My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles edited by Peter Biskind Metropolitan Books Richard James Havis Seventy-two years after his Citizen Kane reinvented American filmmaking, director, actor and bon viveur Orson Welles is still the towering figure of Western cinema. This collection of conversations Welles had with filmmaker Henry Jaglom, recorded with his consent in the early 1980s, provides an entertaining read that contains cheerful insights into the great intellect of the ageing, portly film legend. The best way to get to know a man such as Welles is to get to know his work. Of course, it's well-known that Charles Foster Kane was modelled on newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, but Welles' own personality - his pride and his hubris and, indeed, his genius - permeated the character. Then there's Welles' rambunctious side, the Sir John Falstaff of his loose Shakespeare adaptation Chimes at Midnight . In the face of such majestic, all-encompassing portrayals, conversations like those contained in My Lunches With Orson simply sketch in some details about him. But they do so with charm and conviviality. The subject matter of the conversations ranges far and wide, but it generally revolves around Hollywood, its creative personnel, and Welles' own troubles in the movie capital. He is marvellously cheeky, claiming that Citizen Kane was actually a comedy, that Laurence Olivier pretended to be gay to get acting work in London, that Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart were terrible actors, and that Katherine Hepburn went to bed with all and sundry. Welles, who died in 1985, also loves to play devil's advocate with films. He rails against the much-loved Casablanca , saying it is a bad film which signalled the end of intelligent cinema in Hollywood, although he admits that he did find it entertaining. He claims that he rarely watches a film all the way through, and misses the early days of cinema, when viewers would hop between a number of cinemas, just watching bits of films. Hollywood is well-known to have destroyed Welles' career, even as it celebrated him as its primary genius. Citizen Kane angered the powerful Hearst, who used his formidable influence against the director; Welles got the reputation of being difficult to work with, and found it almost impossible to get films made as a director. These conversations address the despair that arose from the fact he was effectively barred from doing the thing that he loved. Although the chats are cheery, they are fuelled with the sad understanding that, although Hollywood still feted his earlier works, they were unlikely to ever give him the money to make a new one.