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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent all-round review of a theatrical man
The portrait painted by Simon Callow of Welles is generous and rough around the edges when needed, as deemed necessary by the facts of his life. A review of Welles's extraordinary life by a man of the theatre is the only way to go, and none better than Callow who is larger than life in his own way. The sections on Welles's early career, including his stint in Ireland and...
Published on 10 Sept. 2001

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A blurred and biased portrait...victim of a misused, overdone objectivity.
Callow's biography on Welles is detailed, obviously written after much reading and research, his account of the theatre is interesting and difficult to find elsewhere (although some of his assessments, which aren't always specially bright, are written as if he were the highest authority on the subject...this making the text sometimes confusing-so much assurance on...
Published on 31 July 2010 by Marta Riba Ocaña


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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent all-round review of a theatrical man, 10 Sept. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu (Paperback)
The portrait painted by Simon Callow of Welles is generous and rough around the edges when needed, as deemed necessary by the facts of his life. A review of Welles's extraordinary life by a man of the theatre is the only way to go, and none better than Callow who is larger than life in his own way. The sections on Welles's early career, including his stint in Ireland and college drama socities, are illuminating and the historical context has been most interesting for this reviewer, currently living in New York. It's a great read and a portrait that will stick in your mind.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orson larger than life?, 27 Sept. 2002
This review is from: Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu (Paperback)
I came to this book with no expectations at all. So many of the books on orson seem to be coffee table top types. Here is the real mcoy! Not only is there room for briliant insights and though provoking asides by Simon (his voice is in your head as you read), but room enough for all the references that one needs for the Orson-phile. His life is just so incredible, from the child who you would love to slap to the artist who simply was too good for his contempories. Its a banquet to read and I just love it - the book will never stay on the shelf so do yourself a favour and buy it. Simon brings this off with such ease, a mesmerising satisfying read that stops dead just as Orson becomes larger than life. This is a must read and I am just waiting, praying, hoping, no, DEMANDING that the next volume will be along soon. Wake up Simon!!! Get on with it!! Its been too long!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent biography, 19 Dec. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu (Paperback)
This is a fascinating biography - one can't help but be amazed at Welles achievements. Callow writes in a very even-handed way about his subject, but doesn't shy away from Welles less attractive qualities (such as wanting to take credit for everything!) This biography finishes when Welles is just 26 years of age, I can't wait to read part 2 now, although I'm sure it will be a much bleaker read as Welles reached his peak at such a young age. An excellent biography - recommended.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A blurred and biased portrait...victim of a misused, overdone objectivity., 31 July 2010
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Marta Riba Ocaña "marta_riba" (BCN, Spain) - See all my reviews
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Callow's biography on Welles is detailed, obviously written after much reading and research, his account of the theatre is interesting and difficult to find elsewhere (although some of his assessments, which aren't always specially bright, are written as if he were the highest authority on the subject...this making the text sometimes confusing-so much assurance on something that isn't at all evident as stated in the text), and this is why I'm rating it 2/5 and not less...because on the other hand, I don't understand his approach to Welles himself. The main sources for this biography were conversations with John Housemann (as Welles said more than once, "One of my oldest ennemies") and Michéal MacLiammóir, whose opinions shouldn't be free of suspicion either (there are blatant precedents of his trying to diminish Welles and his work for clearly personal reasons, alternating with moments of praise and collaboration). Callow also quotes other biographies, Welles' interviews and letters, etc, but, it seems to me, with the main aim to deny anything said in them (said by Welles about himself)...finding in each case a better intepreretation (most of them seem to be too far-fetched).
In some paragraphs objectivity is there, giving fair results...in some others, its misuse leads to underserved attacks, putting mere personal hypothesis as the only true facts (trying to fill in the created gaps)...there is some unfair cruelty in it, and I am sorry for Welles...
Reading (or listening to) Welles' interviews (specially the basis of the book "This is Orson Welles", by Welles and Bogdanovich), watching his films, or even reading his biography by Barbara Leaming (she interviewed many people having known Welles, and most of all, "interviewed" Welles during years while working on its redaction), the picture seems so complete (all parts match the others), of who Orson Welles was. After reading Callow's book, the result is the opposite...the person appears blurred, and I'm almost offended that Callow only sees and writes what he wanted to see from the beginning (maintaining criticism of unclear origin and denying evident merits...). The worst fault in it is a very unkind one: to pretend to know and understand more about someone than he himself did...
Orson Welles was his own worst critic (I don't see the point in trying to outdo him in this field) and since he was honest enough to admit more personal faults and mistakes than most would dare to, I dislike reading so many attempts to find minor faults and "lies" where Welles said there weren't.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive. Simply Definitive., 2 Sept. 2001
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Mr. K. Rogers "kefrif" (Wolverhampton, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu (Paperback)
The Road to Xanadu is an absolutely masterful study. Leaving literally no stone unturned, Callow has sifted through the miles of baloney Welles spread about himself, and siphoned out what seems to be the truth about the life of the man. Intended as part one of a two-part study, he covers the most interesting part of Welles' life i.e. - the bit before Hollywood ruined his life and his name. Todd School, touring Ireland and his involvement with the Gate Theatre in Dublin under Michael MacLiammoir, The Mercury both on the air and the stage are covered with brilliant detail, aswell as every other facet of this remarkable man's young life. (Actor, Poet, Cartoonist and Only 10!)
All Welles early achievements are told here with perspectives and facts gleaned from many sources, using first hand interview accounts, and physical evidence of his works - reviews, playbills for instance, and when I say no stone is left unturned, you'd better believe it.
There are two ways to view this book. The first is to read it and marvel at how glowingly Welles comes off by Callows account. The other is to view it cynically - Welles achieves all this, and then what happens? - both would be accurate conclusions, and it remains to see how Callow fares with part 2 of this biography. Don't get me wrong here, Callow offers no bias either way, and perhaps it's a result of Welles prodigal nature, but I can't help but feel the level of detail in the work adds up to a feeling of, not hatred, more of a "pride before a fall" scenario.
I have to make a slight criticism of the piece, and that is that it can become quite a heavy read. Don't take me too seriously, because it is very much worth the reading time, but Callow spends an enormous amount of time describing the minutest details in Welles life - something that can and invariably will put off the less convicted reader (who should read David Thompson's "Rosebud" instead).
That taken on board, however, you will not read a more exhaustive, serious, and well-researched account of Welles early life anywhere. Period. Callows Herculean work here is truly definitive, and in biography that is a mark of supreme distinction indeed.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb achievement, 20 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu (Paperback)
I approached this book as I thought it would be interested to read one actor's perception of another; what I was not prepared for was the depth of scholarly insight into Welles's work. Callow explores the early years of Welles's life leading up to the making of Citizen Kane. He explains his development as an actor through stage performance and radio broadcasts and examines the public response to this very young man of enormous energy and ambition. He supports his account with comprehensive research and shows great understanding for his subject.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welles The Boy Genius, 30 Jun. 2013
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Best book about the young Welles bar done. Fair minded, but clear as to who the hero of the book is!
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Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu
Orson Welles, Volume 1: The Road to Xanadu by Simon Callow (Paperback - 1 Feb. 1996)
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