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Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles

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How did the brilliant young man who made Citizen Kane in the ’40s turn into a dumpy pitchman for California jug wine in the ’70s? How, one might also ask, did an orphaned boy from suburban Illinois become one of the most influential filmmakers of all time? These questions drive Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles, David Thomson’s idiosyncratic narrative on Welles, in which Kane becomes a biographical metaphor for extraordinary talent, charm, and power. Thomson seems to prove once and for all that the character Kane is not William Randolph Hearst, but Welles himself. This is a fascinating, Shakespearean tale of doom, of a man who ruined himself early, tossing wives and children and unfinished films aside like so many stained napkins in a series of fatty meals. In this — the second top-notch biography of Welles to appear within the last year (the first was Simon Callow’s The Road to Xanadu) — Thomson sums up not only a great life, but a medium as well, reminding the reader that ”no one in film has ever had such talent, such energy, such innate depth.” Number of times the word ”genius” is mentioned: 58. A