Robert Wise Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Wise Touch; Conversation with filmmaker Robert Wise, by Harry Kreisler, 2/28/98

Photo by Jane Scherr

Page 3 of 10

Working for Orson Welles

Tell us about your relationship with Orson. He was the young kid on the block at RKO, wasn't he?

He certainly was. It's very interesting how he got into this.

I just finished editing a film and shipping it, called My Favorite Wife with Cary Grant and Irene Dunn, when I got a call from my boss, Jimmy Wilkinson, to come over to see him. I went over to see him and he said, "You've heard about this fellow, Orson Welles, the studio's found?" And I said, "Yes, I know about him. I know his reputation in New York, the stage stuff he's done there. And of course that radio broadcast that scared the nation half to death." I said, "Why do you ask?" And he said, "Well, he's pulled a fast one on the studio." I said, "What do you mean, pulled a fast one?" He said, "He's got an OK from the studio to shoot three of what he said were going to be tests for this new film he wants to make." They'd given him the green light to go ahead and do it, and then he shot them. They looked at them and realized they were not just tests but scenes for the picture. So they decided to go ahead and give him a green light to make the picture, put it actually into production, and he wanted a new editor. My boss had signed a rather old-time, fairly hack editor because these were just tests. And now that it was in production he wanted, I guess, somebody nearer his own age or something. It turned out we were about six months apart in age, so I went down to see him. RKO had a studio in Culver City, then called RKO Pathe, and he was down there shooting on the scene where they went down to the beach and they were in a tent. So I just reported to his assistant. I went to see him about the editing job. So he came out to interview me. The first time I actually saw Orson was as Old Man Kane, with the makeup and the body. We talked for about five minutes or so, about ten minutes. And I had a decent track record now as an editor. I went back to the studio in Hollywood and got a call twenty minutes later that I had the job. That was it.

And you were nominated for an Academy Award for that?

That was my first nomination, for editing. I didn't win but I got nominated.

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