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The latest volume in Simon Callow’s masterful biography of Orson Welles

In One-Man Band, the third volume in his epic survey of Orson Welles’ life and work, Simon Callow again probes in comprehensive and penetrating detail into one of the most complex artists of the twentieth century, looking closely at the triumphs and failures of an ambitious one-man assault on one medium after another – theatre, radio, film, television, even, at one point, ballet – in each of which his radical and original approach opened up new directions and hitherto unglimpsed possibilities.

The book begins with Welles’ self-exile from America, and his realisation that he could only function happily as an independent film-maker, a one-man band; by 1964, he had filmed Othello, which took three years to complete, Mr Arkadin, the biggest conundrum in his output, and his masterpiece Chimes at Midnight, as well as Touch of Evil, his sole return to Hollywood and, like all too many of his films, wrested from his grasp and re-edited. Along the way he made inroads into the fledgling medium of television and a number of stage plays, including Moby-Dick, considered by theatre historians to be one of the seminal productions of the century. Meanwhile, his private life was as dramatic as his professional life.

The book shows what it was like to be around Welles, and, with a precision rarely attempted before, what it was like to be him, in which lies the answer to the old riddle: whatever happened to Orson Welles?

Reviews

One Man Band gathers strength page by page. This is by far the funniest volume of the three, and in some ways the most revelatory. The more vulnerable Welles becomes, the more vivid Callow’s writing. The fear was always that a description of Welles’ later years would be depressing. But this is that rare thing: a book about decline which is actually exhilarating

David Hare

One Man Band gathers strength page by page. This is by far the funniest volume of the three, and in some ways the most revelatory. The more vulnerable Welles becomes, the more vivid Callow’s writing. The fear was always that a description of Welles’ later years would be depressing. But this is that rare thing: a book about decline which is actually exhilarating

David Hare

A biography as huge as if it had been fed a Welles-style diet of roasted chicken and foie gras

Victoria Segal, Sunday Times

Callow continuously strikes to the quick and the essential in Welles

Michael Coveney, Independent

Impeccably detailed research peppered with anecdotes and […] his witty conversational style

Kevin Maher, The Times

Compulsive reading.

Robert McCrum, Observer

The third volume has a tremendous panache, matching Welles’s own bravura and extraordinary energy, giving a vivid account of his personality and his productions.

Robert Tanitch, Mature Times

A novel as exhaustive and exhilarating as it’s subject.

Liverpool Echo

Simon Callow probes in comprehensive and penetrating detail into one of the most complex artists of the twentieth century.

Essential Surrey

A pretty epic survey about his [Welles’] stupendous life.

Western Mail

Callow probes in detail into one of the most complex artists of the twentieth century.

Daily Echo

Epic survey of Welles’ life and work, Simon again probes in comprehensive and penetrating detail into one of the most complex artists of the twentieth century… The book shows what it was like to be around Welles, and, with a precision rarely attempted before, what it was like to be him.

Chris High, Purple Revolver

It’s a great story in print and Callow’s passion made it riveting on stage… Somehow conjuring up all the extravagance that flowed from Orson Welles’s gifted imagination.

Darren Slade, Daily Echo

In every way, Callow has captured his subject as he wants him.

Victoria Segal, Sunday Times

Biographical subject and author have found their perfect match.

Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

One Man Band rumbles along… Welles in his middle years is a more engaging prospect than most artists at a similar point. He has been lucky to have Callow as a biographer, balancing warmth with skepticism, fondness with reproof.

Anthony Quinn, Guardian

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099502838

    November 15, 2016

    Vintage

    496 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9780224079358

    November 15, 2015

    Jonathan Cape

    496 pages

    RRP $55.00

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781473545762

    November 26, 2015

    Vintage Digital

    496 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Simon Callow

Charles Laughton
Orson Welles, Volume 2
Being An Actor
Shooting The Actor
Orson Welles, Volume 1

Recommendations

To Kill A Mockingbird
Norwegian Wood
How To Be A Bawse
The Old Man and the Sea
Trump: The Art of the Deal
Orson Welles, Volume 2
Midnight's Children
The 37th Parallel
The Lauras
Easily Distracted
Hollywood Hellraisers
In My Father's Shadow
Fifty Years Of Carry On
Polanski
Strange Fascination
In Search Of The Blues
Jacques Tati
Mr Showbiz
La Mama
Grant & I