Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture

Michael Anderegg

Columbia University Press

Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture

Google Preview

Pub Date: December 1998

ISBN: 9780231112291

216 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£25.00

Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture

Michael Anderegg

Columbia University Press

From the earliest days of radio to the golden age of television and beyond, Orson Welles has occupied a unique place in American culture. In Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture, Michael Anderegg considers Welles's influence as an interpreter of Shakespeare for twentieth-century American popular audiences. Exploring his works on stage, radio, and in film, Anderegg reveals Welles's unique position as an artist of both high and popular culture. At once intellectually respected and commercially viable, the Shakespeare Welles gave the American public reflects his unique genius as a writer, director, and actor.

From early plays in school to the Everybody's Shakespeare books and the Mercury Text Records adaptations, Anderegg illustrates how Welles tried to transcend the barriers between the classical and the popular. He argues that "Welles the Shakespearean" sought to be a restorer as well as an innovator by drawing on his knowledge of the abundant, lowbrow popularity of Shakespeare in nineteenth-century America. Welles's three film adaptations of Shakespeare, Macbeth, Othello, and Chimes at Midnight, are examined. From his peculiarly "Scottish" version of Macbeth, to his postmodern reading of the history plays in Chimes at Midnight, Welles's interpretive strategies--and the public's reception of them--are considered. In the final chapter, Anderegg surveys Welles's work as an actor--his legacy and myth--and reexamines the common view that he squandered his talents in the era after Citizen Kane. Taking into account his non-Shakespearean roles, Anderegg shows Welles to have been a markedly "Shakespearean" actor and, in his versions of the Bard's plays, a key arbiter of culture.
Andregg provides an eloquent illustration of how, when Welles scholarship is at its best, it avoids the biographical and panoramic in favor of a particular theme or angle of investigation and, in the course of pursuing that angle, brings a fresh understanding to the Wellesian tapestry as a whole. Catherine Benamou, Michigan Quarterly Review
A valuable and much-needed contribution to Welles studies. Anderegg's book represents for me an important intervention that throws light not only on certain neglected aspects of Welles's work—particullarly Everybody's Shakespeare and the Mercury Text Records—but also on a fresh new approach toward understanding his career as a whole. Jonathan Rosenbaum, editor of This is Orson Welles
1. Shakespeare in Las Vegas: Welles and American Culture
2. "Raise Hell with Everything": Shakespeare as Event
3. "Cashing in on the Classics": Everybody's Shakespeare and the Mercury Text Records
4. Welles/Shakespeare/Film: An Overview
5. Shakespeare Rides Again: The Republic Macbeth
6. The Texts of Othello
7. Chimes at Midnight: Rhetoric and History
8. Welles as Performer: From Shakespeare to Brecht
Epilogue

About the Author

Michael Anderegg is professor of English at the University of North Dakota. He is the editor of Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television, and author of David Lean and William Wyler.