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Orson Welles and the Unfinished RKO Projects

A Postmodern Perspective

Marguerite H. Rippy

Publication Year: 2009

Postmodern traces Welles's impact on contemporary media narratives, focusing on four emerging narrative modes found in the unfinished RKO films: deconstruction of the first-person singular, adaptation of classic texts for mass media, exploration of the self via primitivism, and examination of the line between reality and fiction. Ultimately, these four narrative styles would enormously impact the development of mass media entertainment, and they still resonate today in popular modes like the “mock”umentary and reality television

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Book Title

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

I first saw Citizen Kane in the now-defunct Key Theatre in Washington, D.C., and I am happy to say I skipped out of work early to go see it. It made a strong impression on me, enough so that when I visited the Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana, on a fishing expedition for another project, I made sure to take a look at the Welles Manuscripts. I could not believe the richness ...

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pp. 1-13

In 1999 a group of scholars gathered in M

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1. Origins of the First-Person Singular

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pp. 14-45

In 1938, Orson Welles moved Mercury Theatre from stage to radio, beginning his dramatic series First Person Singular: Mercury Theatre on the Air. By the end of this year, Welles would be beckoned to Hollywood to begin his film career with RKO. During this time Welles established a creative process that interwove narrative strategies from stage, radio, and screen. He created ...

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2. Classics for the Masses: Dickens and Welles

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pp. 46-67

As developed in his radio series, Welles’s first-person-singular approach to adaptation depended on the insertion of a contemporary, critical eye/I into a classic text. No author interested Welles more consistently than Charles Dickens during the era of Welles’s shift from radio to Hollywood,1 in part because of Dickens’s cultivation of a performative style of literature that ...

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3. Exploiters in Surroundings Not Healthy for a White Man: Primitivism and the Identity Detour

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pp. 68-108

The story is of a man and a girl in love[. . . .] There is an unhappy girl, gorgeous, but black, a real Negro type. She has an inferred, This passage, from the plot treatment for Orson Welles’s first Hollywood film, Heart of Darkness, captures the 1930s fascination with the primitive, often seen in classic Hollywood cinema. But the passage also acknowledges the ...

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4. R Is for Real: Documentary Fiction in It’s All True

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pp. 109-141

While the narrative mode discussed in the previous chapter depends heavily on imperialist binaries of white/black, good/evil, and civilized/primitive to engage modernist primitivism and couple it with romantic racialism, Welles’s use of ethnicity in narrative held a different nuance when he attempted to distance his work from “fiction” ...

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pp. 142-172

The Wellesian brand has helped establish at least two images that resonate in contemporary American media culture: the star director and the concept of “truthiness.” This final section examines twenty-first-century manifestations of these themes that intrigued Welles in the earliest stages of his career, and suggests why they retained such cultural relevance. When we compare these ...


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pp. 173-206


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pp. 207-214


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pp. 215-223

Author Bio

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pp. 225

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809386765
E-ISBN-10: 0809386763
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329120
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329123

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 11 b/w halftones
Publication Year: 2009