Journey Into Fear

Journey Into Fear was one of the many projects Orson Welles worked on from 1939-’43, though he did not direct the film. He co-wrote the screenplay, produced the movie, and played a small role in it.

An action film, Journey Into Fear is densely packed with the dangerous mishaps of its protagonist, Howard Graham, an American armaments engineer collaborating with the Turkish navy. In an Istanbul nightclub, Graham is smitten with a dancer. Meanwhile, a bullet with his name on it accidentally finds its home in the club’s magician. This causes the entrance of Colonel Haki, the chief of the Turkish secret police. Haki arranges Graham’s passage on a steamer to Bakumi, and from there, plot twists abound.

Norman Foster, director

The circumstances under which Norman Foster was tapped by Welles to direct Journey Into Fear were unusual and a forbidding, and may help explain why the project was not more successful.

Foster was an actor with several credits and a longing to direct. Welles gave him a shot to begin cutting his teeth by working on Welles’ ambitious It’s All True project. Well, that’s partly true. Foster was given a chance to direct a vignette called “Bonito the Bull,” which would become “My Friend Bonito.” Somewhere in there, Welles decided it belonged to It’s All True, a movie meant to be made up of several stories showing a wide variety of lifestyles in South America.

In Fall of ‘41, when Foster was dispatched to South America to shoot, his boss was emmeshed in an impossible web of projects, not the least of which was The Magnificent Ambersons, which was shifting from the shooting to tumultuous post-production stage. Welles was also shooting his own intended parts of It’s All True and as always, guest-starring in radio shows, making TV appearances, battling lawsuits and reevaluating his marital status. But he was also readying Journey Into Fear for production.

As part of a way of coping with this excess, Welles abruptly pulled the plug on “My Friend Bonito,” yanking Foster off a project on which he’d fought valiantly, negotiating difficult bullfighting scenes and local bandits.

Foster was needed to direct Journey, which Welles had never intended to direct himself. Joseph Cotten and Dolores Del Rio were picked to star, with Welles playing the role of Haki.

The film was released in 1943 to none of the fanfare of the Welles-directed Kane and Ambersons.


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