Long thought lost, "Too Much Johnson" has been found and restored. Never intended as a standalone film, it is rather a collection of three filmed segments meant to introduce acts of a stage play, a farce from the late 19th century. It was never used that way, and Welles did not finish editing it for that purpose. What survives is a very rough cut, including multiple takes of the same shot, no titles (which probably would have been used), and material that seems very likely to be out of order.<br/><br/>The first segment is the longest and the best. It's primarily a farcical chase out of the silent comedy era, featuring an enraged husband chasing his wife's lover (Joseph Cotten) through New York, particularly over rooftops and up and down streets in the market district. This material was essentially stolen footage, filmed without permits on location as time allowed. Some of it is fairly funny, but in the version that survives, it doesn't hold together well. One must admire the grit of Cotten and the other actors, who are doing their own work here up on some rather dodgy rooftops.<br/><br/>The second segment is not very interesting. All important characters have taken a ship to Cuba and the husband is still chasing the lawyer. In this segment, we get shots of Cotten traveling to the plantation of a friend who proves to be dead, shots of the dead friend's servant at the graveside, and shots of the new plantation owner walking around.<br/><br/>The third segment is a slight improvement. It primarily consists of an extended duel between the husband and the plantation owner, who has been mistaken for the lover. The lover seeks to break up the duel. It goes on over cliffs and up and down hills, ending with the furious plantation owner trouncing both the husband and the lover and dumping them in a pond, where they sit bedraggled and hangdog.<br/><br/>So it was never intended to be a complete film, and even what there is does not represent a coherent, careful assembly of what was shot. However, there are certainly elements that suggest that Welles had pretty good understanding of directing for the camera before he ever got to Hollywood. He makes clever use of camera angles, clearly planned some interesting intercutting, and has elaborate shots with important elements in both the foreground and background.<br/><br/>Welles obviously gave thought to expressing plot cinematically, as in an extended sequence in which the husband runs around knocking hats off the heads of passers-by to match their faces against a torn photo showing only the forehead and hair of the lover. He use a variety of angles, including high overhead shots and reaction closeups from the victims, to build this sequence. Neither this sequence nor most of the others was fully edited, so it's not easy to tell how Welles really envisioned it, but it is clear that he had a pretty elaborate plan for how it would play on screen.<br/><br/>In summary, this is not a film one sees for the entertainment experience, but rather because one has a deep interest in Orson Welles and wants to get a sense of what his own raw talent was like before he got to Hollywood, carefully studied film, and worked with experienced film professionals.
Too Much Johnson
Too Much Johnson
Posing as wealthy Cuban plantation owner Joseph Johnson, Augustus Billings is having an affair with married Clairette Dathis. Augustus is able to get away just before Clairette's husband, Leon Dathis, comes home. But Leon finds out about the affair. With Augustus' photograph in hand, Leon goes on a search for his wife's lover. The ensuing chase leads to one sight gag close call after another. Eventually, the real Joseph Johnson in Cuba gets unwittingly into the act.
Downloaded 630 times
5/2/2019 12:16:08 PM