I don't know if Harry Truman actually said this. It was a line from "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!" the play that earned great reviews for James Whitmore on both stage and screen back in the 1970s.
Truman didn't actually say all the things that Whitmore did in his one–man play. But if he didn't, he should have.
Like, for example, what Whitmore/Truman said about finding something to do after you've been president.
"It's hell for a man trying to find work when he's been president of the United States," Whitmore/Truman told his audiences. It's a great line — and it sounds very Trumanesque — but I have seen no confirmation that Truman ever said it.
And when you think about it, he probably never did. He was nearly 70 when he left the White House. I doubt he spent much, if any, time looking for something to do after his presidency ended.
But the point is well taken — and applicable to many fields, not just the presidency, although I'm sure Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both of whom were in their 50s when they returned to private life, knew all too well what Truman may have been talking about (if, indeed, he ever said it).
I'm sure Orson Welles would sympathize. He was in his mid–20s when he made "Citizen Kane," which has often been named as the greatest film of all time.
Now that brings me to a question. When you're 26 and you've just made the greatest film of all time (although it wasn't widely acknowledged then to be the best ever made), what does one do for an encore?
In Welles' case, he made a movie that was shown on Turner Classic Movies Saturday night — "The Magnificent Ambersons," which was a film adaptation of the middle novel of Booth Tarkington's "Growth" trilogy.
I didn't realize it was being shown Saturday night until I was doing a little channel surfing and came across it just as it was starting — a little late to spread the word. But it isn't too late to recommend that you put it on your "must–watch" list. I just can't tell you when it will be shown again.
If you have ever seen "Citizen Kane," you will recognize many of the cast members. They belonged to the Mercury Players company that Welles founded with John Houseman. Folks like Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead (who may be best remembered for her role on TV's Bewitched) and Ray Collins (who may be best remembered for his role on TV's Perry Mason) appeared in both movies.
And, once again, Welles wore many hats. He directed and produced the film, wrote the film adaptation and provided the narration (but, unlike "Citizen Kane," he didn't star in it). Tim Holt, who later played Humphrey Bogart's sidekick in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," portrayed the Amberson grandson who eventually got his long–anticipated "comeuppance."
Making that movie was a different kind of experience for Welles. "Citizen Kane" had been his project, but he lost control of the editing of "The Magnificent Ambersons." Ultimately, more than an hour was cut from the film and the ending was changed.
Nevertheless, it is recognized as quite an accomplishment. It doesn't have space–age special effects, but the movie is about the 19th century, and its special effects solutions seem appropriately old–fashioned for the subject matter.
For example, there is a scene set in the outdoors during the winter that illustrates the conflict between the automobile and the horse–drawn sleigh. To give as much of a realistic flavor as possible, Welles filmed the scene in a Los Angeles ice house. That is why, when you watch the movie, you will see the actors' breath.
It's a lesson that should not be lost on today's filmmakers. Too often, 21st–century filmmakers seem to believe that "special effects" should be splashy explosions, dazzling light shows, etc.
If that is what a film requires to tell the story, that is fine. But special effects are not just visual effects. They can be sound effects, too. And if they are visual effects, they can be something as simple as seeing a character's breath when he/she is outdoors in the winter.
It was that kind of attention to detail that made "Citizen Kane" the great movie that it was and remains, nearly 70 years later.
And that same attention to detail made "The Magnificent Ambersons" a worthy encore.
If you didn't see it, I sincerely hope you do the next time it is on.