Finishing Welles’ film became her mission

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Jillian Kesner-Graver, 58, the widow of Orson Welles’ last cinematographer who continued trying to raise money to complete the gifted director’s final film after the death of her husband late last year, died Dec. 5.

Kesner-Graver, an actress who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, died from a staph infection at Irvine Regional Hospital and Medical Center, her family said.

Her husband, Gary Graver, worked with Welles on 15 projects and was trying to finish the director’s last film, “The Other Side of the Wind,” when Welles died in 1985. For decades, the couple campaigned to complete the movie.

“To finish that film was the most important thing in his life,” Kesner-Graver told The Times when her husband died of cancer. She vowed to continue trying to raise the estimated $3.5 million needed to finish the work.


Born Aug. 9, 1949, in Portsmouth, Va., Kesner-Graver earned a bachelor’s degree in business from a Colorado university in 1967 and moved to Los Angeles two years later. She started out as a model and acted in mainly low-budget films, including starring in the kickboxing movie “Firecracker” (1981).

She met her future husband while making “The Student Body” (1976) and was a production coordinator on several of his films. They were married 25 years.

Kesner-Graver had homes in Los Angeles and Rancho Mirage.