Title Image - Quotes by Author Orson WellesPhoto Credit: WikiMedia Commons

Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Orson Welles. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.

Wikipedia Summary for Orson Welles

George Orson Welles (May 6, 1915 – October 10, 1985) was an American director, actor, screenwriter and producer who is remembered for his innovative work in radio, theatre and film. He is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time.

While in his twenties Welles directed high-profile stage productions for the Federal Theatre Project, including an adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast and the political musical The Cradle Will Rock. In 1937, he and John Houseman founded the Mercury Theatre, an independent repertory theatre company that presented a series of productions on Broadway through 1941, including Caesar (1937), a Broadway adaptation of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

In 1938, his radio anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air gave Welles the platform to find international fame as the director and narrator of a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds, which caused some listeners to believe that an invasion by extraterrestrial beings was in fact occurring. Although reports of panic were mostly false and overstated, they rocketed Welles to notoriety.

His first film was Citizen Kane (1941), which is consistently ranked as one of the greatest films ever made, and which he co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in as Charles Foster Kane. Welles released twelve other features, the most acclaimed of which include The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Touch of Evil (1958), The Trial (1962), Chimes at Midnight (1965) and F for Fake (1973). His distinctive directorial style featured layered and nonlinear narrative forms, uses of lighting such as chiaroscuro, unusual camera angles, sound techniques borrowed from radio, deep focus shots and long takes. He has been praised as "the ultimate auteur".

Welles was an outsider to the studio system and struggled for creative control on his projects early on with the major film studios in Hollywood and later in life with a variety of independent financiers across Europe, where he spent most of his career. Many of his films were either heavily edited or remained unreleased. Some, like Touch of Evil, have been painstakingly re-edited from his notes. With a development spanning almost 50 years, Welles's final film, The Other Side of the Wind, was released in 2018.

Welles had three marriages, including one with Rita Hayworth, and three children. Known for his baritone voice, Welles performed extensively across theatre, radio and film. He was a lifelong magician noted for presenting troop variety shows in the war years. In 2002, he was voted the greatest film director of all time in two British Film Institute polls among directors and critics. In 2018 he was included in the list of the 50 greatest Hollywood actors of all time by The Daily Telegraph.

My kind of director is an actor-director who writes.

--Orson Welles

I would rather be on the set than doing anything.

--Orson Welles

If I don't like somebody's looks, I don't like them.

--Orson Welles

I would just like to mention Robert Houdin who in the eighteen century inventented the vanishing birdcage trick and the theater matinee -- may he rot and perish. Good afternoon.

--Orson Welles

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

--Orson Welles

A woman with her hair turned up always looks as if she were going some place either to the opera or the shower bath.

--Orson Welles

People are losing the capacity to listen to words or follow ideas.

--Orson Welles

There were centuries when civilization had no theater.

--Orson Welles

I can think of nothing that an audience won't understand. The only problem is to interest them; once they are interested, they understand anything in the world.

--Orson Welles

The basic and essential human is the woman.

--Orson Welles

A maverick may go his own way but he doesn't think that it's the only way or ever claim that it's the best one, except maybe for himself. And don't imagine that this raggle-taggle gypsy is claiming to be free. It's just that some of the necessities to which I am a slave are different from yours.

--Orson Welles

I drag my myth around with me.

--Orson Welles

I discovered at the age of six that everything was a phony, worked with mirrors. Since then, I've always wanted to be a magician.

--Orson Welles

I don't like television when it gets near to photographed plays.

--Orson Welles

The director is the most overrated artist in the world. He is the only artist who, with no talent whatsoever, can be a success for 50 years without his lack of talent ever being discovered.

--Orson Welles

A long-playing full shot is what always separates the men from the boys. Anybody can make movies with a pair of scissors and a two-inch lens.

--Orson Welles

Hollywood is Hollywood. There's nothing you can say about it that isn't true, good or bad. And if you get into it, you have no right to be bitter -- you're the one who sat down, and joined the game.

--Orson Welles

Many would never speak with a full mouth, but do it with an empty head.

--Orson Welles

There are no villains who doesn't have his reasons.

--Orson Welles

The director is simply the audience. His job is to preside over accidents.

--Orson Welles

Longer Version:

The director is simply the audience. So the terrible burden of the director is to take the place of that yawning vacuum, to be the audience and to select from what happens during the day which movement shall be a disaster and which a gala night. His job is to preside over accidents.


I'd make my promises now if I wasn't so busy arranging to keep them.

--Orson Welles

I don't pray really, because I don't want to bore God.

--Orson Welles

It would be so much better if the critics would come, not on first nights, but on last nights, when they could exercise their undoubted flair for funeral orations.

--Orson Welles

I can't work in a sewer. I come from California.

--Orson Welles

There's no biography so interesting as the one in which the biographer is present.

--Orson Welles

The camera is much more than a recording apparatus, it is a medium via which messages reach us from another world.

--Orson Welles

Six years ago, I looked at a picture of the world's greatest newspaper men. I felt like a kid in front of a candy store. Well, tonight, six years later, I got my candy -- all of it. Welcome, gentlemen, to the Inquirer! Make up an extra copy of that picture and send it to the Chronicle.

--Orson Welles

My definition of success is not having things thrown at me!

--Orson Welles

Computers combine things to make new knowledge at such high speed that we cannot absorb it.

--Orson Welles

I love informality. I hate dressing up. I hate to be conventional -- and I hate every kind of snob.

--Orson Welles

Look at the real prodigies, and I look like nothing compared to them.

--Orson Welles

We made civilization in order to impress our girlfriends.

--Orson Welles

I'm extremely surprised to learn that a story, which has become familiar to children through the medium of comic strips and many succeeding novels and adventure stories, should have had such an immediate and profound effect upon radio listeners.

--Orson Welles

I look back on my life and it's 95% running around trying to raise money to make movies and 5% actually making them. It's no way to live.

--Orson Welles

Every true artist must, in his own way, be a magician, a charlatan.

--Orson Welles

I don't think any word can explain a man's life.

--Orson Welles

My mother and father were both much more remarkable than any story of mine can make them. They seem to me just mythically wonderful.

--Orson Welles

If I want to pursue the art of painting -- or music or writing or sculpture -- it requires only my time and a few dollars for materials. If, however, I want to produce a motion picture I have to go out and raise a million dollars!

--Orson Welles

Never expect justice in this world. That is not part of God's plan. Everybody thinks that if they don't get it, they're some kind of odd man out. And it's not true. Nobody gets justice -- people just get good luck or bad luck.

--Orson Welles

Husbands should revolt from time to time. Even the best circus-number becomes boring if the beast is too tame.

--Orson Welles

I worry a lot about taking care of my dependents, all those perfectly ordinary middle-class preoccupations.

--Orson Welles

Hollywood is a gold-plated suburb suitable for golfers, gardeners, assorted middlemen, and contented movies stars. I am none of these things.

--Orson Welles

Crooks aren't the worst people, just the stupidest. The fleas of the world.

--Orson Welles

I don't want any description of me to be accurate; I want it to be flattering. I don't think people who have to sing for their supper ever like to be described truthfully -- not in print anyway. We need to sell tickets, so we need good reviews.

--Orson Welles

We will sell no wine before its time.

--Orson Welles

If I ever own a restaurant, I will never allow the waiters to ask if the diners like their dishes. Particularly when they're talking.

--Orson Welles

There are three intolerable things in life -- cold coffee, lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women.

--Orson Welles

Human nature is eternal; therefore one who follows his nature keeps his original nature, in the end.

--Orson Welles

'The Godfather' was the glorification of a bunch of bums who never existed.

--Orson Welles

In my opinion, there are two things that can absolutely not be carried to the screen: the realistic presentation of the sexual act and praying to God.

--Orson Welles

You're beautful. Yes you are, you're very very beautiful. Extremely beautiful.

--Orson Welles

One shouldn't ever be conscious of the author as lecturer. When social or moral points are too heavily stressed, I always get uncomfortable.

--Orson Welles

Hollywood is the only industry, even taking in soup companies, which does not have laboratories for the purpose of experimentation.

--Orson Welles

The laws and the stage, both are a form of exhibitionism.

--Orson Welles

I've always found it very sanitary to be broke.

--Orson Welles

Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that's printed about him.

--Orson Welles

Everybody denies I am a genius -- but nobody ever called me one!

--Orson Welles

I don't want to forgive myself. That's why I hate psychoanalysis I think if you're guilty of something you should live with it. Get rid of it -- how can you get rid of a real guilt? I think people should live with it, face up to it.

--Orson Welles

I have no great message to the world.

--Orson Welles

I've never understood the cult of Hitchcock. Particularly the late American movies... Egotism and laziness. And they're all lit like television shows.

--Orson Welles

I think I made essential a mistake in staying in movies, because I -- but it's a mistake I can't regret, because it's like saying, 'I shouldn't have stayed married to that woman, but I did because I love her.'

--Orson Welles

Ecstasy is not really part of the scene we can do on celluloid.

--Orson Welles

If everyone worked with wide-angle lenses, I'd shoot all my films in 75mm, because I believe very strongly in the possibilities of the 75mm.

--Orson Welles

I have made an art form of the interview. The French are the best interviewers, despite their addiction to the triad, like all Cartesians.

--Orson Welles

The ideal American type is perfectly expressed by the Protestant, individualist, anti-conformist, and this is the type that is in the process of disappearing. In reality there are few left.

--Orson Welles

I hate Woody Allen physically, I dislike that kind of man.

--Orson Welles

Now we sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations.

--Orson Welles

See, I believe that it is not true that different races and nations are alike. I'm profoundly convinced that that's a total lie. I think people are different. Sardinians, for example, have stubby little fingers. Bosnians have short necks.

--Orson Welles

I have always been more interested in experiment, than in accomplishment.

--Orson Welles

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.

--Orson Welles

Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There's a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don't reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.

--Orson Welles

Anybody who speaks quietly and shrivels up in company is unbelievably arrogant.

--Orson Welles

Race hate isn't human nature; race hate is the abandonment of human nature.

--Orson Welles

I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.

--Orson Welles

I was spoiled in a very strange way as a child, because everybody told me, from the moment I was able to hear, that I was absolutely marvelous, and I never heard a discouraging word for years, you see. I didn't know what was ahead of me.

--Orson Welles

Now I'm an old Christmas tree, the roots of which have died. They just come along and while the little needles fall off me replace them with medallions.

--Orson Welles

The classy gangster is a Hollywood invention.

--Orson Welles

I have an unfortunate personality.

--Orson Welles

I'm not a walking extra in a Chekhov play; I'm no Slavic gloom or Irish gloom.

--Orson Welles

Longer Version:

I'm not a walking extra in a Chekhov play; I'm no Slavic gloom or Irish gloom. I mark only the happy hours, like the sundial, because otherwise I would have gone nuts.


Personally, I don't like a girlfriend to have a husband. If she'll fool her husband, I figure she'll fool me.

--Orson Welles

I know people who have a much better recollection of their childhood than I do. They remember very well when they were a year and a half and two years old. I've only one or two daguerreotypes that come to mind.

--Orson Welles

I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won't contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act.

--Orson Welles

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.

--Orson Welles

Gluttony is not a secret vice.

--Orson Welles

When people accept breaking the law as normal, something happens to the whole society.

--Orson Welles

Fake is as old as the Eden tree.

--Orson Welles

Movie directing is a perfect refuge for the mediocre.

--Orson Welles

I passionately hate the idea of being with it; I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.

--Orson Welles

A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.

--Orson Welles

Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.

--Orson Welles

In common with all Protestant or Jewish cultures, America was developed on the idea that your word is your bond. Otherwise, the frontier could never have been opened, 'cause it was lawless. A man's word had to mean something.

--Orson Welles

Criminals are never very amusing. It's because they're failures. Those who make real money aren't counted as criminals. This is a class distinction, not an ethical problem.

--Orson Welles

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts.

--Orson Welles

I am essentially a hack, a commercial person. If I had a hobby, I would immediately make money on it or abandon it.

--Orson Welles

I've spent most of my mature life trying to prove that I'm not irresponsible.

--Orson Welles

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