David Thomson thinks he's some kind of superior being and criticizes in a pompous and condescendent manner everything Welles ever did. He's one of those people who think that Welles never achieved anything after Kane. He wonders if he was even really responsible for Kane? He states that Welles did not write any of the script (false), that Greg Toland was director of photography while Robert Wise was responsible for the editing. SO what did Welles do? He directed! Apparently, that's not enough to make Kane his movie, his masterpiece, among others. Well if movies were only based on photography, scripting and editing, then why would directors be needed?
Thomson insults Welles in every paragraph; he hammers him over and over, relentlessly. He focuses on the less successful aspects of his life and exaggerates them. He ridicules him, makes fun of his weight, says he's egotistical, a liar, a misogynist, an unfaithful friend, a machiavellic mischievous man who uses people, cheats on his wives, dates married women, eats like a pig and stuffs his face with anything he could find (he talks a lot about that), a pretend genius or would be genius who thinks he's the victim of evil Hollywood moguls. What other bad things could be said about Welles? Basically, any insult or evil thought you would ever have towards your worse enemy would not match up to the way Thomson writes about Welles.
Welles is not the only target of the author's wrath towards famous people. Any dead actor that was a friend or acquaintance of welles is also treated unkindly, as for the ones who are still alive, Thomson refrains himself from making a judgement. What a coward! Dead celebrities are such easy targets to criticism aren't they?
When Thompson runs out of evil things to say, he talks about his childhood and when he went to see The Third Man with his grand mother who for some reason has a claw instead of a hand. Oh poor little David, he could not hold his grandma's hand, only a claw! Tear. Who cares! Also, he has the annoying habit of interrupting every other chapter with imaginary conversations between the writer (?) and the publisher (?). It's never quite clear and really pointless. It's a way for him to put himself in value and shows how he can also criticize his own work. What a decent man!...
I was not expecting a hagiography, I know Welles was not godlike. Thomson explains at the end of the book that he does not mean to put Welles down, but only attempts to humanize him. Well there's a difference between humanizing someone and destroying the truth. Also, a biography should include anecdotes, facts, it should be detailed and accurate. Thompson writes some kind of very superficial, selective, inaccurate story, with imaginary dialogues about what people could have said to welles or thought of him. You can't assume things in a biography.
The author is too involved with his own thoughts instead of sticking to the facts in an objective manner. If you want to learn about Welles, read "Road to Xanadu' by Simon Callow, which focuses on Welles life up to Kane. Or "This is Orson Welles" which is a series of Welles interviews conducted by Peter Bogdanovich in which Welles tells the story of his life. Sure he had a tendency of lying about his past, but only because he was a story teller. Story Tellers always add a little to the truth. Thomson has no such skill.
Unfortunately I can't give 0 star to this book, or I would. It's really just food for the shredder.