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The Merchant of Venice (Unreleased Orson Welles Film)

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Orson Welles Shylock

Orson Welles in a still from the film.

The Merchant of Venice was an unreleased made-for-TV short adaptation of the play by William Shakespeare produced, directed and starring Orson Welles, focusing entirely on the character of Shylock. It co-starred Charles Gray and Irina Maleeva. The project was filmed in 1969 in Italy and Yugoslavia during a break from another ill-fated project, The Deep. It was intended to have been aired as part of a 90-minute special called Orson's Bag. However, as the project was close to completion, CBS withdrew their funding due to Welles' tax disputes with the U.S., forcing him to complete the project with his own money. However, after three out of the planned four reels had been shot, the first and third reels of the workprint were stolen, leaving only the audioless original negatives.

Until 2015 the only surviving material that was possible to see was a few clips from the second reel included in the documentary Orson Welles: One Man Band. However, in 2013 the staff of Pordenone's Cinemazero discovered alongside Welles' also previously thought lost, Too Much Johnson the intact first reel with sound, as well as the third reel without sound.

The film has now been restored by the Munich Film Museum, starting with the complete first two reels as discovered, then using audio from a 1939 radio broadcast by Welles digitally synche to the third reel. For the missing fourth reel, the audio from 1939 is used over a photo still of Welles. The final running time is 36 minutes.

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