Orson Welles Was a Better Eulogist Than Newspaper Columnist

A special spring 1945 radio broadcast highlighted what was missing from the filmmaker's Post columns

BarbaraLeamingOrsonWellesCoverOver the weekend, New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick shared a fun look at Orson Welles’ days as a columnist for the paper. From January to November 1945, the filmmaker was paid big bucks to write five weekday columns.

In the middle of Welles’ run as an increasingly distracted print journalist, he steered his weekly CBS Radio program This is My Best away from anthology material to anchor a magnificent half-hour tribute to President Roosevelt, who had passed away five days earlier in Warm Springs, Georgia after returning from the Yalta Conference. From Barbara Leaming’s biography of Welles:

Welles took no more than an hour to prepare a text for a eulogy that, as it turned out, was broadcast in almost every corner of the nation. “It was absolutely stupendous,” says [Welles business partner Jackson] Leighter. “Orson could write better for Orson than he could write for anything else.”

“He never was a great writer in pieces, but when Orson was writing for Orson, he approached greatness.” In the Roosevelt eulogy, Orson was writing for Orson: that is, expressing what he really thought in the cadences of his own unique voice – something he found himself basically unable to do in the pieces he was writing daily for the Post.

Thanks to the good folks at archive.org, you can listen to this great April 15, 1945 radio eulogy which by some estimates was heard by 100 million. Click the file labeled “I’ll Not Go Back” to hear Welles, solemn from Hollywood, augmented by performance excerpts from John Loring and music composed and directed by Bernard Katz.

[Jacket cover courtesy: Limelight Editions]