It's All True

The intended follow-up to The Magnificent Ambersons, It’s All True, never saw the light of day. The film received only a portion of Welles’ energies during its production, was plagued by mishaps, and was the subject of much sparring between Welles and RKO.

The idea for It’s All True was for Welles to film a series of an ingenious and thoroughly eclectic melange of documentary material and fictional narratives meant to tie together all of the Americas. Included would be a look at the development of jazz, in which, chiefly (as best we can tell) Duke Ellington was to tell the story of Louis Armstrong; the story of the courtship of Italian writer John Fante’s parents in San Francisco; “My Friend Bonito,” in which the possessive pronoun signified a young boy, with Bonito being a bull.

Welles conceived of these stories during the infancy of his work on The Magnificent Ambersons. He knew Ambersons was the more viable project, so he went ahead with it, placing It’s All True in the position of second project. Of course, the cauldron of Welles’ mind bubbled forth the project Journey Into Fear not long after, and the radio show Ceiling Unlimited not long after that.

In Feb. of ‘42, Welles went to Rio de Janeiro, not just to begin work on It’s All True, but to work on a documentary about Carnival, which was funded by the U.S. government under the auspices of FDR’s Good Neighbor program.

Welles’ work on True began with his attempting to shoot a story of four fishermen from Fortaleza, who had piloted a raft to Rio to confront President Vargas with the details of their awful working and living conditions. Welles met and drank and talked with them between looking at reels of both Ambersons and Journey Into Fear. He then took to the favelas--poverty-stricken neighborhoods--to try to tell the story of the samba.

As the shooting--both of the government-sponsored story of Carnival and Welles’ personal project It’s All True--wore on, cast and crew became restless and impatient, which can also be said of RKO. Welles characteristically ran up a big bill, tapping out the local RKO office.

It would get worse. On May 19, Welles was attempting to shoot a scene in the story of the fishermen, their arrival in Rio. A raft carrying the fishermen--not actors--out to sea. After a wave broke the tow line and the raft capsized, one of the fisherman, Jacare, died.

The production rumbled on with a tense feel. In June, the Carnival footage was completed, so most of Welles’ crew returned home. By then, Brazil no longer welcomed Welles, due to the death of Jacare, Welles’ erratic, often drunk behavior, and the inconvenience of the lengthy production. RKO wasn’t any more enthusiastic. They pulled the plug on the picture. Welles mounted a weak effort to raise the funds to buy it from them or move it to Twentieth Century Fox, but it remained an unfinished project, a legend.


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