It was during one of Orson’s solo scenes in Kane that I saw him seized by this show biz impulse to save the scene at any cost. In the story, the scene takes place just after Susan Alexander leaves Kane and Xanadu. Kane, in a jealous and passionate fury, goes to Susan’s room and literally destroys it. The scene was frightening to watch and hear. The set dressing department must have found thousands of destroyable props; bottles, bowls, boxes, mirrors, furniture, and draperies. Kane destroys it all with his own two hands. Rehearsals had been thorough. There could be only one take. Another setup would require days. Every move, every light was set - exactly. The camera rolled, the operator peered through his finder and whispered, “Whenever you are ready, Orson.”
And Orson with his two hands started the destruction of the set. Crash. Bang. Split. Crunch. Chairs splintered, bottles broke. Chanel Number Five, Joy, Ashes of Magnolia, and other exotic scents filled the air and told us the property man believed in realism. Silk draperies slit and hung, limply defeated. Crash! More glass, more mirrors, more pictures from the walls. Suddenly, Orson was destroying the room with one hand, wildly swinging away to kill any object still intact. The other hand was concealed behind him, hidden from the eye of the camera, but those of us who were watching from the side could see the blood and the long gash across the hidden hand. He looked around to be sure the job was finished according to plan, and then he made his exit from the the scene and sat down near the camera. He was panting as he calmly said, “Cut.” The assistant had called a car, and in the hospital Orson’s hand was stitched by a doctor who admonished him for not stopping sooner, thereby diminishing his loss of blood.
“Blood,” said Orson, “I’ve got plenty of blood. It was the perfume I was worried about.”
- Joseph Cotten, Vanity Will Get You Somewhere