Hallmark Birthday Greetings: George Clooney and the memory of Orson Welles

ORSON WELLES was one of the most complicated people to ever become an American super-star. While still in his youth, Welles traveled Europe, convincing a theater group that he was a seasoned actor. Back in the U.S., he made national headlines by forming The Mercury Theater, doing avant garde plays on Broadway. He then conquered radio, taking his Mercury players with him. While dramatizing one in a series of great books, the realism his cast created threw the nation into a panic, while they listed to “The War of the Worlds.”

His first movie, made while he was in his early 20s, “Citizen Kane,” is still thought to be a masterwork. But, because he was a genius and a maverick, he was never understood. Forced to work in Europe and to find funding by making cameo appearances in other producers’ low-budget works, Welles never regained the fame he had in his youth. But, in the total scheme of things, Orson Welles remains a giant in the pantheon of entertainment.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky, as son of Nick Clooney, a TV newscaster of many years, who hosted a talk show at Cincinnati and often invited George into the studios already at the age of 5. Avoiding competition with his father, he quit his job as broadcast journalist after a short time.

Studied a few years at Northern Kentucky University. Failed to join the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. He came to acting when his cousin, Miguel Ferrer, got him a small part in a feature film. After that, he moved to L.A. in 1982 and tried a whole year to get a role while he slept in a friend’s closet. His first movie, together with Charlie Sheen, stayed unreleased but got him the producers’ attention for later contracts. I remember when George starred in later seasons of  1980’s sitcom The Fact of Life. He was cast to help the girls and Edna with their new shop called “Over Our Heads” — it went up after Edna’s Edibles burned down in a fire. From there, he landed on ER, which turned out to be his break out role. Then after a couple of stints as Batman, he was on his way to super stardom. Clooney is a sex symbol with remarkable courage and an artistic sense for the business that he is so passionate about. His portrayal of Edward R. Morrow in “Good Night, Good Luck” was amazing. He didn’t play Morrow but his knowledge of the news business helped him make a wonderful movie.

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