“Too Much Johnson” (Orson Welles, 1938)

Director: Orson Welles Título original: “Too Much Johnson”
Año: 1938 Duración: 67 min.
País: Estados Unidos
Guión: William Gillette, Orson Welles Fotografía: Paul Dunbar, Harry Dunham (B&W)
Reparto: Joseph Cotten, Virginia Nicholson, Edgar Barrier, Arlene Francis, Ruth Ford, Mary Wickes, Eustace Wyatt, Orson Welles, Guy Kingsley, George Duthie.
Productora: Mercury Theater / Género: Comedia | Cine mudo

Sinopsis: Comedia muda rodada por Orson Welles en 1938 para proyectar, en forma de tres prólogos, junto a una obra de teatro del mismo título. Se creía perdida en un incendio que hubo en la casa de Welles en los años 70, pero en julio de 2013 se encontró una copia completa en Italia. Esta copia se restaurará para un estreno en octubre de 2013 en el Dryden Theatre de George Eastman House en Nueva York, con un posterior estreno online en el resto del mundo. (FILMAFFINITY)

Foto: mubi.com

Durante décadas las enciclopedias citaban Ciudadano Kane como la primera película que dirigió el gran Orson Welles. Sin embargo, tres años antes, en 1938, había rodado un mediometraje de unos cuarenta minutos que todo el mundo daba por perdido. En 2013, casi por sorpresa, se encontró una copia en un almacén italiano. Too Much Johnson es una comedia muda y alocada, protagonizada por Joseph Cotten. Orson Welles la concibió para proyectarla como si fuera un prólogo, antes de una obra de teatro del mismo título escrita por William Gillette. El film ha sido rescatado y debidamente restaurado en Holanda y en Estados Unidos. CINETECA



Foto: boredommd.com

Too Much Johnson is a 1938 American comedy film written and directed by Orson Welles. The film was made three years before Welles directed Citizen Kane, but it was never publicly screened. The film was believed to be lost, but in 2008 a print was discovered in a warehouse in Pordenone, Italy. The film premiered Wednesday, October 9, 2013, at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, with the possibility of being available online later in the year.

The film was not intended to stand by itself, but was designed as the cinematic aspect of Welles’s Mercury Theatre stage presentation of William Gillette’s 1894 comedy about a New York playboy who flees from the violent husband of his mistress and borrows the identity of a plantation owner in Cuba who is expecting the arrival of a mail order bride.

Welles planned to mix live action and film for this production. The film was designed to run 40 minutes, with 20 minutes devoted to the play’s prologue and two 10-minute introductions for the second and third act. Welles planned to create a silent film in the tradition of the Mack Sennett slapstick comedies, in order to enhance the various chases, duels and comic conflicts of the Gillette play.

Two previous films had been made of this play, a short film in 1900 and a feature length Paramount film in 1919 starring Lois Wilson and Bryant Washburn. Both of these films are now lost.

This was the second film to be directed by Welles, but his first as a professional. In 1934, while still attending The Todd School for Boys, he co-directed (with friend William Vance) a short avant garde film called The Hearts of Age.


Joseph Cotten as Augustus Billings
Virginia Nicolson as Lenore Faddish
Edgar Barrier as Leon Dathis
Arlene Francis as Mrs. Dathis
Ruth Ford as Mrs. Billings
Mary Wickes as Mrs. Battison
Eustace Wyatt as Faddish
Guy Kingsley as MacIntosh
George Duthie as Purser
Orson Welles as Keystone Kop
John Houseman as Duelist

Paul Dunbar, a newsreel cameraman for Pathé News, was the film’s cinematographer. Location photography took place in New York City’s Battery Park and Central Park. Additional shooting took place on a Hudson River day-trip excursion boat and at locations in Yonkers, New York, and Haverstraw, New York. Interior shots were set up at a studio in the Bronx, New York. For the Cuban plantation, Welles created a miniature structure next to a papier-mâché volcano, with store-bought tropical plants to suggest the exotic Caribbean flora.

Post-production and exhibition problems

Welles and his crew spent ten days shooting Too Much Johnson, which resulted in approximately 25,000 feet of film. He edited the footage on a Moviola in his suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, and John Houseman later recalled visitors had to “wade knee-deep through a crackling sea of flammable [nitrate] film.”

During post-production, Welles ran into financial problems relating to his cast (who were not originally paid for the film shoot) and the film laboratory, which refused to deliver the processed film until it received payment. Welles also received an attorney’s letter from Paramount Pictures informing him that the studio owned the film rights to Too Much Johnson, and that public presentation of his film would require payment to the studio.

Welles initially planned to present the stage-and-film mix of Too Much Johnson at the Stony Creek Theatre in Connecticut as a pre-Broadway trial run, but discovered that the theater’s ceiling was too low to allow for film projection. The show opened on August 16, 1938, without the filmed sequences. Audience and critical reaction to the show was poor and Welles opted not to attempt a Broadway version.

Loss and rediscovery

Welles never completed editing Too Much Johnson and put the footage in storage. He rediscovered it three decades later at his home outside of Madrid, Spain. “I can’t remember whether I had it all along and dug it out of the bottom of a trunk, or whether someone brought it to me, but there it was”, he later recalled. “I screened it, and it was in perfect condition, with not a scratch on it, as though it had only been through a projector once or twice before. It had a fine quality.” Welles, however, never allowed the footage to be seen publicly, stating the film would not make sense outside of the full context of the Gillette play. In August 1970,a fire broke out at Welles’s villa and the only known complete print of Too Much Johnson was destroyed.

A copy was discovered in Italy in 2008 and on August 5, 2013, the George Eastman House museum of film and photography in the U.S. announced that it had completed a long process of restoration together with Cinemazero, the National Film Preservation Foundation, and laboratory experts in the U.S. and the Netherlands. Cinema Arts, a Pennsylvania film laboratory, performed most of the preservation work. “The next step was to begin the actual photo-chemical preservation”, said Tony Delgrosso, Head of Preservation at George Eastman House. “For that we turned to a lab called Cinema Arts who are world famous for the quality of their black-and-white photo-chemical preservation and restoration.” Too Much Johnson premiered October 9, 2013, at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. The film’s North American premiere was held October 16, 2013, at George Eastman House’s Dryden Theatre, and the film’s New York City premiere took place on November 25, 2013, at the Directors Guild of America Theater. (Wikipedia)




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