Orson Welles' Last Interview

Orson Welles' Last Interview

by Billy Ingram

"I started at the top and worked my way down." - Orson Welles

He terrified the nation with his radio adaptation of HG Wells' 'War of the Worlds' broadcast on Oct. 30, 1938. Considered to be one of very few genius filmmakers of the 1940s and 1950s, after a rocky relationship with the movie studios Orson Welles hadn't appeared in a Hollywood-made motion picture since “Touch of Evil” in 1957.

From the mid-70s into the mid-80s, Welles was earning what he referred to as “grocery money” by appearing in numerous TV and radio commercials, most notably for Paul Masson wine, uttering with great intonation one of the catchiest phrases of the 70s: “We will sell no wine before its time.”

It wasn't long after his 70th birthday when Orson Welles sat down with Merv Griffin on October 10, 1985, for a look back at the filmmaker's rollercoaster career. Welles didn't do that many TV interviews, with memorable exceptions in the 1970s on Dick Cavett's nighttime program and appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight show. Welles enjoyed watching Merv's afternoon talk show so he agreed to this televised convo.

As always, Orson Welles proves on Merv's program to be a remarkable storyteller and, boy, did he have stories to tell about what was a singularly amazing Hollywood life filled with staggering highs and ruinous lows. It helps also that Merv Griffin was a facile interviewer who knew just about everything there was to know about show business. The result is fascinating television.

“He was happy about everything that night”, said Welles' pal Patrick Terrail. “He was happy about the Griffin show because he thought it went well. Everything was going his way, and he was in a good mood. He was just in good spirits all the way around.”

Around 3 hours later, after having dinner then returning home, Orson Welles passed away apparently from natural causes. His body, discovered the next morning by his driver Fred Gillette, was lying on a bed on the second floor of his house in Hollywood Hills.


Orson Welles & Dick Cavett talking about... talk.

 

Finally, here's one of the most notorious bloopers reels ever - starring a completely smashed Orson Welles trying to get through a spot for Paul Masson wines.

 

 


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Orson Welles' Last Interview

 

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