- See also pages for Citizen Kane, F for Fake, The Lady from Shanghai, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Touch of Evil
- This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character, to assure you that The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be; The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying "Boo!" Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night, so we did the next best thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears and utterly destroyed the CBS. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember please for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian, it's Halloween.
- The on-air apology he gave at the end of his infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, live CBS Radio Network broadcast (30 October 1938)
- In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed - they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!
- As the character Harry Lime in the film The Third Man (1949)
- He [Welles] was an onlooker at the clumsy, poignant suicide of "The Man on the Ledge," which took place in New York in 1938, when a boy perched for fourteen hours on a window-sill of the Gotham Hotel before plunging into the street. "I stood in the crowd outside for a long time," Welles says pensively, "and wanted to make a film of it all. But they tell me that in the Hollywood version of the film they gave the boy a reason for what he did. That's crazy. It's the crowd that needs explaining."
- A long-playing full shot is what always separates the men from the boys. Anybody can make movies with a pair of scissors and a two-inch lens.
- I have always been more interested in experiment, than in accomplishment.
- I don't take art as seriously as politics.
- I suppose you are a fool to do it [express a political view as an artist], but if you happen to be more interested in the political question, than the size of your audience, then it doesn't matter.
- I don't regard my career as something so precious that it comes before my convictions.
- in an interview with Bernie Braden in Paris (1960), viewable here.
- The ideal American type is perfectly expressed by the Protestant, individualist, anti-conformist, and this is the type that is in the process of disappearing. In reality there are few left.
- Quoted in an interview from Hollywood Voices, ed. Andrew Sarris (1971)
- I try to be a Christian...I don't pray really, because I don't want to bore God.
- Quoted in interview by Merv Griffin, from Frank Brady, Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles, Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, NY (1989), page 576.
- This theatre is your theatre. You are responsible for its creation and its progress.
- Even if I’d stayed [in the US to finish ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’] I would’ve had to make compromises on the editing, but these would’ve been mine and not the fruit of confused and often semi-hysterical committees. If I had been there myself I would have found my own solutions and saved the pictures in a form which would have carried the stamp of my own effort.
- Hollywood is Hollywood. There’s nothing you can say about it that isn’t true, good or bad. And if you get into it, you have no right to be bitter — you’re the one who sat down, and joined the game.
- Quoted in The Orson Welles Story
- The people who’ve done well within the [Hollywood] system are the people whose instincts, whose desires [are in natural alignement with those of the producers] — who want to make the kind of movies that producers want to produce. People who don’t succeed — people who’ve had long, bad times; like [Jean] Renoir, for example, who I think was the best director, ever — are the people who didn’t want to make the kind of pictures that producers want to make. Producers didn’t want to make a Renoir picture, even if it was a success.
- Quoted in The Orson Welles Story
- It's about two percent movie-making and ninety-eight percent hustling. It's no way to spend a life.
- I think I made, essentially, a mistake, staying in movies. But it’s a mistake I can’t regret, because it’s like saying, ‘I shouldn’t have stayed married to that woman, but I did because I love her. I would’ve been more successful if I hadn’t been married to her…’ You know?
- Quoted in Taschen Movie Icons: Orson Welles
- One should make movies innocently — the way Adam and Eve named the animals, their first day in the garden…Learn from your own interior vision of things, as if there had never been a D.W.Griffith, or a Eisenstein, or a [John] Ford, or a [Jean] Renoir, or anybody.
- Quoted in The Orson Welles Story
- As for my style, for my vision of the cinema, editing is not simply one aspect; it's the aspect.
- Mitry, Jean; King, Christopher. The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema (1999). Indiana University Press. [ISBN 0-253-21377-0], p.176
- Thank you, Donald, for that well-meant but rather pedestrian introduction. Regarding yourself, I quote from the third part of Shakespeare's Henry VI, Act Two, Scene One. Richard speaks, "Were thy heart as hard as steel/ As thou hast shown it flinty by thy deeds/ I come to pierce it, or to give thee mine." To translate into your own idiom, Donald; you're a yo-yo. Now I direct my remarks to Dean Martin, who is being honored here tonight...for reasons that completely elude me. No, I'm not being fair to Dean because - this is true - in his way Dean, and I know him very well, has the soul of a poet. I'm told that in his most famous song Dean authored a lyric which is so romantic, so touching that it will be enjoyed by generations of lovers until the end of time. Let's share it together. [Opens a songsheet for Dean's "That's Amore" and reads in a monotone] "When the moon hits your eye/ Like a big pizza-pie/ That's amore" Now, that's what I call 'touching', Dean. It has all the romanticism of a Ty-D-Bol commercial. "When the world seems to shine/ Like you've had too much wine/ That's amore" What a profound thought. It could be inscribed forever on a cocktail napkin. Hey, there's more. "Tippy-tippy-tay/ Like a gay tarantella" Like a gay tarantella? Apparently, Dean has a 'side Dean' we know nothing about. "When the stars make you drool/ Just like a pasta fazool .... Scuzza me, but you see/ Back in old Napoli/ That's amore" No, Dean; that's infermo, Italian for "sickened". Now, lyrics like that - lyrics like that ought to be issued with a warning: a song like that is hazardous to your health. Ladies and gentlemen...[motions to Dean] you are looking at the end result!
- Speech given at a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. Viewable [here]
- My father once told me that the art of receiving a compliment is, of all things, the sign of a civilized man. He died soon afterwards, leaving my education in this important matter sadly incomplete; I'm only glad that, on this, the occasion of the rarest compliment he ever could have dreamed of, that he isn't here to see his son so publicly at a loss. In receiving a compliment, or in trying to, the words are all worn out by now. They're polluted by ham and corn. And, when you try to scratch around for some new ones, it's just an exercise in empty cleverness. What I feel this evening, is not very clever. it's the very opposite of emptiness. The corny old phrase is the only one I know to say it: my heart is full; with a full heart, with all of it, I thank you. This is Samuel Johnson, on the subject of what he calls contrarieties: "there are goods, so opposed that we cannot seize both, and, in trying, fail to seize either. Flatter not yourself, he says, with contrarieties. Of the blessings set before you, make your choice. No man can, at the same time, fill his cup from the source, and from the mouth of the nile." For this business of contrarieties has to do with us. With you, who are paying me this compliment, and for me, who has strayed so far from this hometown of ours. Not that I am alone in this, or unique, I am never that; but there are a few of us left in this conglomerated world of us who still trudge stubbornly along this lonely rocky road; and this is in fact our contrariety. We don't move nearly as fast as our cousins on the freeway; we don't even get as much accomplished just as the family sized farm can't possibly raise as many crops or get as much profit as the agricultural factory of today. What we do come up with has no special right to call itself better it's just.. different. No if there's any excuse for us it all, it's that we're simply following the old American tradition of the maverick, and we are a vanishing breed. This honor I can only accept in the name of all the mavericks. And also, as a tribute to the generosity of all the rest of you; to the givers, to the ones with fixed addresses. A maverick may go his own way but he doesn't think that it's the only way, or ever claim that it's the best one, except maybe for himself. And don't imagine that this raggle-taggle gypsy-o is claiming to be free. It's just that some of the necessities to which I am a slave are different from yours. As a director, for instance, I pay myself out of my acting jobs. I use my own work to subsidize my work (in other words I'm crazy). But not crazy enough to pretend to be free. But it's a fact that many of the films you've seen tonight could never have been made otherwise. Or, if otherwise, well, they might have been better, but certainly they wouldn't have been mine. The truth is I don't believe that this great evening would ever have brightened my life if it wasn't for this: my own, particular, contrariety. Let us raise our cups, then, standing as some of us do on opposite ends of the river, to what really matters to us all: to our crazy, beloved profession, to the movies — to good movies, to every possible kind.
- Speech given upon his acceptance of the AFI Lifetime Achievement award. Viewable []
- That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with "in" and emphasize it. Get me a jury and show me how you can say "In July" and I'll go down on you. That's just idiotic, if you'll forgive me by saying so. That's just stupid... "In July"; I'd love to know how you emphasize "In" in "In July". Impossible! Meaningless!
- You don't know what I'm up against. Because it's full of, of, of things that are only correct because they're grammatical, but they're tough on the ear, you see. This is a very wearying one. It's unpleasant to read. Unrewarding. "Because Findus freeze the cod at sea, and then add a crumb-crisp" Ooh, "crumb-crisp coating." Ahh, that's tough, "crumb-crisp coating." I think, no, because of the way it's written, you need to break it up, because it's not, it's not as conversationally written.
- "We know a little place in the American Far West, where Charlie Briggs chops up the finest prairie-fed beef and tastes..." (pauses, and continues with a note of disgust in his voice) This is a lot of shit, you know that! You want one more? One more on the beef?
- But you can't emphasize "beef", that's like his wanting me to emphasize "in" before "July"! Come on, fellows, you're losing your heads! I wouldn't direct any living actor like this in Shakespeare! The way you do this, it's impossible!
- The right reading for this is the one I'm giving.
- I spend... twenty times more for you people than any other commercial I've ever made. You are such pests! Now what is it you want? In your... depths of your ignorance, what is it you want? Whatever it is you want, I can't deliver, 'cause I just don't see it.
- It isn't worth it. No money is worth this... [walks out]
Quotes about Welles 
- Orson Welles est une manière de géant au regard enfantin, un abre bourré d’oiseaux et d’ombre, un chien qui a cassé sa chaîne et se couche dans les plates-bandes, un paresseux actif, un fou sage, une solitude entourée de monde, un étudiant qui dort en classe, un stratège qui fait semblant d’être ivre quand il veut qu’on luit foute la paix.
- Orson Welles is a kind of giant with the look of a child, a tree filled with birds and shadow, a dog that has broken its chain and lies down in the flower beds, an active idler, a wise madman, an island surrounded by people, a pupil asleep in class, a strategist who pretends to be drunk when he wants to be left in peace.**
- Orson revealed his surprising capacity for collaboration. For all the mass of his own ego, he was able to apprehend other people’s weakness and strength and to make creative use of them: he had a shrewn instinctive sense of when to bully or charm, when to be kind or savage…’
- John Houseman in Run-Through
- Those of us who were close to Orson had long been aware of the obsessive part his father used to play in his life. Much of what he had accomplished so precociously had been done out of a furious need to prove himself in the eys of a man who was no longer there to see it. Now that success had come, in quantities and of a kind that his father had never dreamed of, this conflict, far from being assuaged, seemed to grow more intense and consuming.
- John Houseman in Run-Through
- To me, Orson is so much like a destitute king. A ‘destitute’ king, not because he was thrown away from the kingdom, but [because] on this earth, the way the world is, there is no kingdom good enough for Orson Welles.
- Orson’s lifelong attraction to the art that has as its very essence the blurring of the line between reality and illusion was another piece of this same puzzle: Nothing gave him as much consistent pleasure as teasing audiences, and himself, with the many masks of magic.
- The man I got to know so well in no way resembled the mythical mask-wearer that everyone else saw and believed him to be. I discovered an incredibly open, deeply warm, and profoundly human friend, one who was generous to an unbelievable fault, was caring and concerned, and was vulnerable to the point of such fragility that he could be wounded terribly by the unaware, casual, critical statement of almost any outsider. I was always astounded by the way in which so many who did not know him viewed him as an arrogant, terrifying, egocentric ogre. They approached him with so much diffidence and fear as to set him up in such a way that his only possible response would be to satisfy their expectations. The Mask would win again.