January 19, 2022

University of Michigan Library Acquires New Set of Orson Welles Materials Including Completed But Unproduced Scripts

From the U. of Michigan Library:

A new set of materials from Beatrice Welles will make the University of Michigan Library’s Orson Welles collection the world’s most comprehensive resource for Welles scholars and fans.


Beatrice Welles and her father, Orson Welles, at the Feria de Sevilla, Spain in April 1964 (Agencia Gráfica Prensa Lara, Madrid). Image courtesy: University of Michigan Library, Special Collections

The daughter of renowned indie filmmaker Orson Welles and Italian actress Paola Mori, Beatrice Welles had a particularly extraordinary childhood. She was brought up jetsetting to different countries, playing on various film sets, interacting mostly with adults (her parents and their friends), and falling asleep to the rhythmic sounds of her father working on his typewriter late into every night.

“My father was very anti-establishment, so I didn’t spend my days in school. I was with my parents twenty-four, seven—we were inseparable, and we really lived our lives around his creative schedule,” Welles said. “Something that a lot of people don’t know about him is that he was always creating, always curious, always onto a new idea.”

The constant creativity she describes can be found within the documents and photos from her portion of her father’s estate that will join the U-M Library’s Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers collection, a popular archive highlighting visionaries in the genre of independent film.

“I’m really happy that his materials will go to Michigan as a complement to what is already there,” Welles said. “Part of my job is to protect my father’s legacy and to leave this information in good hands. I also think it is important to try to keep his things together—since he lived and traveled all over the world, so many of these items were never in one place at any point in his life.”


The new collection from Beatrice Welles contains more than 70 scripts for film, television and stage, many completed but never brought into production.

Hallman says that Welles was writing for television as it became a new medium in the 1950s, which represents a large portion of what can be found in the new archive.

“Many Welles fans and scholars know about the existence of some of these materials, but most have never actually seen the work itself,” he said.

Collection highlights include:

  • Detailed, handwritten annotated scripts for several films that he worked on during the 1950s and ’60s, including “Othello,” “Mr. Arkadin” and “Chimes at Midnight.”
  • The original, annotated script for “Fountain of Youth,” a 1956 television pilot produced by Desilu Productions, a company co-owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. It was completed and well received, but never broadcast. It won a 1958 Peabody award, the only unsold TV pilot ever to be honored.
  • After starring in the 1949 film “The Third Man,” Welles created a season’s worth TV scripts based around his character, Harry Lime, that were never produced.
  • An original manuscript of “Fair Warning,” a 1950s comedic play written by Welles that was only ever released in French.
  • An original manuscript of “Two by Two,” Welles’ modern retelling of the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.
  • Scrapbooks and news clippings detailing the press he received throughout his career. Several volumes alone chronicle coverage of “Citizen Kane” that represent only a five-month period of time following its release.

In addition to the scripts, other items of note included in the collection are family photographs, letters and telegrams to and from Paola Mori, and correspondence in the 1920s and ’30s with family friend and physician Maurice Bernstein, whom he considered to be a father figure.

U-M welcomed the first addition to the Welles archive back in 2005, and since then, it has grown substantially to become the most extensive international collection of items and materials that span Welles’ life and career.

Read the Complete Acquisition Announcement

See Also: Orson Welles Collection Finding Aid


Orson Welles’s Diaries and Scripts Head to Archive (via The NY Times)



About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.