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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Perchance to Dream......The Bat-Man that Never Was....

I just happened to come across this during my daily visit to the YouTube website and I must say that credit must be given to fanboys that insist on seeing their dreams made into reality. I remember a few years ago there was a story that ran like wildfire throughout the internet. The story suggested that an Orson Welles biographer put forth the notion that the famed filmmaker was looking at producing a Bat-Man movie project. Comic book aficionados and cinephiles alike went insane with glee at the prospect that such a project was being proposed during what many consider to be the golden age of the pulp genre. Upon further scrutiny it was deemed that the entire supposition was a hoax. Check out this excerpt from one of many sources that confirm P.T. Barnum's adage of one being born every minute:

Courtesy of ComicBookResources.com:

However, things could have been very different if circumstances had been a little more in our favour shortly after the war. The embryonic superhero concept wasn't even ten years old when perhaps the most illustrious director of his day, Orson Welles, seriously considered doing a Batman picture and even got as far as production designs, an early draft of a script and some casting photographs featuring various friends and colleagues in prototypes of what would eventually become the finished costumes. A pal of mine called Lionel Hutton, both a movie critic and respected film historian, was given unprecedented access to the Welles estate as research for his upcoming biography (out next Easter) and came across these startling facts in a huge pile of clippings and notes other people hadn't even bothered to report. This all stems back to the complete irrelevance of comics in even the popular arts and the complete disdain for the subject matter mentioned earlier. The fact that Orson Welles was contemplating a Batman picture in 1946 is both glorious and fascinating to people like me, but embarrassing and crass to the Welles officionados.

It's no secret that Orson Welles had a love of the pulps, having voiced "The Shadow" on radio and conceiving the illustrious "War Of The Worlds" scam, but what's lesser known is his love of comic-books right up to his death in 1985. What's especially startling is that his appreciation for the medium was no real secret and he even wrote an article for The Village Voice in 1973 raving about the Denny O'Neil/ Neal Adams "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" book (The Real Counter-Culture Lives Here) and even attending, with no real fanfare, one of the earliest New York comic conventions organised by Phil Seuling. It's perhaps no accident that his snobbish acolytes have overlooked these facts, but Hutton's vast tome explores this aspect of his character in great detail and I was lucky enough to have been given a draft to preview for this column he happens to enjoy. Welles' diaries are dotted with occasional references to books he was reading at the time and his particular excitement at the late sixties and early seventies work of the new wave of comic-book writers and artists who brought a certain amount of respectability to this medium he had so much affection for. However, the red meat of the book is the details of his proposed Batman picture and the eight months of his life he wasted in pre-production after the success of "Jane Eyre" and "The Stranger."

He began meetings with National Comics (who would later become DC) as early as 1944 to discuss the Batman project, but his work didn't begin in earnest until completion of "The Stranger" in 1946 and Welles immediately threw himself headlong into the project. Gathering many of his old friends and colleagues together from "Citizen Kane," he proposed "a cinematic experience, a kaleidoscope of heroism and nightmares and imagery seen nowhere save the subconscious of Goya or even Hawksmoor himself." Welles planned Batman to be an adult psycho-drama, but combined with what he described as the "heart-racing excitement of the Saturday morning serials, given a respectable twist and a whole new style of kinetic direction unlike anything ever attempted in American cinema." Many of the production sketches he commissioned from Greg Tolland are in the notes and it sends a shiver down your spine when you see them. Unfortunately, I don't have permission to use the most elaborate ones here, but they'll be available in the George Raft book with his thirty-six page treatment for a movie that opens with the deaths of Thomas and Mary Wayne (why it's Mary I've no idea) and ends with Batman unmasked and fighting for his life against The Joker, The Riddler, Two-Face and Catwoman in a prison they've assumed control of.

And mind you the entire diatribe is completely false....again, perchance to dream.

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