Peter Bogdanovich: Was it true that one director told you not to call them “movies,” but “motion pictures”?
Orson Welles: Ah, that was a friend of yours, Peter—that was George Cukor, and remember, he was from the New York stage. That probably had something to do with it. Nowadays, I’m afraid the word is rather chic. It’s a good English word, though—“movie.” How pompous it is to call them “motion pictures.” I don’t mind “films,” though, do you?
Peter Bogdanovich: No, but I don’t like “cinema.”
Orson Welles: I know what you mean. In the library of Eleonora Duse’s villa in a little town in Veneto where we’ve been shooting just now [The Merchant of Venice], I found an old book—written in 1915—about how movies are made, and it refers to movie actors as “photoplayers.” How about that? Photoplayers! I’m never going to call them anything else.
Peter Bogdanovich: I have a book from 1929, and they list 250 words to describe a talking picture, asking readers to write in their favorites. And “talkie” was only one of them. Others were things like “actorgraph,” “reeltaux,” and “narrative toned pictures.”
Orson Welles: I went with my father to the world premiere in New York of Warner’s first Vitaphone sound picture, which was Don Juan starring Jack Barrymore. I think it was opening night. It was really a silent, with a synchronized sound track full of corny mood music, horse hooves, and clashing swords. But it was preceded by a few short items of authentic talkies—Burns and Allen, George Jessel telephoning his mother, and Giovanni Martinelli ripping the hell out of Pagliacci. My father lasted about half an hour and then went up the aisle dragging me with him. “This,” he said, “ruins the movies forever.” He never went back to a movie theatre as long as he lived.
This is Orson Welles [x]