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Orson Welles Death, Today

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Throughout the years many pieces of literature and film have influenced both our dreams and nightmares of the future yet to come. Orson Welles, an incredible screenwriter, producer and writer, is among the most famous and influential. This week in history, October 10, 1985 in Los Angeles, California, Orson Welles was found dead by his chauffeur of a heart attack after working all through the night on a project he and Gary Graver were working on called, “Orson Welles Magic Show."

Through his career, Orson Welles worked on many projects, the most famous of which was the cinema classic, Citizen Kane and the infamous Mercury Theatre On-Air’s adaptation of War of the Worlds, a production so influential that it had caused panic and hysteria about an alien invasion in many listeners due to its realistic depiction of a news bulletin. Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915 and during his early life had troubles. Early on in life, his family separated and before the age of 9 his older brother had been institutionalized and his mother had died of complications related to Hepatitis. Orson Welles moved in with his father shortly thereafter where the troubles continued. "During the three years that Orson lived with his father, some observers wondered who took care of whom," this quote from Frank Brady, a close friend of Welles', describes the years he had lived with his father moving from hotels which his rich father had owned to travels to places like Jamaica and the far east.

Early in his career Orson Welles worked at the Gate Theatre by claiming he was a Broadway star; an obvious lie but due to how he carried himself was allowed in and in 1931 debuted in Jew Suss. Over the following year Orson Welles would work in smaller parts at the Gate Theatre and finally return to the US after failing to get a work permit in London. In 1937 Welles would open his own theater company with help from John Houseman called the Mercury Theatre where the two would work together on major productions such as War of the Worlds in 1938 and Citizen Kane in 1941 both of which became massively successful and are still considered consummate classics to this day. Through World War II, Welles would be appointed the goodwill ambassador to Latin America and upon returning would begin working on a war bond drive entitled, “I Pledge America.”

Through his life, Orson Welles would marry three times and from his third marriage with Paola Mori and through his marriages had three children: Christopher Welles in 1938, Rebecca Welles in 1944 and Beatrice Welles in 1945. On October 9th, Welles would appear on a television broadcast of, “The Merv Griffin Show,” where he would discuss his life and what he had done through it with his job.

That night he would go home and work through the night on a project called, “Orson Welles Magic Show.” The next morning he would be found dead by heart attack by his chauffeur and would be cremated and a public memorial took place November 2, 1985. Many actors and screenwriters inspire us and make things that are remembered years after they are released but Orson Welles is a name that stands above the rest and the legacy he left and how he inspired writers can still be seen today.


Leian Jones is a sophomore at Poudre High School and is in his first year at the Poudre Press. His blog, "History, Today," focusses on looking at the history that got us to where we are. You can check out his weekly column here, today!

Works Cited

Bartholomew, Robert E. Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns and Head-Hunting Panics: A Study of Mass Psychogenic Illnesses and Social Delusion. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers, 2001. Accessed 4 October 2022.

Brady, Frank. Citizen Welles : a biography of Orson Welles. Scribner, 1989. Accessed 4 October 2022.

Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich. This is Orson Welles. Edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum, HarperCollins, 1992. Accessed 6 October 2022.

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