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THE LOST BATMAN MASTERPIECE

THE LOST BATMAN MASTERPIECE

Is it true that Orson Welles started making a Batman movie in the 1940s?

THE SUNDAY TIMES, 2009

The brilliant film-maker Orson Welles would have been 103 years old on May 6, 2018. Back in 2003, a Welles biographer called Lionel Hutton discovered something that shocked the hell out of Citizen Kane aficionados and comic-book fans alike. Apparently, during the 1940s, Welles embarked on his own project to bring Batman to the big screen. What a movie that would have been!

The role of Catwoman would be played by Marlene Dietrich

A script was written and the baddies were cast: James Cagney would play the Riddler, Basil Rathbone was the Joker, and Catwoman would be played by Marlene Dietrich.

Humphrey Bogart turned down the role of Two-Face, which went to George Raft. But when Welles insisted that he play Batman himself – in addition to the superhero’s secret alter ego, Bruce Wayne – the Hollywood studio expressed their disapproval, suggesting that Gregory Peck wear the cape and cowl instead. At this point, a petulant Welles called a halt to the whole project.

The idea of a 1940s Batman flick isn’t as anachronistic as it may sound: Batman first appeared in comics in 1939, and there were some Batman film serials released in 1943 and 1949. But, sadly, the tantalising tale of Welles’s Caped Crusader movie is too good to be true: there is no Welles biographer called Lionel Hutton, and the story can be traced to the Scottish comic-book writer Mark Millar, who invented the whole story, put it on a comics website in September 2003 and sat back to watch the fun. If you want a story to run and run, give it to a gaggle of comic geeks.

© 2014 Tony Barrell

August 21, 2014

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About the Author

Tony Barrell is a pop historian, journalist, editor and Londoner who has spent much of his life interviewing musicians. He has written many major articles for The Sunday Times and other publications. His 2017 work The Beatles on the Roof is the first book to be published about the Fab Four’s famous 1969 rooftop concert.

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