Your relationship with Orson Welles probably depends on your age. For some, he’s the pioneering director of 1941’s Citizen Kane. For others, Welles is the burly, bearded spokesman for Paul Masson wines. And for toy fans, he is the voice of Unicron, the sentient planet of 1986’s Transformers: The Movie (it’s about “toys who do horrible things to each other,” he explained to a friend).

Welles could seemingly do it all, from reinventing filmmaking to antagonizing Optimus Prime. But one thing the man seemed incapable of was tolerating impertinence. Anyone caught wasting Welles’s time was subject to a verbal tirade, and anyone deemed beneath his standards of talent was impaled with his words. Please enjoy some of his harshest put-downs and comebacks, all aimed at those he found contemptible—even if it was, as in the case of his dog’s farts, only in passing.

1. ON HUMPHREY BOGART.

“Now, Bogart, who was both a coward and a very bad fighter, was always picking fights in nightclubs, in sure knowledge that the waiters would stop him. Making fearless remarks to people…when he knew he was well covered by the busboys.”

My Lunches with Orson, 2014

2. ON ELIZABETH TAYLOR.

“She has no neck left! Her shoulders come to her ears. And she’s still young! Now, look, imagine where her face will be when she’s my age. In her navel, you know?”

— My Lunches with Orson, 2014

3. ADDRESSING VISITORS TO HIS TABLE WHO SAID IT WAS NICE TO SEE HIM.

“So nice to see you too, but that’s enough.”

— My Lunches with Orson, 2014

4. ON COLORIZATION.

“Don’t let Ted Turner deface my movie with his crayons.”

-- The Associated Press, 1989

5. ON THE ART DECO MOVEMENT.

“I hate it, you see? I deeply hate it. The maid’s furniture is what it is. I knew that Deco was bad—let me be modest—when I was as young as fourteen! And I was so happy after the World War, when people started building other things….there goes another one of those awful things down.”

— My Lunches with Orson, 2014

6. ON MEETING HITLER.

“The world leader that really came to nothing as far as my memory was concerned was Hitler...in the days when the Nazis were just a comical kind of minority party of nuts that no one took seriously at all...the man sitting next to me was Hitler. He made so little impression on me I can’t remember a second of it. He had no personality whatsoever.”

— The Dick Cavett Show

7. ON TELEVISION.

“On my tombstone, I want written, ‘He never did Love Boat!’”

— The Los Angeles Times, 2008

8. ON ACTORS.

“Some weeks ago, I heard you say, to my distress, you had once been an actor. I’m always sorry to hear anybody I admire has been an actor.”

— The Dick Cavett Show

9. ON ACTORS (AGAIN).

“I’ve always said there are three sexes: men, women, and actors. And actors combine the worst qualities of the other two.”

— My Lunches with Orson, 2014

 10. ON BEING TOLD HE WAS OVERWEIGHT BY ROBERT BLAKE ON THE TONIGHT SHOW.

“You’re right, I’m overweight. And if I wanted to, I could lose the weight. But, Robert, you’re ugly, and I’m afraid there’s nothing that can be done about that. You’ll be ugly until the day you die.”

 — Making Movies with Orson Welles, 2011

11. ON BEING ASKED TO EXAGGERATE THE APPEAL OF PAUL MASSON WINE FOR AN AD BY COMPARING IT TO A STRADIVARIUS. 

"Come on, gentlemen, now really! You have a nice, pleasant little cheap wine here. You haven't gotten the presumption to compare it to a Stradivarius violin. It's odious."

— Orson Welles's Last Movie, 2015

12. ON BETTE DAVIS.

“I can’t stand looking at Bette Davis, so I don’t want to see her act.”

— My Lunches with Orson, 2014

13. ON HIS DOG, KIKI, AND HER FLATULENCE DURING LUNCH.

“Oh, Kiki…she’s forgotten herself. Ooh, yes—oooh! Isn’t that terrible? This is a real…like atomic warfare. Mmm, boy—that was one.”

— My Lunches with Orson, 2014

BONUS: THE ONE THING HE COULDN’T CRITICIZE—IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

“It is sheer Norman Rockwell from beginning to end. But you cannot resist it! There’s no way of hating that movie.”

— My Lunches with Orson, 2014  

Additional Sources:
My Lunches with Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles.