Confidential Report (Mr. Arkadin): Multiple Screen Versions

In his 1991 essay, Jonathan Rosenbaum identified seven versions of the story, and since then, two more have emerged, including novel and stage play.

Pre-film versions

1. Three episodes of the radio series “The Lives of Harry Lime,” written, directed by and starring Welles. The basic plot of a wealthy Mr. Arkadian (spelt with three As in this version) commissioning a confidential report on his former life can be found in the episode “Man of Mystery” (first broadcast 11 April 1952), while the episode “Murder on the Riviera” (first broadcast 23 May 1952) and the final episode “Greek Meets Greek” (first broadcast 25 July 1952) both contain plot elements repeated in the film. Note that in the film, the popular Harry Lime character from The Third Man is replaced by the less sympathetic Guy Van Stratten, since Welles did not own the copyright to the Lime character as character rights had been bought by Harry Alan Towers for the Lives of Harry Lime radio series.

2. Masquerade, early version of the screenplay of what would become Mr. Arkadin, shows differences from the film. The screenplay follows strictly chronological structure rather than the back-and-forth film structure. Many of the scenes in the film are set in different countries, and lengthy sequence in Mexico is missing from the final film.

Different edits of the film were released in Welles’s lifetime
Crucially, none of the versions available before 2006 contained all the footage found; each had some elements missing, and each has substantial editing differences from the others.

3. The main Spanish-language version of Mr. Arkadin (93 mins) was filmed back-to-back with the English-language version and was the first to be released, premiering in Madrid in March 1955. Although cast and crew were the same, two characters were played by Spanish actors: Amparo Rivelles plays Baroness Nagel and Irene Lopez Heredia plays Sophie Radzweickz Martinez. The two scenes with the actresses were reshot in Spanish, but all others had Spanish dubbing of English dialogue. This version credits Robert Arden as “Bob Harden.”

4. There is a second, longer Spanish cut of Mr. Arkadin, which was unknown to Rosenbaum at the time he wrote his piece. This version credits Robert Arden as “Mark Sharpe.”

5. Confidential Report (98 mins), the most common European release of Mr. Arkadin, premiered in London in August 1955. Differences include off-screen narration from Van Stratten. The editing of this version was based on early draft of Welles’ screenplay, as its exposition is simpler than that of “Corinth” version.

6. The “Corinth” version (99 mins) is named after Corinth Films, the initial U.S. distributor. Until the 2006 re-edit, it was believed to be the closest version to Welles’s conception. Peter Bogdanovich discovered its existence in 1961 and secured its first U.S. release in 1962, 7 years after the film’s alternative versions were released in Europe.

7. The most widely seen Mr. Arkadin (95 mins) was made for TV and home-video release, now in the public domain. It removes the flashback structure and presents a simpler, linear narrative. As it is in the public domain, the majority of DVD releases are of this version.

8. The novel Mr. Arkadin was first published in French in Paris in 1955, and then in English in 1956, both in London and N.Y. Welles was credited as author, and the book’s jacket boasted: “It is perhaps surprising that Orson Welles has not written a novel before.”

“I didn’t write one word of that novel. Nor have I ever read it,” Welles later told Bogdanovich. “Somebody wrote it in French to be published in serial form in the newspapers–to promote the picture. I don’t know how it got under hardcovers, or who got paid for that.”

Welles always denied the book’s authorship, and French actor-writer Maurice Bessy, credited as having translated the book into French, was rumored to be the real author. Film scholar François Thomas in the papers of Louis Dolivet has uncovered documentary proof that Bessy was indeed the author.

Criterion edit (2006)

No version of the film claims to be definitive as Welles never finished editing. This version may be the closest to Welles’s original vision, though its creators expressed doubts about the “correctness” of altering another artist’s work.

It was compiled in 2006 by Stefan Drössler of the Munich Film Museum and Claude Bertemes of the Cinémathèque municipale de Luxembourg, with both Bogdanovich and Rosenbaum as technical assistants. Using English-language footage, it follows Welles’s structure and editing style closely, and also incorporates his comments over the years.

However, Welles remarked that his version began with a woman’s body (Mily) on a beach, including close-up that identifies her. Whilst the Criterion version restores the opening on woman’s body on the beach, only long shot exists (taken from the Corinth version) in which it is unclear whose body it is. No close-up of Mily could be used, as the footage no longer exists.

The Criterion Collection release includes:

The “Corinth” version of the film

Confidential Report version of the film

Copy of the novel

Clips from one of the Spanish versions

The three Harry Lime radio episodes on which the film is based

The Criterion Collection release is now out of print.