The Line: “I started at the top and worked my way down.”
Who Said It: Director, actor and relentless TV pitchman Orson Welles.
The Setup: In 1941, the 25-year-old directorial prodigy made 1941’s Citizen Kane, arguably the greatest film of all time. He then spent the next 45 years struggling–supporting himself with schlock acting roles, grubbing for financial backing and floundering. Near the end of Welles’ life, Gore Vidal invited him several times to his Los Angeles home. Welles always accepted with delight, but an hour before the party, he’d call to beg out: “I have an early call tomorrow. For a commercial. Dog food, I think it is this time. No, I do not eat from the can on camera, but I celebrate the contents. Yes, I have fallen so low.”
The Payoff: Most of the blame falls on Hollywood. Welles was a film artist, but movies are a commodity. Citizen Kane, despite its critical acclaim, didn’t make money. “Hollywood’s all right,” Welles once said. “It’s the movies that are bad.”