Thursday, August 08, 2013

They Found Too Much Johnson!

Can there ever be too much johnson (snicker)?
Two years ago I noted that Orson Welles had directed a movie that I declared at the time had the best title of any movie ever: Too Much Johnson.

But the movie was believed to have been lost.

Well I learned in the NYTimes today that lo and behold! they found Too Much Johnson!

For generations, Welles scholars have been intrigued by “Too Much Johnson,” which would seem to represent Welles’s first real experience composing a film to be seen by a paying public, with the support of a professional cast and a professional crew. But for over 50 years, no print had been known to exist.
Welles never quite finished editing the large amount of footage he shot for “Too Much Johnson,” and when the show folded out of town, after a disastrous preview in Stony Creek, Conn., he set the film aside and forgot about it. 
Sometime in the 1960s, as Welles told Frank Brady for an article in the November 1978 issue of American Film, he came across the material again, in his villa in Spain. “I can’t remember whether I had it all along and dug it out of the bottom of a trunk, or whether someone brought it to me, but there it was,” Welles recalled. “I screened it, and it was in perfect condition, with not a scratch on it. It had a fine quality. Cotten was magnificent, and I immediately made plans to edit it and send it to Joe as a birthday present.” 
Regrettably, while Welles was away for an acting job, a fire destroyed the villa and most of its contents. “Too Much Johnson,” which had been shot on highly inflammable nitrate stock, had apparently been lost to the ages. 
But things have turned out otherwise. “Too Much Johnson” has reappeared — discovered not in Spain but in the warehouse of a shipping company in the northern Italian port city of Pordenone, where the footage had apparently been abandoned sometime in the 1970s. Old films turn up with some regularity under similar circumstances — independent filmmakers aren’t always known for promptly paying their storage bills — but because nitrate becomes even more dangerously unstable as it ages, the usual practice is to junk it as quickly as possible.