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What’s in a Nose? Part Two: The Orson Welles Proboscis

What’s in a Nose? Part Two: The Orson Welles Proboscis


Orson Welles 1950s
Orson’s real nose

Orson Welles "Compulsion"
Orson’s “new” nose

What’s in a Nose?

Stargayzing has posed this question before, both in reference to nasally challenged celebrities like Michael Jackson as well as my own unsuccessful attempts to procure a fake schnoz for around-the-house fun.  I was happily surprised to find this letter from the great Orson Welles at the Museum of the Moving Image recently and to learn that the great filmmaker and I had exactly the same thing on our minds.  Evidently Welles endeavored to get his hands on a new nose for his role as Clarence Darrow in Compulsion, the 1959 iteration of the famous Leopold and Loeb murder trial.  I really love how the formality of Mr. Welles’ letter from Italy contrasts with playfulness of the subject matter and that the whole matter had to be handled on the down low.  I do feel that you can sense Mr. Welles’ sense of humor poking through.

Orson Welles "Compulsion"
Orson Welles’ original 1959 letter reveals his desire to get his hands on “three weeks worth of noses.”

You may also enjoy:

What’s In a Nose? My Very Real Attempt to Secure a Fake Nose

An Unexpected, Highly Informative, and Exhaustingly Comprehensive Letter From a Reader About Michael Jackson’s Nose!

Orson Welles’ 12 Best Movies of All Time (and Their Directors)


  1. monophylos
    March 24, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Somewhere, I can’t remember where, I picked up on Orson Welles’s bizarre insecurity about his nose. I want to say it was from reading James Naremore’s “The Magic World of Orson Welles” but I think my memory’s probably wrong there. In any case, what would have Welles’s corrupt sheriff Hank Quinlan have been without his bulbous fake nose?

    • David Munk
      March 25, 2014 at 11:42 am

      That’s quite interesting. He certainly wrote this letter with the swagger of a man who had had nose issues before, don’t you think? Not that I blame him—if you look for the first “What’s in a Nose?” piece you’ll see I had my own issues around an endeavor to obtain a prosthetic nose. But when it came to noses I had nothing like Orson’s muscle.

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