Unfinished Orson Welles memoir found 30 years after great director's death

Orson Wells

An unfinished memoir by Orson Welles has been discovered by archivists at the University of Michigan more than three decades after the film-maker’s death.

The autobiography, titled Confessions of a One-Man Band, explains why Welles – who is famed for his struggles with the Hollywood studio system – failed to complete a number of film projects. It also details his views on his great friend (and occasional foe) Ernest Hemingway, wife Rita Hayworth and film-maker DW Griffith. Beginning in the 1970s and typed, with handwritten notes and edits, it was discovered by archivists at the university in eight boxes of Welles material sent by the Citizen Kane director’s partner of 24 years, Oja Kodar, from her home in Croatia.

“If you think of it as a puzzle, this is another important piece that brings us closer to being able to see the bigger picture,” said Philip Hallman, curator of the university library’s Screen Arts Mavericks and Makers collection. “Having an opportunity to look at him as a father, as a husband, as a friend – you get to see what was happening behind the scenes, including the struggles and the missed opportunities and the agony that he was experiencing.”

Archivists do not believe the memoir will be published in the near future. “It doesn’t appear to be anywhere near a final draft, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be important to scholars or researchers,” said Hallman. “There’s a lot of evidence we’ve found that explains why he didn’t – or couldn’t – finish some of his projects.”

On Griffith, Welles wrote: “No wonder he hated me.” The film-maker goes on to explain that the director of Intolerance and Birth of a Nation was living as “an exile in his own town”, while Welles, a newcomer to film-making, had a studio contract, reports the New York Times.

According to the archivists, the memoir also details a boozy evening with Hemingway in 1954 after the great American novelist won the Nobel prize for literature. Welles said: “It should have gone to Isak Dinesen” (pseudonym of the Danish author Karen Blixen).

A crowdfunding campaign to help complete Welles’s supposed comeback movie, The Other Side of the Wind, was announced earlier this month. It has so far collected $215,488 (£140,000) of a $2m target, and has received backing from the director’s daughter Beatrice.

“My father struggled his whole life to find funding to finish his pictures, but never as much as he did for this one,” she told the BBC. “He would be ecstatic to know that it was the people who really cared about his work who, in the end, brought his last dream to fruition.”

Welles left scripts and footage for another dozen unfinished films, among them projects based on Don Quixote and The Merchant of Venice. He died in 1985 at the age of 70.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 22nd May 2015 10.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010