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Orson Welles Lives

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Orson the Magnificent – The Magic of Orson Welles

by Matthew Crabtree

When most people hear the name Orson Welles they think of either his War of the Worlds radio play, or Citizen Kane. They might not know that before he was Orson Welles the movie star and director, he was Orson the Magnificent, a magician and mentalist.

Lars Klores, who is the president of S.A.M. Assembly 23 in Washington D.C., is presenting a one-man show that covers Welles love of magic, as well as presenting illusions and a history of magicians in America. The show is titled “Orson the Magnificent – The Magic of Orson Welles”. Klores’ unique background serves him well in this one man show that is part dramatic monologue, part magic show, and part history lesson. To purchase tickets to this show PLEASE CLICK HERE. To read a review of this production from the DC Theatre Scene, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

Orson Welles’ love of magic began early. In the 1920’s Harry Houdini taught him his first magic trick and that was all it took for the young Mr. Welles to catch the magic spark. Welles remembers Houdini on his 1955 television series Orson Welles’ Sketchbook.

Welles ran a show that was part magic, part circus doing World War II. That show was known as The Mercury Wonder Show for Service Men. Welles served as magician and directed, and service members we admitted for free. The show was popular and entertained over 1,000 service members each night for the run of the show (August 3 thought September 9 1943). Part of that show was captured in the 1944 film, “Follow The Boys. Check out this clip.

Next came The Orson Welles Almanac, a half hour variety show that was broadcast on the Columbia Pacific Network during the first half of 1944. In this show Welles and his cast presented magic, mind reading, music, and sketch comedy. His shows were broadcast from different military camps there the base troops were in attendance.

The series cast and guest stars include: Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins, Hans Conried, Keenan Wynn, Groucho Marx, Lionel Barrymore, Hedda Hopper, Victor Moore, Lucille Ball, Charles Laughton, Betty Hutton, Mary Boland, Dennis Day, Aurora Miranda, Ann Sothern, the Wilde Twins, Marjorie Reynolds, Martha O’Driscoll, Lynn Bari, Lana Turner, Susan Hayward, Ruth Terry and more. To listen to archived recordings of these shows CLICK HERE FOR PART 1 and CLICK HERE FOR PART 2.

Welles returned to Hollywood where he performed magic in both movies and television. including I Love Lucy, The Dean Martin Show and Casino Royal. Later in his life, Welles filmed an unfinished TV special, Orson Welles’ Magic Show. Filming took place between 1976 and his death in 1985. In 2000 the Munich Film Museum edited together footage into a twenty-seven minute program. While it has been screened at many film festivals, it has never been released to video. Here are some of the clips with subtitles.

Orson the Magnificent . Written, Directed, and Performed by Lars Klores . Lighting Designer: Peter Caress . Sound Designer: Alan Wray . Stage Manager: Amy Sullivan . Produced for Capital Fringe Festival . Reviewed by Ben Demers.

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