Short Take: Young Orson – Patrick McGilligan

McGilligan is a widely respected film biographer who writes with great narrative energy. Previous subjects were Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, George Cukor, Nicolas Ray and Oscar Micheaux, a visionary of African American cinema.

In telling the story of the young Welles’ meteoric rise, McGilligan has found a number of new primary source documents, including unpublished writing by Welles himself. With two 16-page photo inserts and glowing reviews already, this book will likely reach broader audience than just film buffs. PW calls it “engrossing” and it sounds like a good holiday gift for any fan of 20th century biography.

McGilligan follows Welles from his Illinois boarding-school productions…. [to] Citizen Kane, hailed by many critics as the greatest film ever…made when he was just 25. This is a book about families, with rich profiles of Welles’s affluent, indulgent parents; a series of father figures who mentored him, promoted him, and lent him money; and his close-knit acting ensemble at the Mercury Theater, where he played the paternal, tyrannical head of the household. It’s also a fine evocation of Welles’s innate charisma, concocted from a grand physical presence, godlike voice, Falstaffian magnetism, and uncanny precocious insight into character and dramatic effect. Exhaustively researched but well-paced and stuffed with beguiling detail, this is a vivid, sympathetic portrait of Welles’s youthful promise and achievement, before the misfires and compromises of his later years.”
Publishers Weekly

“Welles’s native brilliance and his ascent from producing plays as a boy at the Todd School to his conquest of New York theater and radio as an adult has seldom been documented with more clarity.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“[Young Orson] takes the directorial hero from his birth to the threshold of Citizen Kane. I’ve only just started it and can so far confess to fascination and pleasure; the wealth of detail and the measured tempo are up to the Shakespearean complexity of Welles’s character.”
New Yorker

 Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane (9780062112484) by Patrick McGilligan. $40.00 hardcover. 11/17/15 on sale.

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