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The Hearts of Age - Orson Welles


Rental Format(s): Digital File

Co-makers: Orson Welles and William Vance
Original format: 16mm silent film 1.37:1
New music: Donald Sosin
Featuring Virginia Nicholson, Orson Welles, William Vance, Edgerton Paul, Charles "Blackie" O'Neil
Courtesy: Greenwich Public Library, American Film Institute, Library of Congress

Produced as a component of a live summer theatre production, no other exhibition was intended for this film. It is of interest today as the first screen appearance of Orson Welles, aged twenty, with his first wife Virginia Nicholson. -David Shepard

"It's nothing at all. Absolutely nothing. It was a joke. I wanted to make a parody of Jean Cocteau's first film [The Blood of a Poet, 1930]. That's all. We shot it in two hours, for fun, one Sunday afternoon. It has no sort of meaning." -Orson Welles

His little-known first film, made seven years earlier, gives the lie to the legend. While indisputably technically crude and a bit sophomoric, The Hearts of Age reveals both a keen eye for composition and montage, and substantial familiarity with film art. "Ultimately, The Hearts of Age, like so many of Welles' films, is a parable of mortality" it introduces a theme that resonates throughout all of his work. -Brian L. Frye, Senses of Cinema

Orson Welles' (1915-1985) childhood mastery of magic and Shakespeare decidedly marked his involvement with filmmaking that began with The Hearts of Age (1934). The distance traveled by Welles between that amateur outing and his professional debut with Citizen Kane (1941) underlines an ability to embrace complex theoretical and practical considerations of the cinema.

William Vance (1915-1961) was a Todd School student when he appeared in three "Summer Festival of Drama" productions directed by fellow student Orson Welles. They shot The Hearts of Age in a single afternoon with a 16mm camera. Vance had also made amateur films, Toyland and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932). -Bruce Posner

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