It is NOT, to put it mildly, considered one of Orson Welles’ best efforts.
It hardly rates a mention in the many analyses by scholars who’ve explored the Welles body of work. Next to Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Touch of Evil, The Trial or Chimes at Midnight, for example, 1955’s Mr. Arkadin is considered at best almost in passing — a virtual dismissal. (Big exception: the Cahier du Cinema crowd in France much admired the picture.)
Welles’ scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum views the film as one that would not have even merited Welles’ final approval. (He was removed from Mr. Arkadin close to its completion after a prolonged spat with his producer, a familiar Welles story.) The movie comes to us today in multiple versions, and has been reconstructed based on Welles written recommendations on the superb DVD package released in 2006 by The Criterion Collection.
Frank loves the movie. Has seen is countless times, and still loves it. It is a wild roller coaster of a ride in film noir featuring a bevy of superb characterizations by an international cast. The plot is convoluted but fun, filmed on what appears to be a shoestring in a number of European locations from Cannes in spring to Spain and Madrid and to Germany in dead winter.
And Welles seems to have enjoyed himself throughout — both as actor/star and director — sporting weird makeup (check out that beard above) and costumes, including one as Santa Claus. Although critics disagree as to which version of Mr. Arkadin is best and most faithful to Welles’ original intent, treat yourselves to any version of the picture you can get.
So in this spirit of prospective enjoyment, we toast Mr. Arkadin via today’s Monday Quiz. Today’s questions are deliberately kept to the basic on the assumption that the picture hasn’t been seen. As usual, questions today and answers tomorrow.
1) Question: Mr. Arkadin was filmed during which of the following phases of Welles’ career? a) the RKO days; b) his later Shakespearean period; c) his gypsy European phase; or d) during an occasional late visit to Hollywood.
2) Question: Mr. Arkadin was introduced commercially in English-speaking markets under another title. Can you come up with it? a) Mr. Arkadin’s Holiday; b) The Frog and the Scorpion; c) Confidential Dossier; or d) Confidential Report.
3) Question: The title character in Mr. Arkadin is often compared to which one of the following in another Welles’ film? a) Charles Foster Kane; b) Hank Quinlan; c) Falstaff; or d) Prof. Charles Rankin.
4) Question: Among its many pleasures Mr. Arkadin boasts of a crackerjack cast of international actors in brief but sharply defined roles. Which one of the following is NOT in the picture? a) Suzanne Flon; b) Michael Redgrave; c) Akim Tamiroff; or d) Ronald Colman.
5) Question: Welles is said to have thrown himself into the Mr. Arkadin production because his wife played a principal role in the picture. a) True; or b) False?
6) Question: Longtime Welles associate, actor Joseph Cotten, performs an amusing cameo in Mr. Arkadin similar to the bit he contributed to Touch of Evil. a) True; or b) False?
7) Question: One of the male leads (besides Welles) in Mr. Arkadin is billed as Mark Sharpe (take a close look at the one sheet above). This is a pseudonym for a little-known American-British actor. Can you name him? (Kudos if you can.)
8) Question: Mr. Arkadin was based on material in other media developed by Welles. Was the source material a) stage play; b) a radio play; c) a novel; or d) a teleplay?
9) Question: Mr. Arkadin was a surprise box office hit when it opened in the United States. a) True; or b) False?
10) Question: Mr. Arkadin rung down the final curtain on Welles stay in Europe, after which he returned to Hollywood. a) True; or b) False?