The University of Michigan Library added to its assortment of 13 million volumes on Monday through the acquisition of a never-before-seen collection of scripts, letters and scrapbooks belonging to the filmmaker Orson Welles.
Now the most comprehensive resource for Orson Welles’ scholars and fans, the library obtained these personal documents from his daughter Beatrice Welles, former model and actress.
A Manhattan native of royal Italian family descent, Beatrice Welles grew up traveling the world with Orson Welles and her mother, Paola Mori. As part of her childhood and upbringing, Beatrice Welles experienced the art of script writing and film production. In a University press release, she said her father never ceased to explore ways to convey the depths of his creativity.
“Something that a lot of people don’t know about him is that he was always creating, always curious, always onto a new idea,” Welles said.
The breadth of her father’s work can now be seen at the University Library’s Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers collection. Among its recently acquired gems, the collection features handwritten scripts for Orson Welles’ productions “Othello,” “Chimes at Midnight” and even “Fair Warning,” a comedic play that was only ever released in French.
Collection curator Philip Hallman explained though the library had a number of documents regarding Orson Welles already, the new additions comprise some of Welles' earlier work not yet featured in the collection.
"We have the largest collection of Orson Welles archival papers already, but this is a period we didn't have as much from,” Hallman said. “This is a great puzzle piece that sort of finishes the puzzle.”
Orson Welles died of a heart attack in 1985, yet now more pieces of his legacy are accessible not only to close family, but also to University students and fans around the world.
For fans of Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane,” the collection now features scrapbooks and news clippings covering “Citizen Kane” only five months after its release.
The excitement is not only seen among University librarians, but also among students. Law student Matthew Williams said he believes Citizen Kane is vital to film culture, and is excited that the University owns parts of Welles’ legacy.
“‘Citizen Kane’ and Orson Welles are artistic treasures and I think it’s incredible that we get to own a piece of history,” Williams said.