Sunday, February 20, 2022

Orson Welles: 1948 Through 1951("Macbeth", "Count Cagliostro", "Cesare Borgia", "Bayan of the Hundred Eyes" and "Othello" )

What can you say about the man who convinced American's that the planet Mars was attacking New Jersey on Halloween Night, October 31, 1938, and then created "Charles Foster Kane"? This is a look at five of roles that are part of a four-year period in the acting life of George Orson Welles.

MACBETH premiered in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 7, 1948

William Shakespeare on the motion picture screen wasn't a new idea and it went back to 1888, or 1899, depending upon the source. The future Sir Laurence Olivier, as a morale builder during the German blitz of England, filmed and released, in 1944, a motion picture with the on-screen title, "The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France", also Shakespeare's title. This was the first of several Shakespearian motion pictures by Olivier over the years.

Back in 1939, "Universal Pictures" apparently filmed the first version of William Shakespeare's "Richard III" entitled the "Tower of London". This historical drama starred B
asil Rathbone as "Richard III" and Boris Karloff as his club-footed executioner, but there was hardly a word of Shakespeare to be heard. In 1962, Roger Corman remade "Tower of London" with Vincent Price, who had played the "Duke of Clarence" in 1939, as "Richard III". The film was considered historical drama and horror, perhaps because Vincent Price was in his Edgar Allan Poe period. In 1955, Laurence Olivier made his "Richard III". Keeping with 1939's changing of the original, Olivier added selections from Shakespeare's "Henry VI, Part 3" to his screenplay and reworked some of the dialogue, while shortening the original play.

I write the above as background for what Orson Welles did!

In 1947, Orson Welles approached Alexander Korda, of the "Korda Brothers", about making a film version of "Othello", but was unable to get support for the project. At the same time, Laurence Olivier was putting together his "Hamlet".

Ever the showman, and perhaps a little bit of the ham-actor, Orson Welles turned to Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of Macbeth" and approached Herbert Yates, owner of "Republic Pictures". 

According to Michael Scheinfield of "TV Guide", Orson Welles described Shakespeare's "Macbeth" to Yates, as the perfect cross between director William Wyler's 1939 version of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights", that happened to star Laurence Olivier, and director James Whale's 1935 "Bride of Frankenstein", that starred Boris Karloff. Herbert Yates bought into the project, because he wanted to improve the image of his basically "B" Western and Cliff-Hanger movie studio. 

However, Yates, known to always be skimpy with his studio's money, only gave Welles and co-producer Charles K. Feldman, the John Wayne features 1942's "The Spoilers", 1942's "Pittsburgh" and 1948's "Red River", $700,000 dollars. Thereby, forcing Orson Welles to agree to personally pay anything over that amount. According to the July 2, 1947 issue of "Variety", the final cost of "Macbeth" was between $800,000 and $900,000 dollars. The motion picture was shot in 23-days with one of the days used for all the retakes.

Co-producer Orson Welles would direct the motion picture and adapt Shakespeare's play into the screenplay he had envisioned upon the motion picture screen. The next step was to cast the film and Welles, of course, had himself in the title role.

But who was to portray "Lady Macbeth" opposite him?

Orson Welles wanted Vivian Leigh, but she was married to Laurence Olivier and Welles figured Olivier would be against his wife taking the role for a competitor. So, "Lady Macbeth" was offered to Tallulah Bankhead, Alfred Hitchcock's 1944 "Lifeboat" and co-directors Otto Preminger and Ernst Lubitsch's 1945 comedy "A Royal Scandal", but Bankhead outright turned the role down. Next, he requested Anne Baxter, then he tried for Mercedes McCambridge, and after that his "Mercury Theatre" cast member Agnes Moorehead, but all had previous commitments. 

In the end Orson Welles cast another member of the "Mercury Theatre", Jeanette Nolan, in her first on-screen appearance as "Lady Macbeth".

Dan O'Herlihy portrayed "Macduff". O'Herlihy was an Irish actor who had never appeared before in an American motion picture. The actor had just been seen in only his second motion picture, director Carol Reed's 1947 "Odd Man Out", starring James Mason and Robert Newton, O'Herlihy had 12th billing as "Nolan".

Roddy McDowall portrayed "Malcolm". McDowall had just starred in 1948's "Rocky" and followed this role with the 1948 version of author Robert Lewis Stevenson's "Kidnapped", co-starring Dan O'Herlihy.

Edgar Barrier portrayed "Banquo". Barrier had been one of the two love interests for "Christine" in "Universal Pictures" 1943 remake of "The Phantom of the Opera". He had just been seen in 1948's "Port Said", and would follow this feature with 1948's "Rogues' Regiment".

Alan Napier portrayed "A Christian Holy Man". The future "Alfred" of televisions "Batman", had just been in 1948's "My Own True Love". Napier followed this movie with 1948's "Johnny Belinda" starring Jane Wyman. Alan Napier is on the far right of the following still.

The Wellesian Screenplay

Like many of his works, William Shakespeare's "Tragedy of Macbeth" is based on fact with poetic license taken. The real Scottish King Macbeth ruled during the 11th Century and gained his throne by killing his cousin, King Duncan I, during battle in 1040. Six years later Siward, the earl of Northumbria, unsuccessfully attempted to dethrone Macbeth, to place Malcom on the Scottish Throne. In 1054, Siward was able to get Macbeth to yield part of southern Scotland to Malcom. Three years after that, Macbeth was killed by Malcom with assistance from the English.

I am not going into the plot of William Shakespeare's play, but will look at what Orson Welles did to Shakespeare's "Tragedy of Macbeth" to make the play his own. 

As was to be expected, Orson Welles changed William Shakespeare and one change was to expand the scenes of the "Three Witches". His purpose was to increase their significance to the downfall of the Scottish King. In casting the witches, he also used the actresses in other roles, Peggy Webber was both "Lady Macduff" and a "Witch", Lurene Tuttle was both a "Gentlewoman" and a "Witch", and Brainerd Duffield was both the "First Murderer" and a "Witch".

At the films start, the "Three Witches" create a clay figure, not in the play, of "Macbeth" to signify his rise and ruin. The imagery surrounding the sequence might have actually come from James Whale's "Bride of Frankenstein", and it sets the mood for the entire motion picture. 

The cinematographer used by Welles was John L. Russell and at the time this was only Russell's second feature film. Among his later work were the eerie 1951 "The Man from Planet X", 1953's "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", 1954's Tobor the Great", and six years after that picture, Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 "Psycho".

The clay statue of "Macbeth" adds a supernatural tone to Welles' interpretation of Shakespeare. "The Witches" place an un-Shakespearian spell upon the statue and whatever happens to it, seems to happen to "Macbeth". At the picture's climax the statue seems to collapse into a heap of clay and "Macbeth" is beheaded! 

To some film historians and critics the clay statue works like a voodoo doll. It should be noted that Orson Welles had premiered on April 14, 1936, for FDR's "Federal Theatre's Project's", a production of "Macbeth". He moved the setting from Scotland to an unnamed Caribbean Island and used an all-African American cast. The production earned the nickname of "Voodoo Macbeth"!

Orson Welles also added a new character, "A Christian Holy Man", that according to Peter Crowie's 1978, "The Cinema of Orson Welles", quotes Welles as stating that:
the main point of that production is the struggle between the old and new religions. I saw the witches as representatives of a Druidial pagan religion suppressed by Christianity – itself a new arrival.

Orson Welles moves his setting backwards from William Shakespeare's, to the dawn of Christianity when it was also pagan in nature. 


Orson Welles played with Shakespeare's character of "Lady Macbeth" in two critical scenes. The first, is just a very subtle insinuation that she has fatally stabbed "King Duncan", played by Erskine Sanford, prior to "Macbeth's" army's attack on his.

The second, is to now have "Macbeth" witnesses the highlight sequence of the original play, the sleepwalking and madness of "Lady Macbeth".

Orson Welles is known for the opening three-minute tracking shot in 1958's "Touch of Evil". What many don't know, thanks originally to cuts by Herbert Yates' "Republic Pictures", is that "Macbeth" contains Welles' original tracking shot running a full ten-minutes during the night of "King Duncan's" murder.

Orson Wells made the decision to show the audience two sequences that are not in the original play and most motion picture versions, because William Shakespeare played them with dialogue only and they take place out of the audience's view.

The first of the two is the execution of the "Thane of Cawdor", a Scottish Peerage title, because "Macbeth" was told by the three witches, that he could only become King of Scotland after getting that title. So, he has the current "Thane" executed and claims the title.

The second is the suicide of "Lady Macbeth" and the final battle between "Macbeth" and "Macduff's" armies.

Above, the child beating Orson Wells is his daughter Christopher Welles portraying "Macduff's Child".

Below, Welles told motion picture director Peter Bogdanovich, about this particular costume, that:
Mine should have been sent back, because I looked like the Statue of Liberty in it,


Because of the budget given to Orson Welles and Charles K. Feldon by Herbert Yates. Many of the motion pictures costumes were recycled through "Western Costume" from other productions to save money and they didn't have one that really fit him and the above was the best they could do.

As for the films sets, luckily the film is set in Scotland with the fog on the moors, because they were all "B" Roy Rodgers cowboy movie sets.

Orson Welles shot his film with the actors speaking with a Scottish Brogue to sound authentic. "Republic Pictures" had their voices redubbed with the actors speaking in their normal voices. Along with the studio cutting the film by 20-minutes, that included the tracking shot, to an 88-minute running time.

Next, it was set to be shown at the "Venice Italy Film Festival", but the studio pulled it. The film's competition was Laurence Olivier's 1948 version of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet".

In 1980 the "UCLA Film and Television Archive" and the "Folger Shakespeare Library" restored "Macbeth" to its original 107-minute version with the original soundtrack.

Orson Welles gave a 1953 lecture at the "Edinburgh Fringe Festival"
My purpose in making Macbeth was not to make a great film – and this is unusual, because I think that every film director, even when he is making nonsense, should have as his purpose the making of a great film. I thought I was making what might be a good film, and what, if the 23-day day shoot schedule came off, might encourage other filmmakers to tackle difficult subjects at greater speed. Unfortunately, not one critic in any part of the world chose to compliment me on the speed. They thought it was a scandal that it should only take 23 days. Of course, they were right, but I could not write to every one of them and explain that no one would give me any money for a further day's shooting . . . However, I am not ashamed of the limitations of the picture.

At the time of the release of Orson Welles' "Macbeth" the film critics attacked him for making changes to William Shakespeare's play. Purists believed you just don't touch "The Bard of Avon's" work. Seven years later, the same critics panned Laurence Olivier's "Richard III", and he ended his career of directing Shakespeare on the motion picture screen. 

Yet, two-years after Olivier's "Richard III", while the film critics and historians were still openly condemning Orson Welles for the sin of changing Shakespeare. Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, released 1957's "Kumpnosu-jo (Spider Web Castle)" aka: "Throne of Blood", moving William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" from Scotland to feudal Japan, and Kurosawa received high praise from those same critics. My article, "William Shakespeare By Akira Kurosawa: Kurosawa By America and Italy", will be found at:

Immediately following his "Macbeth", Orson Welles appeared in:

BLACK MAGIC aka: CAGLIOSTRO released on August 19, 1949

The credited director of the picture was actor-director Gregory Ratoff. Among his films as a director were, 1937's "Lancer Spy" starring George Sanders, 1939's "Intermezzo" starring Leslie Howard and Ingrid Bergman, the 1941 version of Alexander Dumas' "The Corsican Brothers" starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr, and the 1944 propaganda film "Song of Russia" starring Robert Taylor.

The uncredited director on the picture was Orson Welles.

The screenplay is based upon an 1847 novel by French author Alexander Dumas, "Memories d'un medicin Joseph Balsamo (Memoirs of a physician Joseph Balsamo) ". Joseph Balsamo was the name the French knew the real-life 18th Century occultist Giuseppe Balsamo aka: Count Alessandro Cagliostro. A self-styled magician and occultist, specializing in psychic healing, alchemy, and scrying (the ability to see messages about people using some form of medium to see those messages) and a Freemason.

The Dumas novel and initial screenplay was adapted and written by Charles Bennett. Bennett wrote several screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock. These included, 1934's "The Man Who Knew Too Much", 1935's "The 39 Steps", and both 1936's "Secret Agent" and "Foreign Correspondent". For Cecil B. DeMille, Charles Bennett wrote 1942's "Reap the Wild Wind", and 1947's "Unconquered".

Richard Schayer wrote additional dialogue and some scenes. Schayer wrote director Todd Browning and actor Lon Chaney's 1929 "Where East is East", and Browning's 1936 "The Devil-Doll" starring Lionel Barrymore and Maureen O'Sulivan. For "Universal Studios" Schayer wrote the screenplays for 1931's "Frankenstein", and 1932's "The Mummy".

Orson Welles portrayed "Joseph Balasamo" aka: "Count Cagliostro". Welles would follow this feature with the only film from this period that I am not going to detail in my article. The film was 1949's "The Third Man", made by British director Carol Reed, and starring Joseph Cotton as the man who is looking for "Harry Lime", played by Welles, a character who doesn't appear until the last third of the picture.

Orson Welles was not the first person offered the role by producer Edward Small. Whose other films based upon Alexander Dumas are, 1934's "The Count of Monte Cristo", 1939's "The Man in the Iron Mask", 1940's "The Son of Monte Cristo",  1941's "The Corsican Brothers", and 1941's "The Return of Monte Cristo".  Before Small decided upon Welles the role was offered to Charles Boyer, George Sanders, Louis Hayward, and Jose Ferrer. What is interesting is that Hollywood Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper knowing that Edward Small was considering to turn the novel into a motion picture suggested Orson Wells back in 1943.

In a "New York Times" interview with Welles, on April 17, 1949, the actor said that Edward Small acted:

very cleverly with the role of Cagliostro. He waited 'til I had reread the Dumas novels and become so 'hypnotized' by the scoundrel that I felt I had to play him. Then Small announced casually, 'Gregory Ratoff' is going to direct'. That cinched it. Gregory is a great friend, and more fun to work with than anybody I know.

Nancy Guild portrayed the dual roles of "Marie Antoinette" and "Lorenza". Between 1946 and 1971 the actress only appeared 15 times on-screen. Before this picture she was in 1948's "Give My Regards to Broadway" co-starring with Dan Dailey. She followed this film with 1951's "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man".


Akim Tamiroff portrayed "Gitano". Tamiroff had just been seen in George Raft's 1949 "Outpost in Morocco", and followed the film with a 1952 episode, "Trouble in Pier Twelve", on televisions "Schlitz Playhouse".

Valentina Cortese portrayed "Zoraida". The Italian actress had just appeared in the 1949 British motion picture "The Glass Mountain". She followed this feature with 1949's "Thieves' Highway" co-starring with Richard Conte and Lee J. Cobb.

Left to right, Orson Welles, Valentina Cortese, and Akim Tamiroff.

Frank Latimore portrayed "Gilbert de Rezel". Latimore's latest motion picture was James Cagney's 1946 "13 Rue Madeleine", and he followed this picture with the first of several Italian motion pictures 1949's "Yvonne la Nuit".

Stephen Bekassy portrayed "Viscount de Montaigne". The Hungarian born character actor had just appeared in the Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Charles Laughton 1948 pre-WW2 setting drama, "Arch of Triumph" and followed this feature with the 1951 Film-Noir "Secrets of Monte Carlo".

Buried at 10th billing is actor Raymond Burr portraying Alexander Dumas Jr., who became a playwright and novelist. 

For my readers who happen to be a Raymond Burr fan, my article "RAYMOND BURR BEFORE PERRY MASON: Film-Noirs, "B" Westerns, A Certain Monster and the Queen of the Nile", will be found at:

According to Charles Bennett, Orson Welles did an extensive uncredited rewrite of his screenplay.

The Basic Screenplay

This was typical Hollywood biographical fiction, but filmed in Italy, it was too costly for Small to film in Mexico.

The story is told to Alexander Dumas, Jr. by his father, played by Berry Kroeger.

The flashback begins with the audience learning that as a young boy, "Joseph Balsamo" was tortured and his parent's were murdered by the "Viscount de Montaigne".

The boy was rescued by gypsies led by "Gitano" and "Joseph" vows revenge on the viscount no matter how long it takes.

Now an adult, "Balsamo" learns the secrets of hypnotism known as mesmerizing from "Dr. Mesmer", played by Charles Goldner. "Mesmer" tells him to use his powers to heal the sick, but now calling himself "Count Cagliostro", "Balsamo" has other plans.

Within the screenplay, "Count Cagliostro's" is shown studying Ancient Mysticism and the "Egyptian Art of "Freemasonry" and his "Black Magic" is tied to that organization.

"Balsamo" exploits his new talents to acquire wealth and become accepted within the higher social circles throughout Europe. Moving closer to his revenge on "Viscount de Montaigne" he entertains "King Louis XV", played by Robert Atkins.

Next, "Count Cagliostro" joined by his gypsy allies "Gitano" and "Zoraida" enter a plot orchestrated by "Joseph Balsamo's" target for revenge, "Viscount de Montaigne", who doesn't know that the count is  really "Balsamo". The other member of the plot is "Madame du Barry", played by Margot Graham, the real du Barry was involved in several plots against Marie Antoinette.  The plotters want to use a young woman, "Lorenza", once cured by "Cagliostro", to replace "Marie Antoinette", her double, at the appropriate time.

There are two problems facing "Cagliostro" in carrying out his revenge! The first is that "Zoriada" has always been in love with him and is becoming jealous of "Lorenza".

The second is that "Lorenza" does not love "Cagliostro", but "Captain Gilbert de Rezel". 

"Count Cagliostro" mesmerizes "Lorenza" to forget the captain, but "de Rezel" finds her and the two escape from "Cagliostro's influence.

"Cagliostro" finds the two  lovers, mesmerizes "Lorenza" and under his hypnosis she marries him.

Meanwhile, "King Louis XV", dies and "Marie Antoinette" becomes "Queen Consort" to "King Louis XVI", played by Lee Kressel.

Next, the new Queen orders "Cagliostro", who she considers a fraud, to leave France forever!

In the screenplay, "Viscount de Montaigne" and "Count Cagliostro's" plan is to have "Lorenza" as the Queen openly purchase a "frivolous necklace" to further inflame the French people against Marie Antoinette and split the sale of the necklace, or at least that is what the Viscount believes.

There actually was an accusation that the real "Queen Marie Antoinette" purchased a necklace to defraud the Crown's jewelers, but "Count Cagliostro" had nothing to do with it. The following link will take my reader to an article about the Diamond Necklace purchased by the French Queen and the following picture is of the actual necklace.

The plan goes into effect, with the "Viscount de Montaigne" accompanying "Lorenza" as the Queen and purchasing the necklace.

After which, the jealous "Zoraida" brings "Lorenza" to the real "Marie Antoinette" and reveals "Count Cagliostro's" plot. "Lorenza" agrees to testify against her husband and the trial begins. However, "Balsamo" is able to mesmerize "Lorenza" into stating she knows nothing and is in love with her husband.


"Balsamo" is also able to mesmerize "Captain Gilbert de Rezel" into testifying against the Queen and bringing up the purchase of the necklace. As "Joseph Balsamo" had planned, the "Viscount de Montaigne" becomes tied to the Queen's "defrauding scheme" and is ruined.

However, "Joseph Balsamo" overlooks one other person, "Dr. Mesmer", who uses the necklace to mesmerize "Count Cagliostro" into confessing everything. 

"Joseph Balsamo" comes out of his mesmerized states, grabs "Lorenza", and manages to escape the courtroom pursued by "Captain de Rezel". The two have a sword fight and "Joseph Balsamo" aka: "Count Cagliostro" is killed. 

The screenplay implies that it was "Cagliostro's" trial and the necklace that led to the start of the "French Revolution".

The real "Alessandro Cagliostro" was arrested in Rome on December 27, 1789, for attempting to set-up a Masonic Lodge in the Catholic capital. He died in prison on August 25, 1795.

Speaking of Rome and Italy was Orson Welles' next motion picture.

PRINCE OF FOXES released on December 23, 1949

The picture's director was Henry King. At this time among his motion pictures were, 1936's "Ramona" starring Loretta Young and Don Ameche, 1936's "Lloyd's of London" starring Tyrone Power and Madeline Carroll, 1938's "In Old Chicago" starring Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, and Don Ameche, 1939's "Jesse James" starring Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda, 1941's "A Yank in the R.A.F." starring Tyrone Power and Betty Grable, and 1942's "The Black Swan" starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara.

The screenplay was based upon the 1949 best-selling novel of the same name by Samuel Shellabarger. Who had written the 1947 best-selling novel that Henry King and Tyrone Power turned into the motion picture with that novel's title, 1947's "Captain from Castile".

Shellabarger's novel is based upon a fictional episode in the life of Cesare Borgia, brother of Lucrezia, an Italian Cardinal, a mercenary leader of Spanish descent, and the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI and a member of the "House of Borgia".

The screenplay was written by Milton Krims, among his work is the Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland 1936 "Anthony Adverse", 1939's "Confessions of a Nazi Spy" starring Edward G. Robinson, George Sanders, and Francis Lederer, and 1948's "The Iron Curtain" starring Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, and June Havoc.

Tyrone Power portrayed "Andrea Orsini". Power had just starred in 1948's "That Wonderful Urge" co-starring with Gene Tierney and Reginald Gardiner. He followed this picture with the next one I will speak too.

Orson Welles portrayed Cesare Borgia. Welles has just been "Harry Lime" in director Carol Reed's 1949 Film-Noir "The Third Man". Like Tyrone Power he followed this picture with the next one I will speak too.

Wanda Hendrix portrayed "Camilla Verano". Hendrix had co-starred with Claude Rains and MacDonald Carey in 1949's "Song of Surrender". She followed this feature with 1949's "Captain Carey, U.S.A." co-starring with Alan Ladd and Francis Lederer.

Maria Berti portrayed "Angela Borgia" the cousin of Cesare and Lucrezia. British born Italian actress Berti had just been in the Italian 1949 "Il grido della terra (The Earth Cries Out)" about the founding of Israel. She followed this motion picture with the Italian 1949 "Vespro siciliano " set during the "War of the Sicilian Vespers" in 1282.


The Basic Screenplay:

The "Catholic League of Decency", representing the Catholic Church, made their objections known with the writing of the original screenplay that having "Pope Alexander VI", a major character in the novel, as a character in the motion picture was off-limits. As a result, he isn't in the screenplay and no mention of the parents of either Cesare, or his sister, Lucrezia Borgia is mentioned. Additionally, the screenplay never mentions religion, or the Catholic church, thereby, eliminating any historical connection of Cesare Borgia to the church, or being a Cardinal himself.

In the screenplay "Cesare Borgia" has become a "Machiavellian Prince" with his own personal army. One of his soldiers is "Andrea Orsini", an artistic nobleman, skilled with the brush and the sword, as well as the ways of women, and it is August 1500.

Pleased at the way "Andrea" handles himself, he is chosen by "Cesare" for an important "intrigue".

"Borgia" wants "Orsini to arrange the marriage of "Cesare's" widowed sister "Lucrezia Borgia", played by the uncredited Antonella Lualdi, with "Alphonso d'Este", played by the uncredited James Carney, son of the "Duke Ercole d'Este of Ferrara", played by the uncredited Joop van Hulzen.

In truth, "Cesare Borgia" wants to rule Italy, and this is just one cog in his plan by gaining control of Central Italy through the marriage. However, not being chosen for this mission turns a now jealous "Don Esteban Ramirez", played by the uncredited Leslie Bradley, into an enemy of "Orsini".

"Orsini" travels to Venice to sell some of his paintings for money to cover his expenses. There he meets the young wife, "Camilla Verona", of the elderly "Count Marc Antonio Verona", played by Felix Aylmer, of Citta del Monte, who has come down to the city on business and gives her one of his paintings. The two part, but "Orsini" wishes he could have known the young woman better.

Shortly afterwards, an assassin, "Mario Belli", played by Everett Sloane, attempts to kill "Andrea Orsini", but "Orsini" over powers him and spares the man's life. After he learns that it was the "Duke Ercole d'Este" that paid for the assassination attempt. "Andrea" hires the assassin and "Belli" becomes part of his entourage. 

Resuming his mission, "Orsini" stops at the farm of a blacksmith's widow, "Mona Constanza Zoppo", played by Katina Paxinou, which rumor claims has hidden gold stolen by her bandit son. Actually, the son is "Andrea Orsini", who is not of the Italian nobility that even the Borgia's believe he is a part of, but whose real name is "Andrea Zoppo". "Andrea's" mother does not approve of her son's evil way of life and the reunion is anything but smooth.

While the reunion is going on, neither mother or son notice "Belli" spying on them through the window. "Orsini" continues on to Ferrara and succeeds in arranging the marriage by intimidating the duke and flattering "Alfonso". "Andrea Orsini" returns to "Cesare Borgia" with the good news, and the prince now has a second mission for him which adds to "Don Esteban's" enmity.

"Andrea Orsini" is appointed ambassador to Citta del Monte, with orders to help the prince conquer the mountain top city by spring. The means suggested is the seduction of "Camilla di Baglione" the wife of "Count Verano", the woman "Andrea" met in Venice. Not completely trusting his ambassador, "Cesare Borgia" now hires "Belli" as his spy to make sure "Orsini" doesn't waiver from his new mission.

"Andrea Orsini" learns that the old count climbs a high precipice overlooking the countryside to think out a problem facing him. This would be a good spot to speak with "Count Verano", while "Mario Belli" thinks it a perfect place for an accident to kill the count. However, "Andrea" falls under the spell of the old count's wisdom.

"Camilla" is leery of "Orsini", but grows to admire "Andrea's" artistic soul as he paints her portrait for the court. 

"Andrea Orsini" has come to admire the old count and his love of his people as compared to "The Prince of Foxes", "Cesare Borgia", but this is interrupted by the arrival of "Don Esteban". The Don brings an order from "Borgia" demanding that "Count Marc Antonio Verano" let the Prince's troops pass through his land and supply them with food and other equipment. "Count Verano" refuses "Don Esteban's" demand, states "his people" come before "Cesare Borgia", "Andrea Orsini" switches sides from "Borgia" to "Verano", but "Belli", who calls himself "a born traitor", will stay with "Cesare Borgia's". 

The count reveals to "Andrea" that he only married "Camilla", after her father died, to protect her and has treated his wife as his daughter. "Andrea Orsini" now knows his love of "Camilla Verona" would have the approval of the count under different circumstances.

"Cesare's" soldiers arrive and battle begins, but in an ambush of "Borgia's" advance guard, "Count Verano" is mortally wounded and will die. "Andrea Orsini" takes command of the army under the rule of "Camilla Verano".

Three months of assaults and counter assaults now take place as the city is kept under siege.

The siege has reached the point of exhaustion for "Camilla's" people and "Don Esteban" offers very generous peace terms, but with one condition, the surrender of "Andrea Orsini", the man "Camilla" now fully loves. She tells the Don she'll not accept his terms. "Orsini" responds that he will give himself up, IF the terms of surrender are put in writing.

Now that Citta de Monte is his, "Cesare Borgia" has a huge triumphal dinner party with "Camilla Verona" having to sit by his side. "Borgia" has the tortured "Orsini" brought before him and "Camilla" and exposes "Andrea" as the peasant he is by having his mother brought in to confirm this fact.

"Cesare Borgia" passes judgement on "Andrea Zoppo", death by starvation! However, "Mario Belli", now a Lieutenant in "Borgia's" army steps forward, protests the punishment, and asks that he be permitted to gouge out "Andrea's" eyes in front of all those assembled at the dinner and make "Orsini" a blind beggar. This is granted by the delighted "Cesare Borgia" and "Andrea's" mother escorts her blind son home. next, "The Prince of Foxes" imprisons "Camilla" in the dungeons as punishment for defying his rule.

"Cesare Borgia" leaves the city and takes his army for the further conquest of Italy!

The obvious twist to the story is that "Belli" had remained loyal to "Orsini" this entire time and the two planned the fake gouging of his eyes. Now they have two plans to carry out, the rescue of "Camilla", and helping her people retake their city.

The signal for the citizen uprising is accidently given before "Andrea" and "Camilla" can escape the castle. "Don Esteban" appears and meets "Andrea Zoppo" in single combat, and dies in it. However, another officer in "Borgia's" army appears and as "Andrea" stumbles over "Esteban's" body, "Balgioni", the role or the actor's name does not appear on the official cast listing, has a chance of killing him, but he is weary of all the killing and admires "Andrea Zoppo" and lets the two go on.

The uprising started by "Andrea" and "Mario Belli" leads to resistance throughout Italy and the end of "Cesare Borgia's" conquest. The picture ends with "Andrea" and "Camilla" marrying!

The real "Cesare Borgia" met his death on a battle field on March 11, 1507. because he lost the support of the Papacy. Which could not be mentioned in this motion picture's screenplay, because of the agreement with the "Catholic League of Decency", even though it's in the original novel.

THE BLACK ROSE released on September 1, 1950


Director Henry Hathaway's previous motion picture was 1949's "Down to the Sea in Ships" starring Richard Widmark, Lionel Barrymore, and Dean Stockwell. Then the director had surgery for cancer and on the set for this motion picture he had a doctor in attendance. After this motion picture Hathaway would make the forgotten comedy, 1951's "You're in the Navy Now" starring Gary Cooper and Jane Greer.

This motion picture is based upon a 1945 bestselling novel by historical novelist Thomas B. Costain. Costain mixed historical figures with his fictional ones. His 1951 biblical novel "The Silver Chalice" was about the chalice made to hold the cup used by Jesus Christ at the last supper. Costain's 1959 novel "The Darkness and the Dawn" was about Attila the Hun.

In "The Black Rose" the main real historical character used by Thomas B. Costain is "Bayan of the Hundred Eyes". Although both "King Edward I", and, "Roger Bacon" make appearances. 

The Mongol general "Баян (Bayan of the Barrin)" known to Marco Polo as "Bayan of the Hundred Eyes", and the Chinese as "Boyan", was Kublai Khan's commander of the Mongol Army against the "Song Dynasty", from 1274 to 1276, that ended with the Khan's conquest of Southern China.

The screenplay was written by Talbot Jennings, 1935's "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, 1940's "Northwest Passage" starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, and Walter Brennan, and 1946's "Anna and the King of Siam" starring Irene Dunne, Rex Harrison, and Linda Darnell.

Tyrone Power portrayed "Walter of Gurnie". Power's latest feature had been "The Prince of Foxes" and the actor followed this picture with 1950's "American Guerrilla in the Philippines".

Orson Welles
portrayed "Bayan". Welles had also just been seen in "Prince of Foxes" and would follow this feature with the next motion picture I want to mention.

Cecile Aubry portrayed "Maryam". The French actress had just been seen in the 1949 French crime film "Manon" and followed this United States and United Kingdom co-production with a French comedy fantasy drama, 1951's "Barbe-Bleue".

Jack Hawkins portrayed "Tristram Griffen". Hawkins had just co-starred with Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Glynis Johns in 1950's "The Great Manhunt". He would follow this motion picture with another adventure film, 1951's "Fortune in Diamonds".

Michael Rennie
portrayed "King Edward". Rennie was two motion pictures away from playing "Klaatu" in director Robert Wise's classic anti-atomic bomb science fiction allegory, 1951's original "The Day the Earth Stood Still".

Herbert Lom portrayed "Anthemus". Lom had also been in Jack Hawkins 1950 "The Great Manhunt" and followed this picture with 1950's "Cage of Gold" starring Jean Simmons and David Farrar. I could not locate a photo of the actor for this article.

Also, you will find 17-years old actor Robert Blake as "Mahmoud", below.

 Lawrence Harvey has the role of "Edmond", but I couldn't locate a photo of the actor.

The Basic Screenplay:

The setting is approximately 1266, two-hundred years after the Norman Conquest of England, and during the reign of Saxon "Edward I". Saxon "Walter of Gurnie", the illegitimate son of the late Earl of Lessford, returns from Oxford University to hear the reading of his father's will, and receives only a pair of boots, but knows it's a sign of his father love for him. Politics enter when "Walter's" father's widowed Norman wife, Countess Leanor of Lessford", played by Mary Clare, decides to take Saxon hostages as a sign of her power. "Walter" joins of group of Saxon's to free the other, is recognized, and must flee England.

"Walter of Gurnie" and his archer friend, "Tristram Griffen" set out to make their fortunes in Cathay (China) at the time of the "Pax Mongolica (Mongol Peace)" which historically united the social, economic and cultures of the vast country's peoples. Although, as I said above, it was "Bayan's" orders from "Kublai Khan" to conquer the south first to bring them under the "Pax Mongolica".

"Walter" and "Tristram" join a caravan of gifts for "Kublai Khan" sent from the merchant "Anthemus".


The caravan is under the protection of "Bayan of the Hundred Eyes", who is interested in the English long bow of the archer "Tristram", and the scholar, "Walter".


Representing "Anthemus" as the leader of the caravan is "Lu Chung", on-screen portrayed by Mexican actor Alfonso Bedoya, 1948's "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and 1959's "The Big Country", but his voice was dubbed for this picture by British actor Peter Sellers.

The two Englishmen start to learn the ways of the Mongol's and their games.

Killing becomes the norm for the two Englishmen as "Bayan" does not negotiate with those trying to steal from the caravan, or are from the South and fight his force.

"Anthemus" has a half-English sister named "Maryam" who is nicknamed "The Black Rose". She is in the caravan not representing her brother, but as a requested gift for "Kublai Khan". As the journey continues, "Maryam" is falling in love with "Walter", but he is overly fascinated by the adventure he's on to notice her feelings for him.

"Lu Chung" blackmails "Walter" into helping in his escape plan for "Maryam" to get to England. However, it will be "Tristram", who is tired of all the killing, that takes "The Black Rose" away from the caravan as "Walter" stays to continue his adventure. 

"Bayan" now sends "Walter of Gurnie" on an important mission to the "Empress of Southern Cathay", played by Madame Phang. 

When "Walter" arrives and sees the Empress, she advises him that he is now a "guest" and will remain such for the rest of his life. He is imprisoned and finds both "The Black Rose" and "Tristram" also in the cell. 

Next, comes a very confusing and fast incomplete looking ending to the motion picture. 

The motion picture was going to run over two-hours to complete the story and that wasn't what "20th Century Fox" wanted. The studios concern for box office over story to have more showings a day was a know fact in the 1950's. The studio would shorten the running times of  two 1956 Rodgers and Hammerstein II musicals, "The King and I" and "Carousel", and in 1958, they turned director John Huston's "The Barbarian and the Geisha" into a reedited mess with obvious missing sequences.

That confused ending starts with the "Walter", "Maryam" and "Tristram" attempting an escape, but "Tristram" dies in it. Cut to the shore as the small boat "Maryam" is waiting for "Walter" in drifts away, and he cannot get to her. "Walter" returns to England where Norman "King Edward" welcomes him back, pardons his past deeds, appreciates his scholarly knowledge of Cathay's culture and, more to the point, how to make gun powder. "Walter of Gurnie" is knighted as two men from "Bayan" arrive bringing "The Black Rose" to "Walter", and a happy ending.

For his final film of the period, Orson Welles returned to William Shakespeare.

OTHELLO first released dubbed into Italian on November 29, 1951

Some releases of this motion picture used William Shakespeare's complete play's title, "The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice", that was probably first published in 1603. 

The motion picture was directed by Orson Welles and he was one of two screenplay writers on the production, but the only one that received credit. The other was French writer, Jean Sacha, who multitasked in the French cinema as a film editor, director, and screenplay writer between 1938 and 1971.

"Othello" was a Italian and Moroccan co-production.

Although Shakespeare's play is thought to be based upon Giovanni Battista Giraldi's 1565 "Un Capitano Moro (The Moorish Captain)". Many believe Shakespeare used the Moroccan ambassador to the court of "Queen Elizabeth I", Abd al-Wahid bin Masoud bin Muhammad al-Annuri as his model.


Orson Welles portrayed "Othello". Welles next narrated the Italian and French motion picture 1952's "The Little World of Don Camillo" and co-starred with Michael Wilding and Margaret Lockwood in the British 1952 mystery "Trent's Last Case".

Micheal MacLiammoir portrayed "Iago".  The Irish actor dominated the Irish stage and only appeared on-screen 21 times in either motion pictures, or Irish and British television between 1911 and 1971. 

Suzanne Cloutier portrayed "Desdemona". The French-Canadian actress had just appeared in the 1951 French film "Juliette ou La clef des songes (Juliette, or Key of Dreams)" and followed this picture with a role in the British motion picture starring Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding, 1952's "Derby Day".

Robert Coote portrayed "Roderigo". 1951 was a good year for the British character actor. Prior to this motion picture he was first seen in "Soldiers Three", the Stewart Granger, Walter Pidgeon, and David Niven remake of "Gunga Din". Next he was in the Sir Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway classic British comedy "The Lavender Hill Mob", and right before this feature it was "The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel" starring James Mason.

Michael Laurence portrayed "Cassio". This was Irish actor Laurence's third motion picture of a five-motion picture career.

It should be noted that Orson Welles' co-star in 1943's "Jane Eyre", actress Joan Fontaine, had the uncredited role of a "page" in this motion picture. 

Like Welles' 1949 "Macbeth", the basic story is William Shakespeare's:
"Othello" will be manipulated by his ensign, "Iago", into thinking his new wife, "Desdemona", is having an affair with his lieutenant, "Cassio", and this will lead to Shakespeare's tragic ending with Othello killing his wife.

The problem for Orson Welles was that the normal stage running time of the play was around three-hours. He would cut the play's length, rearranged some scenes, and change some dialogue, and end with the original film cut of 91-minutes. Which was the one released in Italy, but there would be two other cuts of the film. A slightly different version was entered in the "Cannes France Film Festival" on May 10, 1952, and won the "Grand Prix du Festival International du Film", now called, the "Palme d'Or".

A third version, with a different running time, finally came to the United States on September 12, 1955. 

How Orson Welles got to a completed motion picture is the story here. After completing 1948's "Macbeth", Welles immediately turned to "Othello" in 1949. Shooting only lasted a few days, because the original Italian producer announced he was bankrupt! To keep the project going, Welles used his own money, but that ran out and the director-actor was forced to find films to appear in to raise more money and help in costumes, which would be impounded on the picture.

For his role of "Bayan", in 1950's "The Black Rose", Orson Welles strangely demanded that the coat he wore be lined with mink and the request was granted. However, after the production wrapped, the coat disappeared just before the property inventory was conducted.

Above, another shot of Orson Welles wearing the mink lined coat in "The Black Rose", and below, Welles wearing an interesting all mink coat in "Othello".

The murder of Shakespeare's "Roderigo" was changed, because of the impounding of the costumes. In the play the characters were to start in a Turkish Bath and move to another location for the murder. However, Orson Welles just had "Roderigo's" murder take place in the Turkish Bath requiring any financial output for a major costume change.

One of the fight scenes began shooting in Morocco, but the fight's ending was shot several months later in Rome, Italy. During the shooting other scenes, like the fight scene, were delayed, because Welles just ran out of money and needed to find work to finish shooting them.

Then there was the availability of the actors and that impacted the main role of "Desdemona". Initially, Welles was in an affair with Italian actress Lea Padovani and wanted her opposite him, but she spoke very little English.

He next considered Cecile Aubry from "The Black Rose", but felt she couldn't do Shakespeare. 

Then he discovered American actress Betsy Blair, 1948's "The Snake Pit", 1950's "No Way Out", and started to shoot some scenes, but it wasn't what he wanted there would be a costly reshoot and letting the actress go with pay.

Later, Betsy Blair would be nominated for 1955's "Best Supporting Actress" opposite Ernest Borgnine in "Marty", and run afoul of the "House Committee on Un-American Activities" for her views on Marxism.

This all led to Welles casting Suzanne Cloutier as "Desdemona".

Like his "Macbeth" the imagery of Orson Welles the director is haunting. Unlike that film, because his shoot was over three-years, Welles had to use five different Italian cinematographers.

Then there was Orson Welles' daughter Beatrice Welles-Smith, who in 1992 restored her father's "Othello". Multiple film historians have criticized what she did to her father's versions of his work. Welles-Smith added extra sound effects, completely re-recorded the music by Italian composer Angelo Francesco Lavagnino that her father liked. She made many alterations to the film and then between the theatrical release and the home-media release, made additional alternations. There are entire scenes missing from the "restored" film, but most criticized of all, was the fact that Orson Welles' daughter blocked any more releasing of either of her father's versions rather than just having them cleaned-up. As of this writing there are still court cases against her.


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