The following text is a sample from Chris Wade's book ORSON WELLES: THE FINAL CUT. Here, Henry Jaglom speaks of what turned out to be Welles' final film...
Jaglom and Welles stayed chums through the years after working on A Safe Place, with Jaglom acting as a kind of middle man for him, an agent if you will, attempting to get film projects off the ground, secure funds and to convince up and coming actors who happened to be Henry's friends to work with the veteran. The fact that so many claimed to admire him, yet turned down his projects due to the lack of money, tells you something about the movie business.
So picture the scene if you can. Young film director Henry Jaglom sits hunched over a table in an editing suite, slaving over the piecing together of his second feature film, the anti-Vietnam statement Tracks. It's close to his heart, his letter to the world, and it comes from within, as all true art should. Behind him, in the shadows perhaps, maybe in silhouette, is a large man smoking a cigar. He's propped in a chair, a large physical frame that could be described as imposing. Cinematically, the thick cigar smoke rises slowly into the air above him. He offers advice, criticism and enthusiasm. Though Jaglom probably wouldn't let anyone else sit there criticising his picture, the feedback of this particular gentleman is very welcome, because the man just happens to be Mr. Orson Welles. By then, the towering figure who redefined film with Citizen Kane was existing as a hired man, lending his iconic voice and presence to commercials, films and documentaries. On the side he was making great films, self funded and financed, most of which never saw release while he was still alive. Still, he remained the filmmaker's filmmaker, an inspirational icon to anyone daring to call themselves a director.
"He was fascinated," Jaglom told me in 2016, about Welles' interest in the editing of Tracks. "He sat with me through a lot of the cutting of Tracks and he sat behind me smoking his cigars... you know, those Monte Cristo cigars, giving me comments and saying 'God this is nuts, look at him, he's crazy!'"
The last time Jaglom and Welles collaborated on a film turned out to be Welles' final screen credit, Someone to Love, which was eventually released two years after his death in 1987. "My favorite memory of Orson was, I'd say, in Someone To Love... it was the ending, when he says "Cut!" to me and to my cameraman (Hanania Baer) at the end of his speech and my cameraman, God help him, actually CUT, even though he well knew that he should only cut any shot when I, the director, tells him to. When I said 'What the hell are you doing?', he said, apologetically: 'Orson Welles told me to cut. Orson Welles!' I understood. Meanwhile Orson was laughing his gigantic laugh and I flicked the camera back on when he wasn't watching and I caught it! This huge, all-embracing laugh that he would never do on any other film because he always said that it was terribly unattractive for a fat man to laugh on film, and he cited Sydney Greenstreet, and said that he would never let himself laugh too big on film. And here he was, ON FILM UNKNOWN TO HIM, roaring with the most beautiful laughter, laughing like no one else, charming as hell, not knowing that I had flicked the camera back on. He never would have let me use it but after he died. I knew that I would use it at the end, that it was the perfect ending to Orson's life, so that Orson would have the last laugh on all the people and things that had thwarted him all his life. Sheer pleasure for me to see that now, and never without goose bumps! The best advice he gave me was quite simple: Never listen to someone when they tell you that something cannot be done."
Jaglom and Welles shared an interesting, rich and fruitful friendship, as preserved in the fantastic, addictive and endlessly entertaining book, My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles. The glorious thing about the book is that it captures the Orson off screen, off the record and private. He knew the tape was often rolling, but as Jaglom says, the subject of it, like his weight, was out of bounds. He would let loose and be open and honest, and judging by the book, nothing was off limits. His legendary wife Rita Hayworth was always wanting to stay in; Charlie Chaplin was something of a phoney, nothing compared to Buster Keaton; Hoffman and De Niro were too ethnic to play the president; AIDS could be caught by a hug. There is some ridiculously funny material in the book, and some revelations too. Jaglom plays the straight man but more than holds his own too, never kissing up to Orson, and always calling him when he feels he is wrong. Ultimately though, he is respectable and fascinated by his mythical friend, who to him was just plain old Orson. It offers a window into a one off friendship, two men from drastically different ages, getting together for food, drink, and film discussion.
I asked Henry about his favourite Orson memory and he came up with a real gem... "Let me think about the favourite moments question. I think it may be one New Year's Eve Party, which Orson and I co-hosted at my house. And the other that comes to mind is his sitting behind me smoking his cigars as I am editing Someone to Love on my Kem Editing machine, hours of his suggestions and remembered stories about shooting Kane and Ambersons and Falstaff - wonderful stuff, all on tape somewhere too, not in the book... That's when he first told me that 'Henry, you are like the old Eskimo in a great documentary film who is carving away at some tusk or something and is asked by the filmmaker what he is making and he says I don't know, I'm trying to find what's inside. That's how you make your movies Henry, shooting me and him and her, shooting all your actors doing everything, then cutting away at the results, trying to find what's inside of all of us, trying to find your film. Nobody else does it your way, you're just like that old Eskimo...' And he laughed indeed, until there was no tomorrow."
It seems fitting that Orson's tale should end with a Henry Jaglom film, for Jaglom was a man who ensured Orson got the dignity he truly deserved, and made sure he went out laughing into eternity.
Get the book here: