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His arrogance, his ambition and his histrionic whimsy have often overshadowed the native skill of a man who created some of the seminal moments in the short histories of cinema and broadcasting. Fellow actor Simon Callow focuses on the problem with greater flair and understanding than anyone has managed so far in this second part of his epic three-part biography.

v Volume 2 Hello Americans 2 Orson Welles

He achieves it largely by concentrating on the nature of the work - the films, the theatre, the radio shows - but happily he also includes the personal detail and humour needed to bring such a glamorous and witty figure into a sustained and compelling close-up. Callow tells us that Hollywood casting directors judged, probably quite rightly, that Welles was too big for most of the films in which he appeared.

This view was not a reference to Welles's great physical size in later years, but to his unbounded charisma, something that can work for an actor on stage and yet become a handicap on the film set. It was a pivotal period in the director's life, as his luster as Hollywood's boy wonder dimmed through a series of flawed if intermittently brilliant films, from The Magnificent Ambersons to MacBeth, that were snatched from his control and vandalized by frustrated studio executives.

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Eschewing the clich of misunderstood genius persecuted by Tinseltown philistines, Callow assigns some of the blame to Welles's perpetual distraction with a plethora of projects including a misbegotten scheme to become a radio comedian , the unfocused grandiosity of his artistic impulses and his directorial "strategy of simply shooting until the nature of the film finally declared itself. Callow's is a superbly written account of a magnetic personality and towering talent plagued by internal weaknesses and external friction, one that manages to shape the "Orsonic tornado" into an engrossing tragicomedy.

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Orson Welles (Volume 2): Hello Americans - New York Magazine Book Review - Nymag

In Welles left America for Europe and lived for the best part of twenty years in self-imposed exile. Welles himself famously quipped 'I started at the top and worked my way down' - the second volume of Simon Callow's compelling biography tells the story of that complex and protracted descent from grace.

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