|Orson Welles. Source: Google Images|
There was a kerfuffle recently in the race to become the next governor of Virginia. Apparently Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe – always proud of his Irish roots -- made a joke about how he’d use the persuasive power of drink to prod folks who might disagree with him.
Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli accused McAuliffe of dabbling in stereotypes.
“Terry McAuliffe insults Irish Americans,” Cuccinelli campaign adviser Chris LaCivita said via Twitter.
You could argue people are being a bit sensitive when it comes to all this. Because if you really want to hear some nasty things about the Irish, you should book a lunch with legendary filmmaker Orson Welles.
Welles, of course, is dead. But a new book, My Lunches with Orson, by Henry Jaglom, based on taped conversations, presents Welles’ views on anything and everything.
And boy, did this talented gasbag have a lot to say about the Irish.
Considering that Ireland played a central role in young Orson’s formation, perhaps it would have been better if the Citizen Kane director and famed shill for Paul Masson wine had just politely said, “Thank you.”
Famed actor Spencer Tracy? Welles dismissed him as “one of those bitchy Irishmen.”
Another time Welles added, “Look, I love Ireland, I love Irish literature, I love everything they do. But the Irish Americans have invented an imitation Ireland which is unspeakable. The wearin’ o’ the green. Oh my God! To vomit!”
Irish Americans, he said, were “a new and terrible race.”
And if there are Irish-born folks out there feeling all superior to Irish Americans, well, Welles had some nasty things to say about you too.
His sociological take on Ireland amounted to an impoverished land in which the women were sexually frustrated and the men simply liked to slug it out.
“It was a culture,” said Welles, “where nobody got married until they were 35 because they were always dreaming of emigrating, and they didn’t want to be stuck with the kids, financially. So all these poor virgin ladies sat around waiting to get married, and the guys are all swinging at each other, reverting to the bestiality of the male.”
And guess who was always there to entertain these frustrated Irish lasses? You guessed it, suave old Orson.
“I could hardly draw a breath when I visited the Aran Islands,” Welles said. “And these great, marvelous girls in their white petticoats, they’d grab me. Off the petticoats would go. It was as close to male rape as you could imagine.”
Welles even claimed that the women then ran to their local priests to confess.
“I had another confession this morning. When are you leaving?” an exasperated priest once supposedly said to Welles. “He was protecting the virtue of his flock,” Welles added.
Overall, centuries of colonialism and repression left the Irish with a “passive meanness and cunning,” said Welles.
How did Welles come to, uh, learn so much about Ireland?
He was actually taken there at the ripe old age of 16, with his mind set on becoming a painter. Never lacking confidence, Welles liked to say he swiftly duped the directors of Dublin’s Gate Theatre into believing he was actually a seasoned American actor.
Welles is also said to have later wooed Wicklow-born Hollywood star Geraldine Fitzgerald, and even fathered her child, Michael Lindsay-Hogg.
One of Welles’ biographers even thinks that Ireland was so important to Welles that he proposed making it the inspiration for Citizen Kane, if a movie were ever to be made about Welles’ life.
“On the wild west coast of Ireland, (Welles) meets a glorious Irish girl -- his first true love,” David Thomson once wrote. “He is tempted to stay there, and she is likely pregnant. But she urges him to continue with his travels -- be all he can be. If there is a child, she says, she will name it Rosebud, after his pretty mouth.”
Thomson further describes the imaginary movie, “(T)he Irish love affair should hang over the whole thing -- along with the notion that he may have left a child there. I think there could even be a return to Ireland, in an attempt to find them -- but the girl has vanished, and thus the sense of loss inspires him in coming towards Citizen Kane and its theme of lost childhood.”
All I can say, Orson, is: “You’re welcome.”
(Contact “Sidewalks” at tdeignan.blogspot.com)