Among the many film projects Welles had in development just after the release of Citizen Kane, in May 1941, were one about Landru, a 20th-century French Bluebeard (a project written for and eventually purchased by Charlie Chaplin, who converted it into Monsieur Verdoux); a life of Jesus set in America at the turn of the century, conceived as “a kind of primitive western”; a political thriller centered around a fascistic news commentator; adaptations of The Magnificent Ambersons and Journey Into Fear; and an omnibus feature called It’s All True, consisting of four true stories — a history of American jazz, a story by John Fante about his Italian parents meeting in San Francisco, and two stories by documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty, one about a Mexican boy’s friendship with a bull (”My Friend Bonito”), the other about a boat captain.
An anthology format had served Welles well on radio, and he launched a new weekly show around the same principle in the fall; by then, three of his film projects were in production, with Welles serving as writer-director-producer on Ambersons, producer and actor on Journey, and producer on It’s All True. In September Norman Foster began directing “Bonito” in Mexico under Welles’s supervision, and the following month Welles began shooting Ambersons. In December, two weeks after Pearl Harbor, he received a telegram from the coordinator of the federal Inter-American Affairs office asking him to undertake a goodwill mission to Brazil and make a noncommercial film there without salary to promote “hemisphere solidarity,” with RKO studios footing the bill but the government guaranteeing up to $300,000 against potential financial losses. Nelson Rockefeller, a major RKO stockholder, and President Roosevelt, a personal friend of Welles, both urged him to accept; Rockefeller was adamant that Welles arrive in February, in time to shoot the annual Rio carnival. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
You can now Download 12 selections from the many songs Orson Welles was considering using for the original soundtrack to The Story of Samba episode of It’s All True.
In May Welles tried to get the new head of RKO, Peter Rathvon to allow him to finish IT’S ALL TRUE for a reduced budget of $100,000 but was once again rebuffed. 20th Century-Fox was now out of the running as a possible backer, but Samuel Goldwyn had showed a glimmer of interest in the project, which quickly faded after the OCIAA was now officially withdrawing it’s offer of $300,000 to complete the picture.
Thus, the OCIAA essentially orphaned a project they had lobbied Welles to undertake in the first place! Despite this setback Welles’ continues to write several proposals for the film. In these excerpts from later treatments, Welles adopted the style of his later essay films, F FOR FAKE and AROUND THE WORLD WITH ORSON WELLES where he would inject himself into the story by becoming both host and commentator on the events we are being shown on-screen.
In this treatment, Welles would arrive in Mexico, where he would be told (and tell) the tale of Bonita the Bull. From there it would be on to Brazil for the Carnival in Rio, which would be followed by the story of the Jangadeiros, when they arrive at Rio’s Harbor.
“This is a picture divided into several parts. It is not, however, an arbitrary selection of short subjects, nor is it vaudeville. This is a new sort of picture. It is neither a play, nor a novel in movie form–it is a magazine. (I am) ready to leave elaborate historical pageants to other movie-makers. The way (I) look at it, people are interested in people, and I’m going to use the camera to show American people to each other. Since the focus of the main part of our picture is on simple people, the incidental characters in the linking sequence are, wherever possible, presented as cultivated and well-to-do. The purposes of this tactic are I am sure, self-evident”.
For FOUR MEN ON A RAFT, Welles would have read passages from Jacare’s own diary:
Director Peter Bogdanovich, writer of This is Orson Welles talks about the famous director and his “cursed’ documentary “It’s All True”. It’s 1942, and Orson Welles in in Brazil, working on the documentary, It’s All True. First, one of the subjects of the documentary drowns. Meanwhile, Orson’s got enemies back in Hollywood; some of them are conspiring to pull the funding on his documentary, whilst others are merely butchering The Magnificent Ambersons in ostensible response to a single disasterous preview screening. The money finally runs out before Welles can finish filming, and when he tells this to a witch doctor who is supposed to appear on camera, the witch doctor pierces a copy of the script with a steel needle strung with red thread — supposedly putting a curse on the director that would last until his death in 1985. Orson Welles — “This was the mark of the Voodoo”.