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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Bonhams to Auction Orson Welles Material

Bonhams is to sell a treasure trove of material about Orson Welles’ hidden masterpiece regarded by the director as his favourite film. It is estimated at between £60,000-80,000 and will be offered in the Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs Sale in London on 22 November.

‘Chimes at Midnight’, (Falstaff in the USA), was made in 1965 and nominated for several awards but post production problems and wrangles over ownership have conspired to make it one of his least known films. A restored version, screened in the UK in August 2011, was the first cinema showing for decades. Critics, however, have long ranked it among Welles’ masterpieces and the director’s performance as Falstaff as his best. Welles himself said, “If I wanted to get into Heaven on the basis of one movie, that’s the one I’d offer up”.

The archive belonged to the executive producer of ‘Chimes at Midnight’, Alessandro Tasca, a cousin of Guiseppe Lampedusa, author of the classic Sicilian novel ‘The Leopard’. It includes 23 wash and watercolour drawing by Welles for ‘Chimes at Midnight’ together with production notes for the film and for Welles’ unfinished project to film Don Quixote.

Welles and Tasca had an affectionate but tempestuous relationship over many years and the archive contains several letters of contrition from the director who was notorious for losing his temper (he was furious, for example, when Tasca left the set to attend his daughters wedding). There are also fascinating glimpses into Welles’ working method as in this memorandum about the kind of cameraman he was seeking, “…in my pictures I am, to a very considerable extent, my own cameraman. All basic decisions particularly as regards the lighting must be made by myself. This means that we require a good technician… (who)..must accept a sort of partnership in which I am, in the crunch, the senior partner.”

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