Famed filmmaker and actor Orson Welles would have turned 100 years old today, May 6. Welles burst upon the public's consciousness in 1938 when, at age 23, he broadcast a radio adaptation of “War of the Worlds,” author H.G. Wells’ story of an alien invasion. Welles' faux news broadcast of a spaceship landing in New Jersey was so realistic that it caused a real-life panic among some listeners. Three years later, in 1941, Welles wrote, directed and starred in his feature-film debut, “Citizen Kane,” a title in constant contention for best movie in film history. The influence from the meteoric rise of this wunderkind is still felt in movies today.
Here are a few titles you can watch to mark Welles’ 100th birthday:
1. "The Trial" (1962)
Starring Anthony Perkins (“Psycho”), this adaptation of the nightmarish Franz Kafka story follows an unassuming office worker who is arrested and brought to trial without knowing the charges. Welles directed and made a small cameo appearance in the movie. You can stream “The Trial” on Netflix Instant.
2. "F For Fake" (1973)
A free-flowing, unconventional documentary profiling famous art forger Elmyr de Hory and fake Howard Hughes biographer Clifford Irving ultimately becomes an introspective look at Welles’ own reliance on fakery. You can watch “F For Fake” as part of the Criterion Collection on Hulu+.
3. "The Stranger" (1946)
Playing on the post-World War II unease of settling back to normalcy, Welles directs and co-stars with Loretta Young and Edward G. Robinson in this thrilling film noir. The film follows Wilson (Robinson) on the trail of a Nazi war criminal hiding in the Connecticut suburbs. You can watch “The Stranger” on Hulu.
4. "Mr. Arkadin" (1955)
A kind of riff on the structure of “Citizen Kane,” this film follows the story of another mysterious tycoon. Only this time the search for the rich man’s story may lead to grave danger for the investigator. Welles plays the title character. You can stream “Mr. Arkadin” on Hulu.
5. "The Immortal Story" (1968)
This made-for-TV movie reunites Welles with Francois Truffaut regular Jeanne Moreau a few years after “The Trial.” In this period piece set in 19th century Macau, a rich merchant (Welles) decides to make an old sailor’s tale come true in order to procure an heir. You can watch “The Immortal Story” as part of the Criterion Collection on Hulu+.
6. "Citizen Kane" (1941)
Never has a debut film shaken up the film world like Welles’ not-so-subtle indictment of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst reportedly tried to stifle the film’s release, but its reputation only grew in the ensuing decades. You can stream “Citizen Kane” on Amazon Instant.