Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915, Orson Welles was the son of an inventor and a concert pianist. Orson was gifted in piano and painting as a child. His artistic talent gave him the opportunity to travel Ireland on a sketching tour, but he turned it down. He attempted to enter the London and Broadway stages, but was unsuccessful. To sooth his disappointment, Welles, traveled to Spain where he fought in the bullring.
With recommendations by Thornton Wilder Welles finally joined Katherine Cornell's road company and made his debut as Tybalt in 1934. He married that same year and directed his first short play plus began acting in radio programs. In 1937 Welles began working with John Houseman and they formed the Mercury Theater. The Mercury Radio Theater was famous for The War of the Worlds that caused a tremendous amount of panic. It was intended as a Halloween prank.
Welles's first film was Citizen Kane (1941). It was financially unsuccessful but is still regarded as the best film ever made. Many of Welles's films were failures in America, but he did win theatrical awards in Europe with Touch of Evil (1958). In 1984 the Directors Guild of America awarded Welles the D.W. Griffith Award.
Welles is characterized by his deep voice and his distinctive beard. His films are noted for their low camera angles, deep focus and tracking shots.
George Orson Wells was married three times to Paola Mori (1955 to 1985), Rita Hayworth (1943 to 1948), and Virginia Nicholson (1934 until 1940). He has three children. Welles died of a heart attack on October 10, 1985.