Orson Welles Net Worth at Death – Salary, Income, Earnings

Orson Welles Net Worth 

Orson Welles had an estimated net worth of $20 million at death. Orson Welles wrote, directed and starred in the film ‘Citizen Kane,’ among others, which remains one of the most influential films ever made. He earned most of his income from film production. 

Orson Welles began his career on stage before transitioning to radio, where he created his unforgettable version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. In Hollywood, he made an indelible artistic mark with films like Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. On October 10, 1985, he died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California.

To calculate the net worth of Orson Welles, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as personal loans and mortgages, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Orson Welles
Net Worth: $20 Million
Monthly Salary: $100 Thousand
Annual Income: $2 Million
Source of Wealth: Film Director, Film Producer, Screenwriter, Actor, Television Director, Playwright, Film Editor, Theatre Director, Costume Designer, Production Designer

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Early Years

Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on May 6, 1915. Richard and Beatrice, his parents, were both extremely bright people who exposed their son to worlds far beyond his Wisconsin roots.

Welles met actors and athletes through his father, an inventor who made a fortune by inventing a carbide lamp for bicycles. Welles’ mother was a concert pianist who taught him to play the piano and violin.

But his childhood was anything but easy. Welles’ parents divorced when he was four, and his mother, Beatrice, died of jaundice when he was nine. When his father’s once-thriving business began to falter, he turned to alcohol. He died when Orson was 13 years old.

Maurice Bernstein, who took Welles in and became his official guardian when he was 15, provided stability. Bernstein recognized Welles’ creative abilities and enrolled him in the Todd School in Woodstock, Illinois, where he discovered his love of the theater.

Following the Todd School, Welles traveled to Dublin, Ireland, paying his way with a small inheritance. He wowed audiences at the Gate Theatre in a production of Jew Suss.

Welles had declared himself a Broadway star upon his arrival in Dublin. At the age of 19, the brash and self-assured young actor made his Broadway debut as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet. Welles’ performance piqued the interest of director John Houseman, who cast him in his Federal Theatre Project.

‘War of the Worlds’

The Houseman-Welles collaboration proved to be crucial. In 1937, Welles, then 21, formed the Mercury Theatre with Houseman after directing an all-Black cast in a version of Macbeth. Its first production, a modern-day adaptation of Julius Caesar with Fascist-era Italian tones, was a huge success. Several more critically acclaimed stage productions followed before the Mercury entered radio and began producing a weekly program, “The Mercury Theatre on the Air,” which aired on CBS from 1938 to 1940, and again in 1946.

The series received critical acclaim shortly after its debut, but ratings were low. On October 30, 1938, Welles broadcast his adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds.

The program simulated a news broadcast, and Welles, as the narrator, described the alien invasion and attack on New Jersey in excruciating detail. The program included news reports and eyewitness accounts that sounded so real that listeners panicked because they thought they were witnessing a real event. When the truth was revealed, deceived believers were outraged.

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Movies: ‘Citizen Kane’

Even though it enraged some of his listeners, the broadcast cemented Welles’s reputation as a genius, and his abilities quickly became a source of fascination for Hollywood. Welles signed a $225,000 deal with RKO in 1940 to write, direct, and produce two films. The deal gave the young filmmaker complete creative control as well as a cut of the profits, and it was the most lucrative deal ever made with an unproven filmmaker at the time. Welles was only 24 years old at the time.

Success did not come easily. Welles attempted and then abandoned a film adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. That project’s audacity paled in comparison to Welles’ actual debut film, Citizen Kane (1941).

The film, which was based on the life and work of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, told the story of newspaperman Charles Foster Kane (played by Welles), tracing his rise to power and eventual corruption as a result of that power.

The film enraged Hearst, who refused to allow mention of it in any of his newspapers, contributing to the film’s poor box-office performance.

However, Citizen Kane was a groundbreaking work of art.

Welles used a number of groundbreaking techniques in the film, which was nominated for nine Academy Awards (winning one for best screenplay), including the use of deep-focus cinematography to present all objects in a shot in sharp detail. Welles also used low-angle shots to anchor the film’s look and told the story from multiple perspectives.

It was only a matter of time before Citizen Kane’s brilliance was recognized. It is now regarded as one of the best films ever made.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Welles’ second film for RKO, was a far more straightforward project that helped send Welles running from Hollywood. Welles made a quick trip to Rio de Janeiro near the end of filming to do a documentary. When he returned, he discovered that RKO had altered the film’s ending.

Welles, who had disowned the film, was furious. Following a bitter public relations feud between the filmmaker and RKO, Welles was successfully cast by RKO as difficult to work with and unappreciative of budgets, and he never fully recovered.

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Later Years: ‘The Stranger’ and ‘Macbeth’

Welles remained in Hollywood for several years. In 1943, he married “love goddess” Rita Hayworth and starred in a Jane Eyre adaptation that premiered in the United States the following February. Welles went on to direct The Stranger (1946) and Macbeth (1948), but he didn’t stay in California long; the same year he finished Macbeth, he divorced Hayworth and began what amounted to a 10-year self-imposed exile from Hollywood.

Later, he appeared in films such as The Third Man (1949) and directed projects such as Othello (1952) and Mr. Arkadin (1955). In 1958, he returned to Hollywood to direct Touch of Evil, which did poorly at the box office and was followed by an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial (1962).

Welles struggled financially for much of the 1970s. Health issues dominated his life, many of which were caused by his growing obesity (the filmmaker weighed over 400 pounds at one point).

Welles remained active in the last decade of his life. Among his many projects, he was the spokesman for Paul Masson wine, appeared on the TV show Moonlighting, and made a documentary about the making of his 1952 film, Filming Othello (1979).

Welles and Hollywood appeared to reconcile near the end of his life. He received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1975, and the Directors Guild of America’s D.W. Griffith Award, the organization’s highest honor, in 1985.


He gave his final interview on The Merv Griffin Show on October 10, 1985, just two hours before his death. He died of a heart attack not long after returning to his Los Angeles home.

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