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August 23, 2014

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Orson Welles’ camera, other items up for auction

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Heritage Auctions / AP

This photo provided by Heritage Auctions shows Orson Welles’ personal copy of a souvenir program from his classic 1941 film, “Citizen Kane,” which is among the legendary actor, director and scriptwriter’s items consigned by his daughter, Beatrice Welles, that will be offered by Heritage Auctions in New York City on April 26, 2014.

PHOENIX — The youngest daughter of director and writer Orson Welles is giving film buffs a chance to buy some of his personal possessions, including a camera, scripts and photos from the set of "Citizen Kane."

Beatrice Welles discovered the relics last year in boxes and trunks and decided to put them up for auction. She said her father would have preferred making the memorabilia available to film buffs and fans as opposed to sending them to a museum.

"It's about the last thing he would've wanted. He just did not believe in schooling, he did not believe in academic things," Beatrice Welles said in a telephone interview from her Sedona, Ariz., home. "And museums kind of have that connotation and I thought 'No, this is not right for him.'"

In all, she is handing more than 70 items over to Heritage Auctions, which will stage the auction on April 26.

Margaret Barrett, director of entertainment-related auctions, declined to speculate on any possible bidding amounts but said she expects all the lots to fetch decent bids.

"People are still talking about him decades after his death," Barrett said. "One of the enduring signs of fame is when young people know who someone is — someone who might have passed away decades ago."

Barrett said she thinks Welles' old Bell & Howell movie camera will be one of the bigger sellers. According to his daughter, he used the camera for home movies. In fact, one of the photos in another lot up for bidding shows Welles using the camera to record a bullfight in Spain.

Other items are reminders of Welles' more painful Hollywood experiences. Two scripts for "The Magnificent Ambersons," a 1942 film he wrote and directed, reveal two different endings Welles had in mind; neither ended up in the film. The movie, which centers on a spoiled heir's attempt to keep his mother from marrying her first love, was famously re-edited by someone else.

"They kept on changing his pictures around and not letting him finish them. That hurt him," Beatrice Welles said. "The only one he was allowed to do completely from start to end was 'Citizen Kane.'"

Long considered Welles' masterpiece for its innovations in editing and cinematography, the 1941 "Citizen Kane" follows the lonely life of wealthy publishing magnate Charles Foster Kane.

Not among the auction cache is any Rosebud-type childhood memento of Welles'. Rosebud was the name of the sled mourned by the titular character in "Kane" that burns at the end of the film. According to Beatrice Welles, director Steven Spielberg bought a version of the sled in 1982, also at auction, and was later teased by her father about its authenticity.

"My father and Steven were having lunch and my father said 'I hate to tell you something, but there was only one sled in Citizen Kane. Do you remember the ending?'"

Nearly 30 years after Welles' 1985 death, Beatrice Welles said she was finally emotionally strong enough to sift through boxes of her famous father's possessions. Her mother, Italian actress Paola Mori, died less than year after Welles. The double loss was devastating.

"When they died ... I just couldn't even look at the stuff," she said.

Celebrity interactions and globe-trotting made up Beatrice Welles' unconventional upbringing, where her father's "Moviola editing machine was like part of our luggage."

By the age of 3, Beatrice Welles was getting an education any film student would have loved. She often sat on her father's lap while he cut movies in the editing room. As she got older, she even pitched in.

"I'd get the two pieces of whatever celluloid film it is on the machine. ... He would tell me where to cut and I would cut and do it for him," Beatrice Welles said.

Her father wasn't always comfortable with being revered as a film genius, she said.

"He would say, 'There are only probably three geniuses ever that existed, one of them being Einstein. I don't put myself in that category.'"

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