Caesars Guide to Gaming with Orson Welles (1978)

Eclipse LogoThe small screen doesn’t come much smaller than closed circuit, hotel television, but it was never bigger than when Orson Welles gently described to guests of Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace the basics of casino gambling in a half hour instructional video.  Welles charms hotel guests with anecdotes from history and mythology, while causally explaining the rules for baccarat, craps, blackjack, roulette, and Keno.

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Definitely the oddest entry in this potential Eclipse set, Caesars Guide to Gaming with Orson Welles is a captivating example of Welles’ late-career of making appearances and acting as a spokesperson.  It’s unclear who authored the video; no credit is provided.  Watching the program against the other works canvassed here, many of the same Wellesian tropes can be identified – his gentle, complicit intonations, his high culture anecdotes, the centrality of his persona to the work.  Welles declares at the Guide‘s opening that “I guess they’ve asked me because I know a little about cards, a little about history, and, well, because I’ve been known to take a long shot or two.”  Showman, risk-taker, magician, seer – Caesars Guide to Gaming with Orson Welles manages to rely on all of Welles’ iconoclastic identities, making it a novel portrait of a big man on the smallest of screens.

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