The Orson Welles Diaries VII

January 27th, 1972.

I’m staying with Peter Bogdanovich and his delightful mistress, Cybil Shepherd. Yesterday evening, whilst dining on a superb plate of grouse, I felt a foot under the dinner table pawing up my leg and making an inexorable motion towards my crotch. Sitting opposite the delightful couple I was unsure as to whom the foot belonged to. Naturally I hoped it was Cybil and she was merely mischievously flirting with me but from the look of lust in his eyes, I became convinced that it was Peter currently teasing my scrotum with his big toe.

After a couple of minutes of uninvited but not entirely unpleasant nut nuzzling, I decided to take a sly peek under the table in order to fathom exactly who was probing my generous plums, when to my horror, I discovered the actor Dennis Hopper, clearly inebriated and lying on his back with his right bare foot undulating up and down my undercarriage.

When I questioned Peter as to how Hopper had come to be under table, he explained that Dennis had attended his New Years Eve party and knowing the man usually took around a month to recover from whatever grotesque cocktail of liquor and narcotics he was currently consuming, they simply left him under the table until he was conscious enough to leave.

Amused by this tale I laughed and returned to the Grouse but suddenly, I was struck by a notion. If Hopper had been there for 27 days, perhaps it wasn’t Cybil administering fellatio to me under the table during breakfast last Thursday.

I had three doughnuts and five scoops of butterscotch ice-cream after dinner, followed by dessert.


September 12th, 1974

Larry Jackson has approached me to narrate a documentary about Bugs Bunny which will be a welcome distraction from the spirit-crushing process of editing The Other Side of the Wind. I’ve never worked with Bugs but back in 1947 during a particular grisly absinthe session he unexpectedly turned up to my house in the wee small hours and we stayed up all night sharing stories and making merry. One particular tale I recall him telling was his failed audition for the film adaptation of Mary Chase’s delightful play Harvey. He’d prepared for the role for months and had spent time with some ancient monks in Tibet were he had managed to acquire the ability to turn himself invisible but despite his efforts, he was roundly rejected because Chase was insistent Harvey had to be exactly 6ft 3.5in tall and Bugs was a mere 6ft. It’s something of a mystery who ended up playing the role but according to legend, Gregory Peck ordered an usually large amount of carrots during the period the movie was being shot.

I had a rich rabbit stew for dinner followed by a superior slice of carrot cake.

December 8th, 1974

My doctor has insisted I cut down on the scotch so I’ve made the bold decision to return to the bosom of heroin. I first became acquainted with the milk of the poppy back in 1947 when that Tasmanian devil, Errol Flynn offered me a pipe at the Academy awards after party. Flynn had acquired the opiate from James Cagney who, at the time, ran the Hollywood drug dealing racket with an iron fist and was embroiled in a vicious turf war with Humphrey Bogart who was importing cheaper, more potent narcotics via a connection in Casablanca. Anyway, I spent around two months on ‘the horse’ but one day I woke up to find myself stripped to the waist and lying in a pool of my own filth on a damp, sodden mattress above a butchers shop in Harlem. After locating a pay phone my unsympathetic wife kindly informed me that I had sold all of my worldly possessions, I was bankrupt and she was filing for divorce but on a lighter note, Republic Pictures had agreed to finance my cinematic version of Macbeth. I swear to this day if it wasn’t for the fact that my underwear had been soiled so savagely during my glorious drug binge, I would have danced a merry jig on the spot.

I had heroin for lunch followed by more heroin.


September 1st, 1958

I’d been hired to narrate The Vikings, a rather tawdry swords and sandals tale starring my good friend and doubles partner Mr Kirk Douglas. The screenplay was ghastly and I simply couldn’t bare to utter a solitary word of the banal drivel so I rewrote the entire script during lunch and presented it to the director Richard Fleischer. He said he adored it , especially the running on the oars scene which I’d slipped in at the last moment for a giggle as I knew Kirk had an irrational fear of damp wood. Unfortunately when Richard presented my version to the United Artists board they insisted I cut the bloody epic battle between The Vikings and the House committee of Un-American activities claiming it wasn’t in keeping with the source material. I immediately resigned in disgust but after a bottle of dry sherry and some cajoling from Kirk I agreed to return as long as I was not listed in the credits.

I had a fine pheasant for lunch but the cherry and balsamic accompaniment was a little tart.


September 14th, 1958

My attempt to make a cinematic version of Charles Baudelaire’s exquisite work Les Fleur Du Mal has run into financial difficulty after I accidentally threw a hash brown at Jack Warner during a particularly tense breakfast meeting. Jack was insisting the dialogue should be in English rather than the original French so after an hour of trying to reason with him I was at my wits end and in a fit of pique I grabbed the hash brown and launched it in his general direction. My intention was for the hot potato missile to be nothing more than a warning shot across the bow but unfortunately it hit Jack square in the face. He immediately rose from his seat and angrily delivered a cacophony of coarse profanity before declaring he would rather burn the Warner lot to the ground then fund my picture.

Despite the unfortunate incident the English breakfast was superb though I do regret wasting the hash brown which I later discovered is something of a house speciality.


October 21st , 1957
I had dinner with Dietrich and Chuck Heston to discuss my latest project Touch of Evil. I’d also invited Janet Leigh but she said she had plans to go to the theatre with Tony Curtis to catch some ramshackle, post modern production of the Threepenny Opera

As usual Marlene spent the evening smoking endless cigarettes and becoming increasingly Gin sodden and Heston insisted on trying out a variety of Mexican accents and asking me which one he should adopt for his character. After an hour or so of his incomprehensible babbling I took him by the hand and said “Chuck dear. Forget about the accent. If we put a sombrero on your head and a moustache under your nose as far as the audience is concerned, you’re a Mexican”.
The main course was so nondescript and dreary it doesn’t even deserve a passing mention but I must confess I was rather fond of the chocolate roulade.
November 5th, 1957
Jack Kennedy invited me over for a late supper and I was delighted to find that Frank Sinatra was also in attendance. We chatted about politics, civil rights and the untimely but amusing passing of Senator McCarthy but when Jack made a crude reference to a sexual liaison with Marilyn Monroe, Sinatra rose from his chair and wagged a threatening finger at Kennedy. “One day you’re going to be sorry you said that Jack” said Frank menacingly and with that he grabbed his coat and slammed the door behind him as he left.
I regretfully ordered the John Dory when any sane man would have clearly opted for the Monkfish
December 23rd, 1957
Last Thursday after a particularly savage rum session, Jack Warner proposed a wager. He said that if I could survive on nothing but brandy and mince pies from now until Christmas day he would finance my next picture and give me complete creative autonomy. I immediately agreed to the bet but after five days on my limited diet, I’m beginning to think I might have been a little hasty in accepting his challenge. My bowels are no longer functioning as they once did and whenever I sit down I can feel a hot mulch of fruit, pastry and brandy bubbling away in my stomach like the foul contents of a witches cauldron.
I believe it was the Greek Tragedian Aeschylus who said “ The reward of suffering is experience” and although once upon a time those words might have brought me comfort, if that ancient sage was stood before me now I’d ring his damn neck for a fat blood orange and a tall glass of cold water.
I had two mince pies for lunch, followed by brandy.



March 17th,1942

The preview screening of The Magnificent Ambersons was an unmitigated disaster. Not only did several members of the audience fall asleep but a loutish city type approached me after the credits, unbuttoned his fly, and proceeded to urinate on my handmade Italian brogues.
As the scallywag was relieving himself I considered grabbing him by his lapels, marching him out into the alley and subjecting his ears to a severe boxing and yet part of me respected his unorthodox protest.

I recalled a quote from Churchill who said “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Wise words indeed dear Winston, though I suspect you might not have been so eloquent if you were writing that line in boots sodden with piss.

I had roast Poulet with Paprika for supper followed by a generous slice of Treacle Tart.

March 22nd,1942

Bogart and Huston invited me to a game of Poker and after several hours and several more glasses of Scotch I found myself holding a Royal Flush. I placed a small but inciting wager, and I was delighted when Huston decided to place the remainder of his chips in the middle of the table and invite me to call.

I nonchalantly revealed my winning hand and John immediately took umbrage. “You’re a lousy cheating bastard Welles”, he said bitterly. I gave a wry smile and casually called the waiter over. “Champagne for everyone” I exclaimed “, “And make sure it’s a cheap bottle. Mr. Huston seems to enjoy the taste of sour grapes.”

The Moussaka I had for supper was a little too lubricious but the Lemon Sorbet cleansed my palate sufficiently.

March 28th,1942

I spent the afternoon watching William Wyler’s Mrs Miniver starring Greer Garson and Walter Pigeon before returning home to find Rita splayed on the bed wearing her finest lingerie. I decided to indulge, as any hot-blooded man would; but all the while I was wondering what aspect ratio William had used on Miniver? It was only when Rita and I reached the apex of our lovemaking that I determined it was definitely 1.37:1.

I had several Hamburgers for lunch that were exceptionally unpleasant, but the strudel was so divine I am considering writing to the Pope in order to have it canonised.


January 19th,1940
Around noon Henry Fonda appeared at my door dressed as a minstrel. Still in my pyjamas, I ushered Henry into my hotel room, offered him a glass of sherry and enquired as to why he was sporting such an elaborate costume. He informed me that he had recently ingested a large quantity of a substance called Lysergic acid diethylamide and could he trouble me for a glass of cold water and a suitcase filled with lemons.

I had a rather fine meat pie for supper and two helpings of bread and butter pudding.
January 22nd1940
My movie is almost finished but I am yet to decide on a title. My current favourites are as follows:
The William Randolph Hearst Story
The Randy Hearst Story
Citizen Hearst
Get Hearst
& Sleepless in Seattle
I’ve just ordered the beef stroganoff and the cook recommended the trifle for dessert.
January 24th1940
Rita said that my sexual performance is hindered when I consume Sherry so I’ve decided to switch to Brandy. She also demanded that I refrain from quoting Chekov during congress and suggested that some choice passages from Lady Chatterley’s Lover would be more appropriate. When I informed her that I would never stoop so low as to utter a single word written by that talentless hack D.H Lawrence, she became upset and said she was going to stay at her mother’s for a few days.
The salmon was a little dry so I had to be over generous with the dill but the profiteroles were majestic.