RARA-AVIS: Welles - Touch Of Evil

From: Paul Duncan ( paul.duncan@asml.nl)
Date: 21 Jan 2000

> There's a different version about how Welles got the job in James
> Naremore's Welles book: Welles wanted a job badly and got a
> role in the producer Albert Zugsmith's film. They got acquainted ("over
> a bottle of vodka") and Welles offered to direct "the worst
> script" Zugsmith had to offer. And it was Paul Monash's. According to
> Naremore, Welles rewrote the script. But Naremore hadn't seen Monash's
> script, so who can tell?

I finished a Pocket Essential on Orson Welles last Saturday (published end of February under the pseudonym Martin Fitzgerald), and have researched Touch Of Evil quite extensively. I have about 4000 words on it in the book.

There are 3 versions of how Welles got the director's job, as told by Heston, Zugsmith and Welles. I suspect each had their own agenda/perspective. After extensive research, this is what I suspect happened:

1) Badge of Evil by Whit Masteron) published 1956 to good reviews and two hardcover printings. 2) Eddie Muhl, head of Universal bought the rights and made Albert Zugsmith producer. 3) Zugsmith got writer Paul Monash to write a script in 4 weeks, did not care for it and put it on the pile. 4) Welles got a job as the baddy on the Zugsmith-produced Man In The Shadow (1957), and so got the job of baddy in Badge Of Evil. 5) December 1956, Muhl suggested Heston for the lead. 6) After reading the script, Zugsmith asked Heston (a man of power at the time) who he thought should direct. Heston said that Welles, already cast as the baddy, is a pretty good director. 7) Over a drink, Zugsmith offered Welles a chance to direct again. Which script? Why Badge Of Evil of course. 8) Zugsmith gives Welles 2 weeks to rewrite - Welles takes 17 days. Welles used some of the Monash script, put in more scenes from the novel, and then added themes and scenes of his own. There are differences of course, as other list members have indicated, but Welles wholly invented the characters of Tanya and the night clerk. 9) Welles met Heston on January 14 1957 to talk about the film. 10) Between Jan 22-26, Welles cut 25 pages from the script (scenes which Zugsmith said would bore the teenagers watching). 11) Rehearsals began February 9, for 9 days. 12) Filming began on February 18 doing the long, continuous shot of the interrogation in the Sanchez house (which people forget is one take). By the end of the day, Welles had completed 12 pages of script, and was 2 days ahead of schedule.

The most authorative text on this is James Brady's Citizen Welles - he read all the scripts and correspondence.

- paul

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