Orson Welles: Actor, Director, Writer, Legend, And Eventual Magician

By Jacob Shelton
(Janus Films)

Reaching the zenith of your career in your twenties has to be maddening. Orson Welles directed Citizen Kane when he was only 25 years old, and even though he never won an Academy Award, he created what's still known as modern filmmaking. We think of him as a legendary filmmaker today, but while Welles was alive, he was regarded as a joke and a has-been. War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane were monumental achievements that he never really topped, not in the eyes of critics at the time, but Welles never stopped dreaming.

Orson Welles, Cheese Head

Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915, George Orson Welles grew up in a broken home. His father was an alcoholic who squandered his earnings from his invention of the bicycle lamp, his brother was institutionalized, and his mother died of hepatitis in 1924, just after his ninth birthday. In his youth, Welles was interested in music, but following his mother's death, he gave up this pursuit and embarked upon a chaotic, transient life with his father.

Welles and his father moved from place to place until the young man was enrolled in the Todd Seminary for Boys, where he was encouraged to experiment with art. His first forays into radio took place while attending this school. After his father died, he decided against attending college, instead using his small inheritance to travel through Europe.