Monday, January 23, 2012

Sedona's Citizen Welles, Part 3

Orson Welles and cinematographer Greg Toland at work on Citizen Kane.
Orson Welles lived in Sedona for nearly two years in the ’70s. His daughter, Beatrice Welles, offers a rare glimpse into his private life in the third and final part of our exclusive interview.

SEDONA MONTHLY: Your mom, Paola Mori, was an Italian countess who thought Sedona was beautiful, but what did she think of living in such a rural area?

BEATRICE WELLES: It was difficult for her – more difficult for her than me. I left London for her because she was going to be alone in Sedona. We knew nobody. She got to know people through me. I worked for [Sedona watchmaker] Geoffrey Roth for a while just to have something to do. But it was tough for her. There was nothing.

Did your mom consider coming back to Sedona? 

She wanted to, she loved it here, but she didn’t think about coming back. She needed to stay in Vegas.

She painted, right? 
She was very artistic.

Did she paint Sedona? 

Yes [gestures to room behind her] – they are in there. But there was always a dog in it or me – Sedona was the background. They are very sweet and charming paintings. I come from a very artistic family. And here I am…making handbags [laughs]. I am artistic. I realize that now, but it never dawned on me that I was artistic. It took forever to realize it was there.

Your father seemed to like working with family members. His second wife, Rita Hayworth, was in The Lady From Shaghai. Your half-sister, Christopher, was in Macbeth. Your mother was in Mr. Arkadin and you were in Chimes at Midnight. Did it make him feel more comfortable to be around familiar faces or was it a matter of economics? 

I think it was both. He did a lot of adaptations, and he thought of specific people while he was doing the adaptations. Economics was always a huge part because he put all of his money into his movies. Everyone thinks I must be rolling, but they don’t understand. He made all of these movies, put all of his money in, and then it ended up being owned by someone else.

Parts of The Other Side of the Wind, his last, unfinished, film were shot in Carefree [Arizona] just prior to the time he lived in Sedona. Was any filming done in Sedona or other parts of northern Arizona? 

No, only Carefree and Los Angeles.

Did he ever mention the possibility of shooting in Sedona?

No. He was home. The moment there was my mother and me, it all changed. Not when we were traveling, but when we settled in London. We didn’t think about making movies. [Editor's note: Welles filmed a conversation with lifelong friends Roger and Hortense Hill in Sedona in June, 1978, that he may have intended to use as a segment in a never-completed self-portrait to be titled Orson Welles Solo. Portions of this footage, renamed Orson Welles Talks With Roger Hill, have been restored and were screened at Switzerland's Locarno International Film Festival in 2005] 

You all three left Sedona at the same time?

Yes, and we left because of him. He needed us to be closer, but he really loved it here.

Did he ever express any regrets about leaving?

Yes, because he hated Las Vegas. We all did. He said he wished there was a way we could have stayed. Leaving was purely logistical.

Did he ever return to visit?

Never. My father didn’t vacation – it didn’t exist in his life. Vacation was coming home. At one point we talked about flying here, but the airport was much smaller. You couldn’t get a jet in. He didn’t want to be crammed into a tiny plane – he had a bad back. He said it was the same as driving. There was nothing to do. And I got tired of driving him back and forth. But he loved the drive [from Phoenix]. He loved Bloody Basin Road. He thought it was the most wonderful name. It’s so Southwest. Every time we passed it, he had to say something about [deep male voice] Bloody Basin Road [laughs].

Did you have any involvement in his film projects? 

No. I never worked on anything. I was always just with him.

You didn’t appear in any other films? 


But you modeled.

I modeled. I did it out of necessity. I had been show jumping – I was short listed for the Olympic games – and then I busted my knee. My whole life stopped. I had four horses. Nobody bought me the horses. I went out and dealt and got the horse and worked on them and made them into jumpers. That was the fun part, more than the competing. They were all ex-racehorses. You could do that in England. Then my whole life stopped. I had been modeling now and again, so I decided to do it. I was so depressed – my life was the horses. So I did a lot of runway work, which was what I enjoyed the most. Unfortunately, I also wanted to make money. In those days, supermodels didn’t exist. I only worked for Vogue, and they paid a flat rate of 25 pounds a day. It didn’t matter how many hours you worked. I didn’t really like it. I wanted to do catalogue work because you would get paid, but you had to be shorter. The clothes were made for shorter people in the early- and mid-’70s. I was almost six feet – nothing fit me. But I did the Milan and Paris shows. It was fun. Angelica Houston was modeling at the time – she was a friend. There wasn’t the snobbism there is now. I think it’s unbearable now.

What did your father think of the modeling? 

He was fine with it.

Did he encourage you to be creative? 
No. He was the worst father in that sense. He was the most wonderful father in teaching me about the world. I knew things that no one else knew about because he had read about it. He was always interested in learning, and he would talk about what he learned. But he was never the father that guided you. I got no schooling and no guidance. I didn’t know what to do, so modeling seemed right.––Interview by Erika Ayn Finch and Joe McNeill


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