The Fountain of Youth and Return to Glennascaul

To promote the first volume of his two-part biography of Orson Welles–a fascinating if contestable book–actor-director Simon Callow is presenting a Welles tribute consisting of two half-hour shorts. Hilton Edwards’s 1951 Irish ghost story Return to Glennascaul (narrated by Welles), who also appears briefly and probably directed the short bit that allegedly shows him filming Othello, won an Oscar when it came out. But the real gem in this program is The Fountain of Youth, Welles’s first and best TV pilot–shot for Desilu in 1956 and first aired two years later. Based on John Collier’s story “Youth From Vienna,” this dark period comedy about youth potions and aging (narrated by Welles, who also appears centrally as a kind of lecturer) is in some ways as innovative in relation to TV as Citizen Kane was in relation to movies; the pilot never sold but the nastiness of the humor still carries a rude bite. The Fountain of Youth tweaks Welles’s own narcissism as well as that of his characters–played by Joi Lansing, Dan Tobin, and Rick Jason–while making novel use of still photographs and quick lighting changes to mark shifts in space and time: it presents the medium of TV itself as a kind of mirror to get lost in. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Wednesday, February 7, 6:00, 443-3737.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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