Pop the corn and settle in for a screening of Citizen Kane to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Great Laker Orson Welles, who was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915.
It wouldn’t surprise me if was a dark and stormy night when George Orson Welles was born to a pianist mother and inventor father a century ago. He had a chaotic childhood following his parents’ separation when he was four years old, and lived with his mother Beatrice in Chicago until she died when he was just nine. For a few years he stayed with his roving, alcoholic father Richard—until dear old dad died when Orson was 15.
At the age of 11 Orson enrolled at the Todd Seminary for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois where he found a mentor and was able to pursue his interests in theater and radio. The gifted young man was also a talented musician, artist and illustrator, writer and magician. After graduation he snubbed a scholarship to Harvard University and traveled to Europe, then New York City.
Although I’m familiar with Welles’ film work, including The Third Man, The Lady from Shanghai and The Magnificent Ambersons, I didn’t know of his Great Lakes roots until I learned of birthday celebrations throughout the month of May in both Kenosha and Woodstock.
Orson Welles died October 10, 1985 in Hollywood. His ashes are buried on the property of his friend, bullfighter Antonio Ordonez, in Ronda, Spain.
Events in his birthplace of Kenosha, beginning May 6, range from film screenings and discussions to a live performance of the radio program, The War of the Worlds. There will be an Orson Welles Trivia Crawl & Contest and the local Public Craft Brewing will be pouring its “Orson Welles-themed brew.”
For details: Citizen Welles Society of Kenosha
Kenosha is located on the Lake Michigan shore, midway between Milwaukee and Chicago. For information: Visit Kenosha
Welles referred to Woodstock as his adopted hometown. The Orson Welles Centennial Festival kicks off with a May 6 screening of Citizen Kane. Programming includes a one-man play, Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles; “An Evening with Oja Kodar,” Welles’ last partner; a presentation about his talents as an illustrator and artist; and the documentary, The Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles.
For details: WellesWoodstock.com
Woodstock is located about an hour’s drive northwest of Chicago. For information: Visit McHenry County
For more about Orson Welles: Wellesnet.com