Thursday, February 7, 2008

Orson Welles: A Jennifer Ward Interview

Editor's Note:
As Orson Welles was not one to grant interviews, this rare exception for Tannen's Magic and magicians everywhere gives one last peek into the mind and magic of Mr. Welles who unexpectedly passed away two years later on the 10th of October, 1985. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Logically we begin with magic, a Tour de Force he attributes to building a thread of commonality between he and his father. "My father loved magic and bought me a couple of big illusions when I was a young boy. In those days we had Thurston and all those great stage magicians. I started doing sleight-of-hand when I was 11 or 12. The first thing I wanted to do was the boxes (that's what Thurston did). I loved Houdini but he wasn't an illusionist; he was a challenger. He challenged the audience. He didn't seduce them. He set up a kind of Olympic game and then won it at the end ... he was dynamic ... he had a kind of contempt for illusionists."

If magic bound the young Orson to his father, it also served as the catalyst that catapulted the dashing young magician and his dazzling array of assistants (Rita Hayworth, his second wife, Marlene Dietrich and Agnes Moorhead) to a certain degree of prominence. It was Rita, by the way, who accompanied him around the World War II Theater while entertaining thousands and thousands of G.l.'s.

"I've never done much amateur magic because I don't have friends who like magic very much. I regard magic as an art and as a form of entertainment. I regard magic as any other form of theater. If I play to an audience of magicians I don't feel like I'm playing to an audience. They're an audience of experts looking for things that don't interest me at all. Curiously, their reaction is always too kind. If an act is halfway good they say it's great. You're not getting the feedback from a real audience that you ought to get."

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