Among film buffs and casual movies fans alike, Orson Welles stands as one of the most prominent figures of 20th century American cinema. His magnum opus Citizen Kane is among the short list of movies cited the the greatest in the United States canon, with Orson classics Touch of Evil and The Magnificent Ambersons not following far behind. This high regard for Welles’ work is why nearly 30 years after his death, legal teams are still fighting about what will become of his final impression on the world of film — The Other Side of the Wind.
Orson aficionados will, however, be excited to learn that the “most famous movie never released” is finally getting the green light for screening this May, just as the cult of Welles celebrates the movie icon’s 100th birthday. Josh Karp, who authored a soon-to-published book about the tumultuous history of The Other Side of the Wind, told The New York Times just how impactful news of a release date will be to the Orson-loving public.
“This is like finding the Land of Oz or some lost tomb. This film is art imitating life and life imitating art. It’s become so mythical because of what happened with all the failures to finish it and the players involved.”
Karp’s grandiose explication of the movie’s importance comes from the epic story that he uncovered during his research. After all, Welles dedicated the 15 years before his death to The Other Side of the Wind. Almost certainly autobiographical, it follows an irascible director trying to tear down Hollywood’s stiff hold on creativity by making a boundary-pushing motion picture — a poisonous premise to pitch to potential film studios.
Because of The Other Side of the Wind‘s controversial nature, Orson had to scare up funding from private hands and throwaway television work. One such investor was the shah of Iran’s brother-in-law, Mehdi Bushehri, who Welles argued with about the picture’s budget so much that Bushehri stole the negatives and hid them in an warehouse outside of central Paris. The film remained under Mehdi’s control until 1975, when Orson somehow tracked down the print and clandestinely had it sent to California in a scene worthy of one of Welles’ dramatic finales.
Currently, the reels are under the care of Welles’ companion and collaborator Oja Kodar, who has finally decided to let the movie free, she told NYT.
“I am going to sign the contract. The catalyst is the hundred-year anniversary and everybody is moving in a kind of wave. When I finally see it on the screen, then I will tell you that the film is done.”
The Other Side of the Wind doesn’t just revive Orson from the dead. Several members of his all-star cast will also be exhumed for one last performance when the film is screened — among them Susan Strasberg, Lilli Palmer, and Dennis Hopper.
Do you think Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind can stand up against more than 30 years of hype?
[Image via Flickr]