Death and Funeral

On Oct. 10, 1985, Welles appeared on The Merv Griffin Show in what would be his last public appearance before his death. It is made all the more poignant by the personal, wistful turn the discussion takes.

Dressed in a Navy blue jacket with a sky blue shirt and an ascot, Welles says that not long ago he’d begun thinking he was 70 when really only 69, meaning that he’d given himself an extra year. He told Griffin that he experienced “certain parts of every day that are joyous,” continuing, “I’m not essentially a happy person, but I have all kinds of joy.” On the difference between the two, he said, “joy is a great big electrical experience, but happiness is...a warthog can be happy.”

He died in the early morning, slumped over his typewriter, of a heart attack. He’d been, as in life, working on a script for one of his crammed schedule of projects. It was a script for a TV show tentatively titled “Orson Welles Solo.”

Welles was cremated and a stark funeral was hastily arranged by his widow Paola Mori. In a way that was rather fitting, Welles’ longtime friend (who’d originally been his mentor) Roger “Skipper” Hill gave an impromptu eulogy. Whereas Welles was a larger-than-life personality with a wide circle of acquaintances, only nine people were present at the small Los Angeles gathering.


  1. Such a great talent! How sad that the ending was so unprepared and unattended.

  2. While watching movies we laugh, cry, and get outraged, and sometimes, we reach a new understanding of the world around us. Movies definitely have an impact on us.

  3. i am astonished that he was not given the huge public sendoff that his stature in the motion picture business merited. perhaps we can arrange a memorial on his date of death or birth to annually celebrate him or even make a film festival of the fine arts named after him to annually view the best of the best movies ever made and get together for talks and symposiums on the art of film making. when i was taking film classes, the first thing they showed us was one of the incredibly long takes of the waterfront scene of one of his classic movies, which was shot from a high point continuously following a character in that long several minutes one-shot take to the point of a closeup and dramatic apex. this was how good he was at what he did. nobody has ever approached his genius to date. wendy maddy admiring her betters.


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