Citizen Kane and the Touch of Evil

         Orson Welles is one of Hollywood’s greatest directors of all time. He directed many films such as The Stranger (1946), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Touch of Evil (1958), etc. Welles had great success in his early years with Citizen Kane (1941) and then in turn, became one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors, screen player writers, and directors. After about a decade, though, his health and star director-hood began to fail, especially with the film, Touch of Evil. If one were to examine all of the meticulous aspects that went into the making of the film, Touch of Evil, then it would be easy to understand as to why this film marked the end of an actor, screen player, and director’s infamous career in Hollywood.

         There were many instances that occurred before the film was even shot. A couple instances were that Orson Welles was originally hired only to act in the film; but, due to a misunderstanding, Charlton Heston understood that Welles was to be the director. To keep Heston happy, producer Albert Sugsmith allowed Welles to direct. Welles made major changes to the already-completed script, including changing Heston's character from a white district attorney to a Mexican narcotics agent, changing Janet Leigh’s character from Mexican to American, and changing the setting of the movie from a small California town to a Mexican-American border town.

         So, in the first place, the producer and Universal International Pictures did not desire Welles directing (even though he had written the screen play and played one of the main actors). Eventually, though, Welles was fired as director during post-production, and the film was re-cut contrary to his wishes. Before his death, he left instructions on how he wanted the film to be edited, and in 1998 a version was made the way he intended.

         One other important instance that occurred with the making of the film, Touch of Evil, that could be seen as a predictor for Welles declining career, like for instance after filming was completed, Orson Welles left to go to Mexico to continue filming his version of Don Quixote. It was during this time that Universal asked for cuts; and, since he was not around, they began cutting it themselves. One of the things that the studio decided to cut that was important to Welles was that he wanted the credits to appear at the end of the film so as not to distract the audience from the long (and famous) initial tracking shot. He finally got his wish with the 1998 alternate version, dubbed 'the directors cut'.

         It was circumstances, such as Welles initially being the director, him changing around the screenplay, and then Welles not getting what he wanted (and deserved) to be in the film that aided in downward spiral of his career. I think that the film, Touch of Evil, was Orson Welles’ last attempt to make a great film that was tainted by the producers and Production Company.

Sarah Hurley Austin

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