O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Lost footage from Orson Welles has been discovered.
It is not, alas, the original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons, but it is pretty goshdarned magnificent all the same. As the great Dave Kehr writes in his must-read announcement at the New York Times, this is early Welles, made at age 23 just before Citizen Kane: about 40 minutes of footage that Welles intended to be shown before each act of a Gay Nineties farce called Too Much Johnson.
(Go on, get the giggles out of your system. The Siren will wait patiently. Welles, who had a wicked sense of humor, probably loved the idea of people like the Siren blushing every time they wrote out that ridiculously risque title.)
Now perhaps, like the Siren, you've been reading My Lunches with Orson and feeling sad about the projects he was never able to make. Undoubtedly you feel frustrated about the works like Don Quixote that are out of reach, snatched away from your eager cinephile grasp like a lunchroom bully appropriating your plastic baggy full of cookies. Eagerly you seize upon this news and say "When, o when can I view this? Dave Kehr says that the frames that are online already show evidence of Welles' genius, with 'strong, close-cropped compositions, powerful diagonals and insistent, ironic use of the “heroic angle”!' It stars Joseph Cotten, who also stars in my daydreams!"
Never fear, the National Film Preservation Foundation is here. They too want us all to see this, as they wanted us to see The White Shadow, where so many worked so hard to raise the funds to get that hitherto lost piece of Alfred Hitchcock's filmography online and available for viewing.
Click here for the NFPF site, where they are collecting funds to do the same for Too Much Johnson. Later this year, they want to put this early work, from one of the greatest artists this country ever produced, online for every Tom, Dick and Harriet to view.
It's being shown in October in Pordenone, Italy, as part of a festival called Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, but most of us are nowhere near there. If the local Octoplex were showing this, surely Sirenistas would happily fork over a tenner to see it. So look at this the same way. At the very least, give the NFPF the $10 ($14 in Manhattan) or so you'd have spent on a ticket. Contribute, and help them get this online. The Siren will thank you, everyone will thank you, and you will get a tangible reward: the ability to see an Orson Welles movie that's been hidden for decades.
Please, go, and give generously.
(The still of Joseph Cotten is from Too Much Johnson, and the top photo of breathtaking young Orson Welles was taken on set. More are viewable at the NFPF.)