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50 Orson Welles Quotes From The Iconic Filmmaker

If you were to make a list of the best filmmakers of all time, Orson Welles would be on it, if not in the number one spot. George Orson Welles, as he was born, was an American actor, director, screenwriter, and producer. These Orson Welles quotes include some from the movie, Citizen Kane, which was released in 1941, and consistently tops the list of best movies ever made.

He is also well known for radio work, including his narration of a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. Some listeners tuning in believed that they were listening to actual news coverage of an alien invasion! Although there were some reports of panic, which proved to be mostly inaccurate and overstated, it helped make Welles a household name.

Welles released twelve other features, the most critically acclaimed include The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Touch of Evil (1958), The Trial (1962), Chimes at Midnight (1965), and F for Fake (1973).

He had a distinctive directorial style that mixed layered and nonlinear narrative forms, with uses of lighting such as chiaroscuro, and unusual camera angles. Welles borrowed sound techniques from radio, preferred deep focus shots, and long takes. These techniques earned him praise as “the ultimate auteur.” Enjoy these Orson Welles quotes!

Don’t forget to also check out these Werner Herzog quotes from the legendary film director.

Orson Welles quotes from Citizen Kane

1. “If I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.”  Orson Welles (Kane)

2. “I don’t know how to run a newspaper, Mr. Thatcher; I just try everything I can think of.”  Orson Welles (Kane)

3. “I don’t know many people.” – Susan Alexander Kane

“I know too many people. I guess we’re both lonely.”  Orson Welles (Kane)

4. “Don’t worry about me, Gettys! Don’t worry about me! I’m Charles Foster Kane! I’m no cheap, crooked politician, trying to save himself from the consequences of his crimes!”  Orson Welles (Kane)

5. “If I don’t look after the interests of the underprivileged, maybe somebody else will, maybe somebody without any money or property… and that would be too bad!”  Orson Welles (Kane)

6. “I entered this campaign with one purpose only, to point out and make public the dishonesty, the downright villainy of Boss Jim W. Gettys’ political machine, now in complete control of the government of this state.”  Orson Welles (Kane)

7. “Rosebud…”  Orson Welles (Kane)

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8. “Now I can afford to make some promises. The working man and the slum child know they can expect my best efforts in their interests. The nation’s ordinary citizens know that I’ll do everything in my power to protect the underprivileged, the underpaid, and the underfed.”  Orson Welles (Kane)

9. “We have no secrets from our readers.”  Orson Welles (Kane)

10. “There’s only one person who’s going to decide what I’m going to do, and that’s me.”  Orson Welles (Kane)

Orson Welles quotes about love and relationships

11. “We’re born alone, we live alone; we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”  Orson Welles

12. “Husbands should revolt from time to time. Even the best circus number becomes boring if the beast is too tame.”  Orson Welles

13. “Personally, I don’t like a girlfriend to have a husband. If she’ll fool her husband, I figure she’ll fool me.”  Orson Welles

14. “Friendship creates only the illusion of not being alone.”  Orson Welles

15. “If there hadn’t been women, we’d still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girlfriends.”  Orson Welles

16. “When you are down and out, something always turns up – and it is usually the noses of your friends.”  Orson Welles

17. “A toast, Jedediah, to love on my terms. Those are the only terms anybody ever knows – his own.”  Orson Welles

Orson Welles quotes on justice, truth, and politics

18. “Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.”  Orson Welles

19. “Never expect justice in this world. That is not part of God’s plan. Everybody thinks that if they don’t get it, they’re some kind of odd man out. And it’s not true.”  Orson Welles

20. “I drag my myth around with me.”  Orson Welles

21. “The truth about any man can only be calculated by the sum of everything that has been said about him.”  Orson Welles

22. “I don’t take art as seriously as politics.”  Orson Welles

23. “I discovered at the age of six that everything was a phony, worked with mirrors. Since then, I’ve always wanted to be a magician.”  Orson Welles

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24. “Only very intelligent people don’t wish they were in politics, and I’m dumb enough to want to be in there.”  Orson Welles

25. “I must be sincere towards what I am. … Experimenting is the only thing that fills me with enthusiasm. … It is the only sphere where I feel really honest and sincere.”  Orson Welles

26. “I have all the equipment to be a politician. Total shamelessness.”  Orson Welles

27. “Crooks aren’t the worst people, just the stupidest. The fleas of the world.”  Orson Welles

Wise Orson Welles quotes about life

28. “Old age is the only disease you don’t want to be cured of.”  Orson Welles

29. “I don’t regard my career as something so precious that it comes before my convictions.”  Orson Welles

30. “The basic and essential human is the woman.”  Orson Welles

31. “I don’t think any word can explain a man’s life.”  Orson Welles

32. “I never make my mind up about anything at all until it’s over and done with.”  Orson Welles

33. “My definition of success is not having things thrown at me!”  Orson Welles

34. “I love moving around from town to town. I never got on a train in my life without my spirits rising.”  Orson Welles

35. “Almost all serious stories in the world are stories of failure with a death in it. But there is more lost paradise in them than defeat.”  Orson Welles

36. “By nature, I am an experimentalist. I don’t believe much in accomplishment.”  Orson Welles

37. “There’s no biography so interesting as the one in which the biographer is present.”  Orson Welles

38. “I’d make my promises now if I wasn’t so busy arranging to keep them.”  Orson Welles

39. “Criticism is the essence of creation.”  Orson Welles

Orson Welles quotes about filmmaking and movies

40. “A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.”  Orson Welles

41. “The first thing one must remember about film is that it is a young medium. And it is essential for every responsible artist to cultivate the ground that has been left fallow.”  Orson Welles

42. “The director is simply the audience. So the terrible burden of the director is to take the place of that yawning vacuum, to be the audience, and to select from what happens during the day which movement shall be a disaster and which a gala night. His job is to preside over accidents.”  Orson Welles

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43. “A movie in production is the greatest train set a boy could ever have.”  Orson Welles

44. “Hollywood expects you to experiment but on a film that makes money and if you don’t make money, you’re to blame. Your job is to make money.”  Orson Welles

45. “Cinema as a means of expression fascinates me.”  Orson Welles

46. “In the theater, there are 1,500 cameras rolling at the same time – in the cinema, only one.”  Orson Welles

47. “Film is like a colony, and there are very few colonists.”  Orson Welles

48. “In my real movie-going days, which were the thirties, you didn’t stand in line. You strolled down the street and sallied into the theater at any hour of the day or night.”  Orson Welles

49. “I don’t like television when it gets near to photographed plays.”  Orson Welles

50. “The trouble with a movie is that it’s old before it’s released. It’s no accident that it comes in a can.”  Orson Welles

What did you learn from these Orson Welles quotes?

Welles was an outsider to the studio system and the world of Hollywood. This led to struggles over creative control on his projects early on. Later in his career, he also battled with a variety of independent financiers across Europe.

Many of his films, like Touch of Evil, have been painstakingly edited adhering to his notes. Some even remained unreleased or spent decades in development. The Other Side of the Wind was released in 2018.

Orson Welles was married three times. His wives included Virginia Nicolson, Dolores del Río, and Rita Hayworth. He had three children, one with Virginia Nicolson, and one with Rita Hayworth. His third child was with Paola Mori.

Welles was rumored to have fathered British director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, with Irish actress Geraldine Fitzgerald. DNA results proved inconclusive, although Gloria Vanderbilt, a friend of Fitzgerald’s wrote that Fitzgerald had told her that Welles was Michael’s father. However, biographer Patrick McGilligan, claims the timeline makes Welles being the father an impossibility.

Do you have any other favorite Orson Welles quotes and sayings you would like to share with us? Please leave them in the comment section below.

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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