Welles’ lifelong love of magic took a central role in his final, unfinished television special, Orson Welles’ Magic Show. Filmed between 1976 and 1985, the famed artist performs various tricks while promising no trick photography. Uncompleted at his death in 1985, it was bequeathed to the Munich Film Museum with all his unfinished work and the half-hour show was reconstructed in 2000 under the supervision of Stefan Drössler with restored footage.
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Welles’ relationship with magic extends all the way back to his being taught his first tricks by Harry Houdini in the 1920s. Throughout his career, Welles displayed his magical talents on both the big and small screens, including his failed, 1979 talk show pilot The Orson Welles Show. Orson Welles’ Magic Show has screened at various film festivals, but has never been released for home viewing on hard media. Owners of the Criterion Collection’s edition of F for Fake (1975) will have seen portions of Magic Show on Vassili Silovic and Oja Kodar’s Orson Welles: The One-Man Band (1995). I must admit to have never having seen Magic Show, but the significance of Welles’ interest in illusions to his identity makes a half-hour spotlight on his magic seem worthy, and more footage of Angie Dickinson can’t hurt.
And with that, Orson Welles completes a final vanishing act, closing out this potential Eclipse set, A Big Man on the Small Screen – The Televised Orson Welles.