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It's All True Movie Review

welles film orson disney

“On my desk in a script of the film was a long steel needle. It had been driven entirely through the script and to the needle was attached a length of red wool. This was the mark of the voodoo….” Yep, that was Orson Welles describing one of the many disasters that made the 1942 film It's All True impossible to complete in his own lifetime. If Welles were alive today, according to his daughter Beatrice, “He would never restore one of his old films. He would say, ‘Hey, give me the money and I'll make a movie NOW!'” In the absence of the unrealized Orson Welles projects we will never get to see, his It's All True collaborators rescued the original raw footage and then edited a tantalizing 22-minute segment into a full-length documentary about the making of the entire film. The “Four Men on a Raft” segment reveals the truth about what Welles and his crew were able to accomplish on this ill-fated South American film. It also supplies compelling evidence that Welles’ reputation was destroyed, not by artistic extravagance or undisciplined work habits, but by studio executives who needed an excuse to get rid of him. Both Welles and Walt Disney were recruited by the ambitious Nelson Rockefeller to promote Pan American relations during separate trips to South America in the early days of World War II. Disney, who was one of RKO's greatest assets and also politically sympathetic to Rockefeller, delivered two crowd-pleasing entertainments, Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros. Welles was a maverick, no friend of Rockefeller, and his splashy film debut, Citizen Kane, had attracted critical raves, but was essentially a money-loser for RKO. (It lost $160,000 in its original release.) But Welles was only 26, eager for a new challenge and politically naive, and he accepted studio assurances that he would be able to edit The Magnificent Ambersons in South America. Disney, then 40 and the survivor of many setbacks in his 22-year career, knew how to play the studio game. Welles didn't. The loss was ours, since Welles did know how to make movies. It's All True would never have been a travelogue blockbuster in the Disney style and RKO knew it. But the “Four Men on a Raft” segment is a beautifully made story of discovery, loss, resourcefulness, and courage, considerably enhanced by contemporary sound technicians. Welles wrung such exceptional performances out of a non-professional cast that it's easy to understand why he tried so long and so hard to finish It's All True. Unlike The Epic that Never Was, about the making of Josef von Sternberg's I, Claudius, enough remains of It's All True to make the restoration of Welles’ “Legendary Lost Classic” survive on its own merits. Any filmmaker worth his or her salt would die to make a movie as good as this one, and unfortunately Welles is no longer here to say that he could have told us that long ago. Recommended: 1995's Orson Welles: The One-Man Band.

1993 (G) 85m/C Miguel Ferrer; D: Richard Wilson, Bill Krohn, Myron Meise, Orson Welles; W: Richard Wilson, Bill Krohn, Myron Meise; C: George Fanto, Gary Graver; M: Jorge Arriagada. VHS, LV

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