Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Houdini by Anthony Burgess and Orson Welles (update)

An article in The Guardian reports that at least 20 unpublished stories by Anthony Burgess, the author of A Clockwork Orange, have been discovered by researchers sorting through his papers at a research centre in Manchester, the city in which he was born.

The paper reports that among the cache of new material are "unfinished or rejected scripts for television and film projects, including lives of Atilla the Hun, Sigmund Freud and Michelangelo and a play about Harry Houdini that he collaborated on with Orson Welles."

Houdini by Anthony Burgess and Orson Welles, eh? Could the plan have been that Welles would play Houdini in the production? Unfortunately, the article doesn't provide a year for the collaboration, but if this was done in Welles prime, certainly that could have been the case. I've often wondered why Welles, who saw Houdini in his youth, never did a Houdini project. Now it appears he did. Or at least tried.

It's worth noting that Orson Welles was Hedda Hopper's favored choice for the lead in Paramount's 1953 HOUDINI.

The Guardian article does not say where this new material will be archived, but this would certainly be one to study.

Thanks to MSW for the tip.

UPDATE: So it appears this Welles-Burgess Houdini project was to have have been a musical film with Orson Welles in the lead. The Houdini musical material is now housed in the Anthony Burgess Foundation. Below is a scrap of music from unfinished score.


  1. How interesting that might have been, Orson Welles as Houdini or directing a Houdini project.

  2. Welles would have made an amazing Houdini in his prime.

  3. Roger Lewis' bio of Burgess mentions that Burgess was hoping to write a musical about Houdini for Welles. Google "Anthony Burgess and Houdini" to see the reference in Google books. Sounds like Burgess took it a step beyond "hoping."

  4. Ah, nice find, Eric. I wonder if Burgess used his Welles script as the bases for Hocus Pocus (as that was also a musical)?

  5. I am not an artist; but I am gifted to recognize when I see REAL one.

    I was not born in America and did not know much about who was Orson Welles till came to cross a movie recently, "Citizen Kane."

    It was made by Orson Welles and he was main character of that movie.

    Really a master piece!!!!

    IF........he made "Hocus Pocus".... we would love it. Truly, what an artist he was!!!!!!