Lost Orson Welles Film Restored by George Eastman House #Pordenone #Cinemazero

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“This is by far the most important film restoration by George Eastman House in a very long time,” said Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator of film, who supervised the project for George Eastman House. “Holding in one’s hands the very same print that had been personally edited by Orson Welles 75 years ago provokes an emotion that’s just impossible to describe.”

George Eastman House, together with the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF), the Cineteca del Friuli, and Cinemazero today announced the recovery of Mercury Theatre’s long-lost Too Much Johnson, directed by Orson Welles in 1938. The silent film was found in a warehouse by the staff of Cinemazero, an art house in Pordenone, Italy.

Too Much Johnson was originally intended to be used in conjunction with Welles’ stage adaptation of an 1894 play by William Gillette. The Mercury Theatre planned to show the three short films as prologues to each act of the play. The three-part slapstick comedy was meant to be shown with the accompaniment of music and live sound effects, but was never finished. Joseph Cotten was cast in the lead role, with supporting roles going to Mercury Theatre actors, including Eustace Wyatt, Edgar Barrier, Ruth Ford, Arlene Francis, Mary Wickes, Orson Welles, and his wife Virginia Nicholson. The play ultimately opened without the film on August 16, 1938, and flopped.

The nitrate work print of the film – left unfinished by the Mercury Theatre and never shown in public – was given by Cinemazero to one of Italy ‘s major film archives, the Cineteca del Friuli in nearby Gemona, and transferred from there to George Eastman House in order to be preserved with a grant from NFPF. According to published sources, until now the only known print of Too Much J ohnson had burnt in a fire that destroyed Welles’ home in the outskirts of Madrid in 1970.

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