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Uni secures unpublished Orson draft

Published 23/05/2015

A university has obtained an unpublished Orson Welles memoir (AP)
A university has obtained an unpublished Orson Welles memoir (AP)

A "very raw draft" of an unpublished Orson Welles memoir has joined University of Michigan archives on the trailblazing film-maker.

The typewritten work was in eight boxes of materials from Croatian film-maker Oja Kodar that the Ann Arbor school bought. Kodar was Welles' partner and collaborator for 24 years before Welles' death in 1985 at the age of 70.

Welles directed and narrated the radio drama The War Of The Worlds that shook up thousands of listeners in 1937 and directed and starred in the movie Citizen Kane in 1941, when he was just 25.

During his Hollywood career, Welles frequently battled with studios over control of the movies he made, or wanted to make.

The Welles material is part of the university's Screen Arts Mavericks Collection, which also holds the archives of John Sayles and the late Robert Altman.

The 80-page typed memoir has handwritten notes and edits throughout. It includes passages about Welles' parents; his second wife, actress Rita Hayworth; novelist Ernest Hemingway, a friend of Welles'; and film-maker DW Griffith.

Welles clearly intended to publish the autobiographical work and had placed photographs in envelopes that could be used in a book, Philip Hallman, curator of the Screen Arts Mavericks Collection, said.

The school already had three donated and two purchased archives of Welles and is perhaps the most extensive repository of written materials on him, Mr Hallman said.

"Together, they represent Welles in all his dimensions," he said.

"Having an opportunity to look at him as a father, as a husband, as a friend - you get to see what was happening behind the scenes, including the struggles and the missed opportunities and the agony that he was experiencing."

The new Welles material is a rich trove of memorabilia from both his personal and public lives, with letters to his first wife, photos and original scripts, said university spokeswoman Sydney Hawkins.

But it is the "very raw draft of his incomplete, unpublished personal memoir" that is the most important finding in the materials from Kodar, Ms Hawkins said.

Kodar is to attend the university's June 7-9 symposium on Welles, marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. It will include a reading of memoir excerpts and of Welles' play Too Much Johnson, at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and a series of panel discussions in Ann Arbor.

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