TV… Orson Welles is Some Kind of Ad Man


The Man, the voice, the legend did adverts…


Four TV adverts where Orson Welles lent his presence, voice and gravitas to the wee screen.

Directors, actors, producers and writers often ask for us mere mortals help in funding their movies via a few notable websites. One man was well known for appearing in a number of adverts in the late 70s and 80s for just this cause was Orson Welles. This for his unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind which he hoped to complete. Welles, was not just an an actor with many off screen talents. He was remembered for films such as Citizen Kane (1941), The Third Man (1949) and Voyage of the Damned (1976).

Welles also lent his voice and gravitas to cartoons such as The Transformers: The Movie (1986), films, documentaries and TV and more famously a War of the World’s radio broadcast which panicked America. He also was heard but not seen as the voice of Robin Masters in Magnum PI (1981-83) and Shogun (1980). His voice however was so recognisable that this sadly cost him the role that could have helped him to complete his movie, with George Lucas not hiring him as his Darth Vader in that film trilogy set far, far away.

However after much research, its believed that his advertising career was just as varied as his film career with his adverts including these gems from the wee screen…

Board Games

1981 Orson Welles Milton Bradley Dark Tower Board Game Commercial, TheRetroTimeMachine

There’s something quite nice about Orson Welles mansplaining on how to play this game from the early eighties. Welles tells us with a wee hint of glee when he tells us he won this game, which I’ve never played (and chances are he hadn’t either). But I’d definitely want to play, if he mansplained all the ins and outs of this game with that voice that could melt butter.

Of course when this advert came out in the 1980s I wouldn’t have known who this narrator was. Welles does come over as quite an avuncular – but sinister – character in this ad for this electronic game. Shortly after this game’s release, it was subject of a law case then the game was removed from the shelves with only a small number of these games sold. The original copies of these games, can be now bought for about 180 euros for the full game or 9 to 10 euros for a wee playing piece. Looking into it on the internet, it appears this game is hoping to make a return, but would you want to “return back in time to the medieval dark tower”?


Orson Welles 1970s Paul Masson Wine Commercial, Paul Mc

With his wee catchphrase, telling how this particular wine company “will sell no wine before its time”. Orson’s dulcet velvety tones are used here to full effect. Welles used as the spokesman for this product in a bid to rebrand the wine. This particular advert – seen above – was reportedly filmed in Orson Welles’ back garden. It’s also an advert that Orson improvised himself after “dismissing” the original script which compared the wine to a Stradivarius violin. Wikipedia quotes Karp who tells Welles was not complementary about this brand off set saying;

Come on, gentlemen, now really! You have a nice, pleasant little cheap wine here. You haven’t gotten the presumption to compare it to a Stradivarius violin. It’s odious.

However he is reported to have preferred the red wine in this range. As a spokesman for this particular brand for 3 years between 1978 and 1981, Welles reportedly increased sales of this wine by 30%. He stopped fronting this campaign, after he appeared on a chat show and told how he lost weight by dropping wine from his diet. For this campaign he was paid $500,000 a year plus residuals and he continued to be paid this for a short time after he left the campaign and was replaced by John Gielgud.


Orson Welles – Nikka Whisky, deconstructionist66”

Orson Welles, one of many actors who put his face to a Japanese whisky commercial. With big names including Sean Connery (!), Peter Falk, Mickey Roarke and the fictional actor, Bob Harris (Bill Murray) in Lost in Translation (2000) also selling this famous alcoholic beverage.

Orson Welles gives us a wee introduction to himself to this whisky created in Japan (but with a Scottish twist). Since then, he has paved the way for others to follow him to make big bucks in the Japanese advertising world including Rod Stewart, Leonardo DiCaprio and Keanu Reeves.


Orson Welles’ Last Ever Performance, lewisduckworth

Shakespeare and photocopiers. Only a presence of an actor like Orson Welles, could make this not sound like a tenuous link. Literally quoting some Shakespeare, as you do. Another advertisement where his Orson-splaining on just how to use this machine would help millions of harassed employees. Not his oddest product plugging surprisingly with that honour going to a cement company.

The above just a few of the many adverts that Orson Welles worked on with others including beer, sherry, mineral water, cameras and frozen food. Proving Welles had a voice – and presence – to sell all kinds of products. Campaign tells how a client from certain frozen food company requested an audition from Welles with him retorting;
Surely to god there’s someone in your little agency who knows what my voice sounds like?
His most famous of his adverts however was a radio advert for peas, for which he famously queries the script and the direction the advert is going in. This transcript was parodied by Pinky and the Brain (1995-98) and by John Candy to name just two. But like you and me, I’m sure actors and actresses also find there’s some advert’s scripts you just can’t stomach.

The Orson Welles Some Kind of Man Blogathon, 2019 No 89

This review was added to Sean Munger’s Orson Welles Blogathon, Some Kind of Man. Other reviews with Orson Welles on this site include Moonlighting in which he filmed an introduction to this reviewed episode, The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice. He also appeared in the ensemble cast of Voyage of the Damned. He also appeared in Magnum PI and as a film character he is also seen in the biopic Ed Wood.

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