...no previous biographer has so expertly and convincingly analyzed Welles the creative dynamo, from his ebullient love of what Callow calls 'Higher Hokum' to the depths of rue in his recurring themes of loss and betrayal ... One-Man Band is an exhilarating reminder that his true greatness began once he’d put Kane’s virtuoso precocity behind him.
In the years since Welles’s death in 1985, many books about him have filled their pages with varying degrees of pedantic journalism, but Simon Callow’s prose is something to bask in. The distinguished actor and director understands Welles the way Welles understood Falstaff. His tone is sympathetic, often amused and occasionally aghast ... One-Man Band is the richest as well as the best of Mr. Callow’s three books on the protean rogue he chose as his subject. It is the author’s monument, his Chimes at Midnight.”
One Man Band rumbles along, engrossingly at times, though it shares with all multi-volume biographies the problem of sustaining momentum. Lives don’t have plots, they have only movements and phases. The good biographer tries to resist the rut of merely telling one thing after another, but it’s a struggle. Callow writes with energy and purpose, and the last quarter of the book is enlivened by two very different creative triumphs ... [Welles] has been lucky to have Callow as a biographer, balancing warmth with scepticism, fondness with reproof.
Much of the joy in reading this book is the humor with which Callow infuses the narrative. It's hard to imagine a more engaging tour guide ... One-Man Band says little about Welles' personal life, which, in the years covered here, included marriage to his third wife and the birth of a daughter. But one can't fault Callow for keeping the spotlight on the work of a man who was all about his work.