Long believed lost Orson Welles film discovered in Italy
'Too Much Johnson' to finally be screened this October
Just before he was to lens his acclaimed masterpiece "Citizen Kane" in 1941, director Orson Welles directed "Too Much Johnson," an adaptation of a 19th Century play. "Johnson" was never completed and the production was scrapped, and the film was believed lost at Welles' home in Madrid, Spain. "Johnson" has since resurfaced, and audiences will have the chance to line up to see it this October.
Discovered recently in an abandoned shipping company warehouse in Pordenone, Italy, the long-lost film "Too Much Johnson" is one of Welles' first-known professional films.
They saw that it was something very special," Annette Melville, the director of the National Film Preservation Foundation says. "It was going to be thrown out. It had been sitting there since the 70s."
The owner of the warehouse notified the organizers of Pordenone's famed silent film festival once he realized the discovery that he had made. "Johnson" will now debut on October 9th.
"When you get a call that there's a reel in a warehouse, it could be anything," Paolo Cherci Usai, the senior curator of the Motion Picture Department at the George Eastman House in New York says. After seeing Welles' name on the labels, it became apparent this was a significant find.
Usai brought the film back to the U.S. where he contacted the NFPF to help preserve "Johnson," which is now almost fully restored.
Based upon the play of the same name by Richard Gillette, "Too Much Johnson" was intended as a prologue for each of the three acts of Welles' stage production for the Mercury Theatre Company. Welles transformed the play into a slapstick comedy, adding music and sound effects. The film stars renowned Welles collaborators, such as Joseph Cotten and Ruth Ford. The play eventually flopped when it opened at the Stony Creek Theater in Connecticut in August of 1938.
Ninety-eight-year-old Norman Lloyd, an original member of the Mercury Theatre Company who appeared in early Broadway productions of Welles' "Julius Caesar" (1937) and "The Shoemaker's Holiday" (1938), said he is excited to see the film, and believes "Johnson" will showcase Welles' comedic talents.
"In my view, [Welles] was the finest director we ever had in the theatre," Lloyd says. "I think he stood alone in American theatre.you don't have these guys around anymore.
"I'm looking forward to seeing 'Too Much Johnson' because I want to see what he did finish, where he was going with it and why he didn't finish," Lloyd says.
Orson Welles' film career started off strongly with "Citizen Kane" and "Magnificent Ambersons," only to later start films that were never completed, such as "Don Quixote." Welles was chiefly known as an actor and TV commercial spokesperson when he died in 1985 at the age of 70.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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