More rare items now part of Orson Welles archive

A handout photo of a letter dated Aug 8, 1930, shows sketches from a teenage Orson Welles.
A handout photo of a letter dated Aug 8, 1930, shows sketches from a teenage Orson Welles.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Letters, postcards, diaries and doodles from a teenage Orson Welles, along with unpublished scripts of his many incomplete projects from the 1950s and 1960s, have been acquired by the University of Michigan.

The items, which came from his youngest daughter, Beatrice Welles, add to the already extensive trove of Welles memorabilia that the university holds as part of its Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers collection.

The new acquisitions include heavily annotated scripts for well- known films such as Chimes At Midnight (1965) and The Immortal Story (1968). But also in the archive are screenplays that scholars and fans of Welles, who died in 1985, had heard about but never seen, from his many projects that did not reach the screen.

Among them are scripts for Ulysses, The Unthinking Lobster and Operation Cinderella. There is also a script for Fountain Of Youth, the pilot for a television series for Desilu Productions. The pilot made it to the air and won a Peabody Award, but the series was never produced.

A handout photo of a letter dated Aug 8, 1930, shows sketches from a teenage Orson Welles.
A handout photo of a letter dated Aug 8, 1930, shows sketches from a teenage Orson Welles. PHOTO: NYTIMES

"It's sort of the missing piece of the Welles puzzle. It documents a period people haven't had the opportunity to see original material from," said Mr Philip Hallman, curator of the collection, adding: "It shows how productive he was during this period. It's voluminous, the mountain of scripts he was writing."

Beatrice Welles, whose mother, Italian actress and countess Paola Mori, was Orson Welles' third wife, said she had long wanted to house her father's items in one place, even if he would not have been too happy about where they ended up.

"He hated anything scholarly," she said.

But the University of Michigan's collection was already impressive, thanks to extensive donations from, among others, Mr Chris Wilson, the son of Mr Richard Wilson, Welles' long-time associate.

"When I saw what they had, I thought this is the place to add to and hopefully people will follow suit," Beatrice Welles said. "With what I have given them, it's probably the best collection in the world."

Two years ago, the university bought, for an undisclosed sum, eight boxes of papers from Oja Kodar, a Croatian actress who was Welles' partner and lover during the last years of his life.

The correspondence new to the collection paints a picture of an ebullient and eloquent teenage Welles, penciling sketches of donkeys during a painting trip to Ireland and writing excitedly from aboard a ship in Hong Kong, which he described as "a wonderful surprise". "And gosh, what a ship this is," young Welles wrote. "They speak of floating hotels in reference to liners, but this is more."

The university's acquisition comes weeks after the production team working to complete Welles' unfinished final project, The Other Side Of The Wind, announced that it had teamed up with Netflix, and was on track, after years of fits and starts, to at last finish the picture.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'More rare items now part of Orson Welles archive'. Print Edition | Subscribe