Actor Norman Eshley played the sailor in Orson Welle's underrated 1968 movie, The Immortal Story. Here in a sample from Chris Wade's new book on Welles' career as a director, Eshley recounts his memories of this larger than life legend.
"I played the lead in the Bristol Old Vic's showcase play in 1966 and I joined the Old Vic company to tour the USA with three plays. My agent rang me and sent me to London for an audition. I never asked what it was for, did it and went back to Bristol. I then had another call from my agent who said "Orson Welles wants to see you in Madrid". I was astonished to say the least. The tickets arrived and Mum and Dad took me to Heathrow. It was the first time I had flown.
At Madrid airport I was met by a man with a stretch limo and I was driven to Welles' house. I was met by Welles wife, Paola, who told me that Orson was delayed because he had been out getting drunk with Joseph Cotton and was sleeping it off.
Later that afternoon I was called into the house and waited in Orson's study. The great man arrived. I was warned by his staff that he didn't like yes-men so I argued with him about a playwright of whom I knew almost nothing. He realised that I was bluffing and started to laugh. He pressed a bell on his desk and his secretary came in. "Give the guy some dough and let him go see the town". I said goodbye to Welles and was taken outside. "You've got the job" I was told. I went home still not knowing what the job was.
Welles had me on set in costume for about a week before he used me. He knew that it was my first role and that I knew nothing about filming. In those days drama schools only taught stagecraft. He wanted me to learn on the set and it was invaluable. We had lunch together every day and I began to understand the process. Then one day he said that I would be filming the next day. So my first day's professional work was in bed with Jeanne Moreau directed by Orson Welles!
He was nothing but kindness towards me and I feel strange saying Orson because I never called him anything but Mr Welles. The very fact that I had his name on my CV opened all sort of doors. Some 20 years after the film I was employed by directors wanting to know about him. My memories are of a very kind giant that kicked off my career."
To read more, click on the link below to order Chris's essay book on Welles' career, which focuses primarily on Citizen Kane and The Other Side of the Wind being its two bookends.