles starred in over 60 movies, as well as acting on stage and in television productions.
Born in 1915, Welles spent much of his childhood living in Chicago. His early years were filled with much tragedy, as his mother died when he was nine, and his father passed away when he was 15 years old.
Despite this, he excelled at school and was awarded a scholarship to Harvard University. However, he declined this, in favour of travelling to Europe. It was on his travels that his career in acting began, as he began performing at the Gate Theatre in Dublin.
Throughout the 1930s, Welles starred in a number of stage productions, particularly Shakespeare. He also worked as a radio actor for extra money. The money he earned was then put towards the development of his own stage productions.
By 1937, Welles had established his own theatre company, the Mercury Theatre. Welles acted as the executive producer for the theatre and directed many prominent actors, including Joseph Cotton and Geraldine Fitzgerald.
Radio Work At the same time as his work in theatre, Welles worked in radio as an actor, writer, producer and director. He performed dramas, including Shakespeare’s works on air.
Move to Hollywood
The 1940s saw change for Welles, as he was offered a contract to write, produce, direct and feature in two Hollywood movies. One of these films was Citizen Kane (1941), which Welles co-wrote, produced and directed, as well as starring in the lead role. The film received nine Academy Award nominations and is still regarded as one of the best films ever made to this day!
Welles worked on a few other films during the 1940s, although productions became limited by the Second World War. Throughout the war, Welles, who was unfit to serve, produced patriotic radio programmes and other radio series.
Stage, Screen and Broadcast
After the war, Welles returned to New York to direct a Broadway musical of Around the World. At the same time, he began two new radio series, as well as directing and starring in a number of films, including Macbeth (1948), The Third Man (1949) and Othello (1951).
Welles often jumped between projects, using acting jobs as ways to finance his theatrical endeavours.
During the late-1950s, he returned to Hollywood, where he directed and starred in Touch of Evil (1958).
Work in Europe
He then moved back to Europe, where he worked on an adaptation of Don Quixote, a film which he never managed to finish. Welles spent much of the 1960s working in Europe, directing television shows in Italy, as well as acting and directing in a number of films that were shot in Europe.
Throughout the 60s, he worked in a number of countries, including Croatia, Italy, Spain and France.
Return to Hollywood
Returning to Hollywood in the 1970s, Welles began to self-fund a number of film projects. He also continued to act and direct for other films and television shows, as well as narrating a number of documentaries.
By the end of the 1970s, Welles began acting in advertisements, many of which became very popular and greatly increased the sales of the products being advertised!
Orson Welles and Cigars
While Orson Welles may not be as renowned for cigar smoking as the likes of Churchill and Hitchcock, he did greatly enjoy cigars, and many photographs of him smoking them exist.
It is believed that his favourite cigar brands were Montecristo cigars and Por Larranaga. According to Zino Davidoff, Welles would ask a cigar box to be opened before he bought it; however, he would still buy the box even if the seller refused to oblige.
As well as smoking cigars personally, Welles also wrote cigar-smoking characters into a number of his movies, intentionally bringing the cigar onto the big screen.
Ernest Hemingway, another cigar enthusiast, gifted Welles a cigar ashtray after learning of his love of cigars. The ashtray became one of Welles’ most treasured possessions.
Tall Tales of Cigar Lovers
Welles was married several times during his life, and one of these unions was with actress Rita Hayworth. The couple divorced after five years, due to Welles prioritising work over family life. However, Welles love for cigars inspired a story that reimagined the cause of their separation.
Authors David Camus and Nic Abadzis wrote ‘The Cigar That Fell in Love With a Pipe’ about the Welles-Hayworth split. In their reimagining of events, Hayworth became annoyed with Welles’ cigar-smoking habit and decided to take out her grievances by smoking a cigar from his humidor.
The chosen cigar is a one-of-a-kind cigar rolled by a renowned torcedor who had since passed away. In the story, Welles become so enraged by the loss of his rare cigar, the couple ended up divorcing.
While this is unlikely to have been the real cause of their divorce, it does go to show the lengths some cigar aficionados will go to for the stake of their stogies!
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