Long-Lost Orson Welles Film 'Too Much Johnson' Found & Restored
Though Orson Welles has been gone from this world for 28 years, but that doesn't mean he's done giving films to the world. Back in 1938, Welles worked on a stage production of an 1894 play from William Gillette. As part of the show, Welles and his Mercury Theater planned to show three short films as prologues to each act of the play. The segments together formed a three-part slapstick comedy starring Citizen Kane and Soylent Green actor Joseph Cotten, which were originally supposed to be screened with music and live sound effects, but the project was never completed and was thought lost. But it has just been found in Italy!
Variety reports the film, called Too Much Johnson, was discovered in an Italian warehouse and has been restored and set for premiere at Italy’s silent film fest Le Giornate del Cinema Muto on October 9th. Following its debut overseas, the film will arrive in the United States on October 16th at the George Eastman House theater in Rochester, New York. Other than Cotten, familiar Mercury faces like Eustace Wyatt, Edgar Barrier, Ruth Ford, Arlene Francis, Mary Wickes, Welles himself and his wife Virginia Nicholson all appear in the short film.
Up until now, the only known print had perished in a fire at Welles’ home near Madrid in 1970. This is quite the discovery, and while this isn't a complete feature film that has been missing for decades, it will still be cool to see something Welles worked on in his prime, even if it's just a companion to an old stage play that flopped. Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator of film, who supervised the project for George Eastman House, says, “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.” Yeah, that's pretty damn cool.