Saturday, March 30, 2013

Orson Welles' Film Version of Merchant of Venice

Merchant of Venice. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles. Orson Welles: One-Man Band. Dir. Vassili Silovic and Oja Kodar. Perf. Orson Welles. 1995. Included on Disc Two of F for Fake. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles. 1973. DVD. Criterion, 2005.

One of the mysteries about Orson Welles' Merchant of Venice is why it isn't better known. But that's only one mystery among many.

I learned of the film's existence when skimming through the bonus disc on the Criterion release of F for Fake; it contains a documentary about the many incomplete projects Welles left behind during his long and (usually) illustrious career. Welles apparantly actually completed all the filming for his version of Merchant of Venice—but then some of the rolls of film were stolen, and the production could not be completed.

The documentary provides about seven minutes of the very rare footage as well as a recording of Welles delivering Shylock's most famous speech, made some time after shooting stopped on the film. I've extracted part of the film version of Merchant of Venice and the entirety of Welles' delivery of the "Hath not a Jew" speech. May those who took the footage immediately repent and turn it over to the nearest authority. The world needs the rest of this Merchant!

Links: F for Fake at IMDB. Orson Welles: One-Man Band at IMDB.

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1 comment:

Sebastian Schmitt said...

Thanks for this fascinating blog. I've been reading it for a couple of months now and it is a real treasure trove. As to the Wellesian Othello, much of the footage can be found on Youtube. I first stumbled on it when I was preparing for my final exams three years ago.

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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