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Orson Welles' 'Too Much Johnson,' Unfinished Film, Available Online

By    |   Thursday, 21 August 2014 06:41 PM

"Too Much Johnson," a silent film that legendary director Orson Welles never finished, is now available online.

An unedited version of “Too Much Johnson,” which Welles began before his iconic "Citizen Kane," was posted Thursday on the National Film Preservation Foundation’s website, including additional footage that was edited in the way Welles may have edited the film.

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The footage of “Too Much Johnson” was first seen publicly in Italy last year. A stage adaptation of the comedy written by William Gillette in the late 1890s was done by Welles’ Mercury Theatre in 1938, and Welles used portions of his silent film as part of the stage production, Entertainment Weekly said.

"Born a decade before the Civil War, Gillette had died only four months earlier and was remembered for his Sherlock Holmes stage adaptation, in which he played Sherlock some 1,300 times,” wrote Scott Simmon for the National Film Preservation Foundation. “For 'Too Much Johnson' he had drawn closely from an 1891 French farce, 'La Plantation Thomassin,' with perhaps an assist from an earlier British adaptation, 'The Planter.'"

Simmon wrote that Welles had an affinity for history and “loved revitalizing old warhorses.”

“One can also also see the appeal to him of the play’s central character, Billings, an unflappable philandering husband who never lets dull facts stand in the way of a good story and who misdirects the lives of others with cheerful abandon,” he wrote.

"Citizen Kane" debuted in the Mercury Theatre in 1941, three years after the “Too Much Johnson” stage production, and earned several awards, including an Oscar for Best Writing, and praise for the 25-year-old Welles. The film focuses on the mystery behind a dying publishing tycoon’s word, “Rosebud.”

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"Too Much Johnson," a silent film that legendary director Orson Welles never finished, is now available online.
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Thursday, 21 August 2014 06:41 PM
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