History of the production
In March 1955, Associated-Rediffusion had originally commissioned a series of 26 half-hour programmes, but in the end, only 6 were broadcast, and even then, in rather troubled circumstances. Before a contract had even been signed, Welles had rapidly shot a pilot episode himself (the third episode broadcast, “Revisiting Vienna”) using loaned money and on the basis of an informal agreement. As Welles had made an agreement with producer Louis Dolivet in 1953 to work exclusively for him (beginning with their troubled film production Mr. Arkadin), Dolivet was brought on board as the series producer.
The filming schedule was ambitious. Once the contract was signed, Welles was expected to make a further 25 episodes in 25 weeks spread out over nine months, with the first broadcast scheduled for September 1955. However, Welles’s other commitments interfered with his ability to meet deadlines, and much of the series was left incomplete. Welles spent much of 1955 working on writing, directing and acting in his London stage production Moby Dick—Rehearsed, and after that flopped on the West End, he switched to shooting an (aborted) film adaptation of the play, first in London, and then in Rome – filming Moby Dick—Rehearsed in Rome was under the pretext of working on the Around the World with Orson Welles TV series.
Although Associated-Rediffusion retained a number of rights, including approval of episode synopses, script approval, music approval, and viewing rights for the rushes and final cut, film scholars Jean-Pierre Berthomé and Francois Thomas argue that Welles remained in control much of the time, due to the fragmentary, piecemeal way in which much of the footage was shot, with the writer/director/presenter being the only person who could piece it all together. For instance, Welles shot most of his interviews with only one camera, focussed on the interviewee, and all of the reverse shots of him asking questions had to be shot later in a studio. Frequently, Welles’s entire episodes would be heavily studio-dependent; his entire participation in an episode on bullfighting consisted of filming himself entering and sitting down at a bullfight, then filming the bullfight; and the reconstructing part of the audience seats in a studio, so he could record his bullfight commentary months after having watched it.
The first episode missed its initial broadcast deadline, and it was still not finished when it went out the following month – Welles had to provide the voiceover himself, live from Rome, when it was broadcast in the UK. The second episode was missing a voiceover in several sections. The third and fifth episodes, were the most complete.
Welles had effectively abandoned the production to move back to the USA at the end of 1955, so the fourth and sixth episodes were particularly badly hit. Episode four, on the Paris district of St.-Germain-des-Prés, had to be padded out with stock footage from other documentaries. Episode six had only half the necessary footage, so it was padded out by having two friends of Welles’s, Kenneth Tynan and Elaine Dundy (who had been present at the same bullfight he recorded), become guest hosts for the first half of the episode, until the existing footage of Welles could be used. The seventh episode was not originally completed or broadcast.