Venice Film Festival: Lost Orson Welles Film to Get Pre-Opening Showcase

Orson Welles - H 2014
AP Images

Orson Welles - H 2014

The director's full-length, Italian version of 'Othello' will also screen.

The Venice International Film Festival will dedicate its pre-opening events on September 1 to Orson Welles, to mark the centennial of his birth.

His Venetian films will find new life at the festival, with screenings of new restorations of The Merchant of Venice (1969) and Othello (1951). 

The Merchant of Venice was conceived for a television special, but when CBS stopped financing the film, it remained unfinished. Welles, who plays Shylock in the film, said in 1960, “I’ve always felt a special sympathy for Shylock and I’ve wanted to communicate that sympathy to a loving audience.”

In 1982 he claimed the negative of the film was stolen. Only fragments of the film existed within various archives. With the recent discovery of the original script and composer’s notes, the film has been meticulously reconstructed for audiences to see it as Welles originally intended.

The Orchestra Classica di Alessandria will perform live the original unpublished score for The Merchant of Venice, by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino.

A new restoration of the original, full-length Italian version of Othello will also screen. Welles supervised the dialogue, written by Gian Gaspare Napolitano. The film was slated for competition in Venice in 1951, but Welles withdrew it at a controversial press conference, claiming it was not ready. A shorter, English version was presented in Cannes in 1952 and won the Grand Prix.

Also at the festival, an exhibition titled “Shakespeare & Cigars” will feature twelve characters, from Macbeth to Othello, painted by Orson Welles on the backs of cigar boxes.

The 2015 Venice International Film Festival runs Sept. 2-12.