Orson Welles becomes "Citizen of Split"


A new sculpture honours the legendary director and actor, who had a long association with the city.

By Ivo Scepanovic for Southeast European Times in Split -- 17/01/08


The statue of US actor Orson Welles in Split. [Ivo Scepanovic]

A year ago, local photographer Fedja Klaric thought that a monument of Orson Welles should be erected in Split, because he had enjoyed spending time in the city and in other Dalmatian towns in the last two decades of his life. Zeljko Kerum, a local businessman and owner of the multiplex movie theatre and shopping centre, financed the project in hopes it will increase tourism and revenue.

"With the unveiling of Orson Welles' sculpture in Split's Broadarica area, Citizen Kane has become a new citizen of Split," Klaric said.

''I once visited a hotel in Vienna where a wall inscription said that Mozart almost spent a night in that hotel, but his intention had been interrupted for some reason," he explained. "That inspired me to use the opportunity to forge a link between Split and one of the greatest movie directors ever."

In the late 1960s, Orson Welles met Croatian actress and sculptor Oja Kodar, with whom he spent about 20 years, until his death in 1985. She was delighted with Klaric's idea and agreed to make the sculpture herself.

''Orson loved the tiny Mediterranean stone-built streets of Split and other Dalmatian coastal towns," Kodar said. "He enjoyed the locals and had many friends. Unfortunately, all have passed away before seeing his monument unveiled."

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Welles frequently visited Split and nearby Primosten, where the couple shared a villa, Kodar said. ''Orson even supported the Split football team, Hajduk. One of the players, Geza Senauer, was his close friend, and Orson would attend the games. He found something in common with the fiery temperament of people in the Croatian coastal region of Dalmatia," she said.

Kodar' s original name was Olga Palinkas. She changed it to "Oja Kodar" because "kodar" in Croatian means "gift". Welles used to tell her that she was like a gift to him, she explained to the large audience at the unveiling of the sculpture.

Meanwhile, Klaric would like to see Welles honoured in another way. He wants a street in Split to be named after him.

Welles filmed ''Process in Croatia'' and also acted in a few Croatian movies such as ''The Secret of Nicola Tesla'' and ''The Battle on Neretva''. He started but never completed a few projects in Split and on the nearby island of Hvar.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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