Celebrate Orson Welles’ Birthday With a Cold Glass of Paul Masson Champagne!

Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

In 1941, Orson Welles—who would have turned 102 years old today—was at the top of his game. Though he was only 26 years old, Welles had managed to successfully conquer every corner of the existing entertainment world.

On the stage, he introduced groundbreaking adaptations of Shakespeare’s work, including a 1937 stage version of Julius Caesar that modernized the material with imagery more reminiscent of Nazi Germany. In 1938, Welles staged what is probably the most famous radio broadcast of all time when his reading of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was mistaken for news (though several sources claim that the “mass panic” it set off is more of a myth, as very few listeners were tuned in).

It didn’t take long for Welles’ talent for innovation to get the attention of the powers-that-be in Hollywood, who quickly came calling. In 1939, Welles signed a two-picture movie deal with RKO that granted him something truly unheard of in those days: complete artistic control. Though his budgets would be limited, Welles would be the sole decider of everything from script to cast to final cut. After toying around with other projects, including an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Welles finally settled on what would be his directorial debut: Citizen Kane, the story of Charles Foster Kane, a fictional newspaper magnate-turned-lonely old man. Even today, the film is widely considered the greatest movie ever made.

Though Citizen Kane was not without its controversies (its protagonist’s similarities to real-life newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst led to various attempts to see the movie burned and/or buried, some of them successful), it also turned Welles into Hollywood’s Golden Boy. It’s a mantle that ultimately proved a bit too overwhelming for Welles—there’s really only one direction you can go after making the greatest movie of all time.

Welles would continue to direct dozens of projects over the next several decades—many of them great (see The Stranger, Touch of Evil, and F for Fake)—but no project ever came close to achieving the critical acclaim he had received for Citizen Kane.

By the late 1970s, Welles, who had once been the voice of a generation, was simply just a voice. With a lack of movie offers, Welles capitalized on his well-known mug and famously baritone pipes as a way to make ends meet. (Before he voiced Magnum P.I.’s unseen Robin Masters or the robot Unicron on Transformers, Welles was George Lucas’ original choice to voice Darth Vader.) This is when Welles signed on as the celebrity spokesman for Paul Masson, a California winery that promised to “sell no wine before its time.”

Welles made some delightfully cheesy commercials for the company, bringing a Shakespearean feel to a mediocre vino.

He explained how he likes to cast a party the way he casts a play: with very special people—and a very special California champagne.

He also informed us that Chablis is America’s most popular wine. (Who knew?)

Most importantly, Welles proved that if you wanted to get rip-roaring drunk, Paul Masson is your man. His famously inebriated outtakes from a champagne commercial might very well be the brand’s most notable achievement.

Maaa-haaaahh—the French!

Welles didn’t give the commercial’s director a whole lot of usable footage to work with, as evidenced by the final product.

So raise a glass to Orson Welles: maker of the world’s greatest movie, and star of its most disastrous commercial.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now

Cinephile/Amazon
Cinephile/Amazon

If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can pre-order your copy from Amazon now for $20 before its August 27 release date.

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