Brow Beat

Orson Welles’ “The Fountain of Youth” Looks Like Nothing Else on Television

Orson Welles’ films require little introduction—classics like Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil have long been part of the canon. Likewise, Welles’ theater and radio shows—whether it’s his innovative Macbeth or wildly popular War of the Worlds—are highly regarded. Less known, however, is his work in television, largely because his efforts were rarely broadcast. Luckily, the folks over at Dangerous Minds have unearthed “The Fountain of Youth,” the pilot for the unaired Orson Welles Show, and it’s a fascinating glimpse at how Welles applied his talents to the small screen.

The pilot was filmed in 1956, and the plot is a twist on the classic love triangle—I won’t give too much away, but there’s a brilliant scientist, a glamorous actress, a handsome tennis star, and a serum that guarantees eternal youth. Welles is typically eccentric in his direction, making dazzling use of rear projection, in-camera set changes, and a combination of still “hold frames” and live action. Even more interesting, though, is his transposition of radio technique: he narrates the episode in the first person, often mouths the actors’ dialogue, and functions as both host and character. It’s been more than 50 years since the pilot aired, but it still looks like nothing else on television.