Readers of this increasingly erratic weblog probably know of my pointless interest in the domestic housing arrangements of my favorite filmmakeers. Previously I've explored the New York townhouse of Sidney Lumet, the Beverly Hills Villa of Fritz Lang and the Wilshire Blvd. apartment of Billy Wilder (as well as the unbuilt Eames house, designed for Wilder in the late forties). Appreciating the place in which an artist chooses to dwell--especially when the artist is a control freak as all directors are--can enhance and eludicate one's appreciation of the artists work. Or so I tell myself. Actually I'm just a real estate whore and love killing time finding this crap out.
What do the houses of Orson Welles tell us, though, about the magnificent and often misunderstood maverick filmmaker/actor/writer/theatrical impresario/radio star/advertising star/magician? Welles didn't have a longtime abode--he was more of a gypsy. In a strange way, Welles was his own house, carrying his baggage and furniture and flatbed on his back (or within his cape perhaps). He was seemingly more at home in hotels, on the go, not weighted down--so to speak--with domestic trappings. (Notice how most interviews with him are conducted in hotel rooms--including one toward the end of his life in Las Vegas where he apparently had a house...but not one he chose to be interviewed in). Nonetheless, he did have a family (several of them actually) and families need to be located somewhere. And this is where the study of Welles's domiciles gets interesting.
For Welles didn't just have one family. Like everything else about him, his domestic arrangements were unusual, maverick, confusing, eccentric and...well...weird. In the 1950's, Welles married the Countess Paolo Mori and fathered the last of his three daughters, Beatrice. After finishing (sort of) "Touch Of Evil" in 1958, the Welles family returned to Europe where Welles was clearly more comfortable in his role of misunderstood expatriate then he'd been in his Hollywood comeback mode. But in 1962, while filming 'The Trial", Welles latest attempt at domestic stability grew considerably less--er--stable when he met the woman who became his lover/collaborator/mistress/companion for the last twenty-plus years of his life, the beauteous Oja Kodar. Maintaining two residences--in two distinctly separate places--became his m.o. for the rest of his life, born of necessity and desire.
In any event, I think this house must be the address he had on Greenvalley Road in Laurel Canyon. In which case, it might be the house seen in this clip from the fascinating "Lost Tapes of Orson Welles" documentary.
But it's the house that Welles died in, down the street, at 1717 N. Stanley Ave., that we have a much better documentation of. A modestly sized Colonial behind gates, the house was for sale recently (a mil-two and change) and it's realtor has graciously provided the below tour through the place. Dig:
It was here that Welles filmed "test footage" for his unmade late non-existent masterwork, "The Dreamers", based on two Isak Dinesen stories. This is the missing Welles film in the canon that I truly mourn, a melancholic, late-life reflection on fame, lost chances, invisibility, anonymity for the once world famous etc. You can read the screenplay of "The Dreamers" here. And below is some of the test footage shot at the Stanley Ave. house, beginning at six minutes, thirty-five seconds.
There are many confusing address changes spread through Jonathan Rosebaums Welles chronology found at the end of Peter Bogdanovich's indispensible "This Is Orson Welles." At one point, during the Laurel Canyon years, Rosenbaum mentions Welles shooting footage at his house "near Beverly Glen", which is a mere three canyons (and fifteen or so miles) away from Laurel Canyon. A mention is made of Welles moving to Beverly Hills in the early 80's as well. Perhaps he did. For a minute. And then, having tossed enough cigar butts in the bathtub or the garden or whatever, he decamped for another anonymous LA dwelling. For Welles at this stage of his life was living primarily at Ma Maison (daytimes) and on Johnny Carson or Merv Griffin (nightimes). The houses were studios for him to shoot "test footage" in and perhaps the anonymity of the surroundings provided him with a blank canvas against which he could relax, give up his world famous persona (much as the woman at the center of "The Dreamers" does) and watch the Dick Van Dyke show (according to PB this was Welles favorite show).
Let's leave this with a look at an earlier Welles home, also in the Laurel Canyon area, one which he shared with Rita Hayworth in the forties. Or did he? I thought they lived in Beverly Hills. And I know they bought (but didn't live in) this charming property in Big Sur But its possible, in those peripetetic years that the boy wonder and the love goddess did shack up in this rustic charmer. Or perhaps he shacked up with other goddesses as well? For according to Welles himself in Barbara Leamings pleasant enough but awfully fawning quasi-authorized biography, the war years were sexually exhausting ones for the non-enlisted Welles and he took full advantage of the wildly disparate female-to-male ratio. "I didn't miss anyone!"
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