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Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane(1941)

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teaser Citizen Kane (1941)

Synopsis

Following the death of a once powerful millionaire, a reporter begins to research his life, looking for clues to the dying man's last remark, 'Rosebud.' As the reporter begins tracing the life of Charles Foster Kane from his early years as the ward of Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris), a wealthy banker, to his monumental career as a newspaper publisher, he interviews several of Kane's former friends and colleagues. Among them are Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotton), the paper's drama critic, Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane), Kane's devoted assistant, and Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore), Kane's second wife. Their memories of the famous tycoon paint an, often contradictory, portrait of an arrogant, intelligent, sometimes generous, and impulsive individual who ended up alone and unhappy in his palatial mansion known as Xanadu. The identity of "Rosebud" is revealed in the final moments of the film, but it's importance to Kane remains a mystery.

Producer/Director: Orson Welles
Screenplay: Herman J. Mankiwiecz, Orson Welles, John Houseman (uncredited)
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Perry Ferguson (associate)
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Costume Design: Edward Stevenson
Editing: Robert Wise
Original Music: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: Orson Welles (Charles Foster Kane), Joseph Cotton (Jedediah Leland), Dorothy Comingore (Susan Alexander), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Mary Kane), Ruth Warrick (Emily Norton Kane), Ray Collins (Boss James "Jim" W. Gettys), Herbert Carter (Everett Sloane).
BW-120m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

Why Citizen Kane is Essential

Controversy has long swirled around the authorship of the screenplay for RKO's Citizen Kane (1941), which brought Oscars® to Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles. As the film was being prepared for release, Welles attempted to claim sole credit and acknowledged the contributions of Mankiewicz only after being forced to do so by the Writers Guild. Critic Pauline Kael, in her 1971 The Citizen Kane Book, revived the debate with her carefully detailed argument that it was Mankiewicz who was primarily responsible for the screenplay, from inception of the idea through the shooting script. And just what was the extent of the uncredited contribution of frequent Welles associate John Houseman? Whatever the balance of the collaboration, this much is known: When Mankiewicz and Welles began work on the script, it was titled American, and its central figure was an even more thinly veiled caricature of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst than appears in the completed film.

Welles' imaginative storytelling skills as a director were reinforced by magnificent performances, beginning with his own in the title role, and groundbreaking techniques in photography, editing and sound. But when the film's highly guarded subject matter was at last revealed at previews in February 1941, Hearst reacted with outrage, forcing repeated postponements of Citizen Kane's premiere with threats of libel and blocking the mention of the film in any of his newspapers. The movie finally opened on May 1, 1941, to brilliant notices. However, pressure from Hearst and his friends in the film industry kept it out of many theaters, and it proved too sophisticated for small-town audiences. The film closed its first run with a loss of some $150,000. It was only after World War II, when it resurfaced in Europe and then on American television, that Citizen Kane took its rightful place as a cinematic masterpiece.

In addition to a Best Original Screenplay Oscar® nomination, Citizen Kane won Academy Award® nominations in eight other categories: Best Picture, Actor (Welles), Director (Welles), Black and White Cinematography, Interior Decoration, Sound Recording, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture and Film Editing. In what now seems an irony, since the film is considered by many the greatest ever made, the screenplay award was its only Oscar® - and some audience members at that year's Academy Awards® ceremonies, allegedly influenced by Hearst columnist Louella Parsons, booed the announcement of that victory.

by Roger Fristoe

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teaser Citizen Kane (1941)

Pop Culture 101 - CITIZEN KANE

When Pauline Kael annotated the similarities between Citizen Kane and Mad Love (1935) in a 1971 New Yorker article on the Welles classic, curious moviegoers made a point to seek out the Peter Lorre horror film. Welles' deployment of certain visual elements (whether intended or not) from Mad Love cannot be denied, from the makeup to the use of a white cockatoo. It's also more than a coincidence that cinematographer Gregg Toland worked on both films.

What set Mad Love apart from other Hollywood horror films of the thirties was the disturbing Expressionist style of director Karl W. Freund. A key German Expressionist cinematographer who had shot The Last Laugh (1924), Metropolis (1927), and Dracula (1931), Freund made his directorial debut with the classic chiller, The Mummy (1932).

As expected from a director who apprenticed at the feet of masters like F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang, Freund applied many of Expressionism's stylistic trademarks, including chiaroscuro lighting, surreal set design, and extreme camera angles. The film's look was a remarkable achievement, given Freund's conflicts with his two different cinematographers, Chester A. Lyons and Gregg Toland. Film critic Pauline Kael attributed much of Toland's later brilliance in Citizen Kane (1941) to the influence of his earlier work on Mad Love.

A documentary about the battle between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst over the production and release of Citizen Kane was the subject of The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996), an Oscar®-nominated film for Best Documentary. And the fictionalized story of RKO 281 (the production number assigned to Citizen Kane), a 1999 cable television film, was at one time slated as a feature film that was to be directed by Ridley Scott. As it turned out, Ridley and brother Tony Scott's Free Productions produced the film for HBO. In February 2001, Turner Classic Movies premiered Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies (2001). This original documentary sets the record straight about Ms. Davies' considerable talent and the vast differences separating her from the fictional Susan Alexander Kane.

Of course, Citizen Kane has not escaped the lampooning eye of prime-time television's longest-running satire, The Simpsons. In the March 18, 1993 episode (#1F01) entitled "Rosebud," misanthropic billionaire Montgomery Burns is severely depressed on his birthday and longs for his lost childhood teddy bear, Bobo, an allusion to Kane's Rosebud. The opening shot of Burns Manor parodies Citizen Kane's opening of the "no trespassing" sign by adding a few new signs: "Warning, Keep Out," "Danger, Electrified Fence," "Trespassers Will Be Shot," and "Free Kittens, Inquire Within." The scene in which Burns breaks snow globes riffs on Citizen Kane, as well.

Director Steven Spielberg paid homage to the famous ending of Citizen Kane with the epilogue to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). After a full two hours of watching Indiana Jones pursue the elusive Lost Ark of the Covenant, the priceless artifact is ignominiously and unceremoniously crated and buried in a vast warehouse, much like the fate of "Rosebud" at the end of Citizen Kane.

by Scott McGee

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teaser Citizen Kane (1941)

CITIZEN KANE - Trivia and Other Fun Stuff

Citizen Kane was withdrawn from general release after a year, eventually reflecting a loss of $150,000. But TV revived the film's fortunes, after it became one of the first films to be sold to television. With numerous airings, the film found a newer, wider audience and earned the praise once denied it because of the influence welded by the Hearst empire.

Joseph Cotten made his screen debut as Kane's life-long friend, Jedediah Leland. The part was modeled on two well-known show biz personalities: Cotten's own agent, Leland Hayward, and producer Jed Harris. Cotten later showed a propensity (or maybe it was just blind luck) for starring or co-starring in some of the cinema's landmark films. He appeared in several more Orson Welles projects, including The Magnificent Ambersons (1943), Touch of Evil (1958), and he co-starred with Welles in director Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949). Alfred Hitchcock used him with chilling effect in Shadow of a Doubt (1943). In addition to the pivotal role in Citizen Kane, Cotten also shows up as one of the reporters watching the newsreel at the beginning of the flick. Look closely or you'll miss him.

Other actors making their screen debuts in Citizen Kane: Agnes Moorhead, Everett Sloane, Dorothy Comingore, Ruth Warrick, George Couloris, Paul Stewart, Ray Collins, and Orson Welles. Future movie star Alan Ladd made his debut as well, playing one of the shadowy reporters glimpsed at the beginning of the flick. He can also be seen more prominently at the end of the picture when chief reporter William Alland sums up his findings. Ladd holds a pipe and his hat is slightly cocked on his head. Ladd would hit the big time the very next year as Raven the hitman in This Gun For Hire (1942).

William Alland plays Thompson, the chief reporter investigating the mystery of "Rosebud." Alland was an actor and former stage manager for Orson Welles' Mercury Theater and assistant director of that company's radio series. He also served as dialogue director for Citizen Kane. After appearing for Welles in The Lady From Shanghai (1948) and Macbeth (1948), Alland turned to producing in 1952. Among his credits are such science fiction classics, as It Came From Outer Space (1953), The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), This Island Earth (1955), The Mole People (1956), and The Deadly Mantis (1957).

Gossip columnist Louella Parsons believed that Charles Foster Kane was a thinly veiled, slanderous portrait of her boss, William Randolph Hearst. As a consequence, Parsons successfully motivated her boss to declare war on RKO, Orson Welles, and Citizen Kane with a total boycott of the film's advertisement in all Hearst-owned and operated newspapers and media outlets. This move severely disrupted the film's release and damaged its box office potential, despite generally glowing critical reviews. Oddly enough, Hearst strangely enjoyed the film as a treatise on him and his empire, but he could not tolerate how his mistress, Marion Davies, was reflected in the Susan Alexander Kane character.

Further opposition was mobilized against Welles by a coalition of Hollywood studio moguls that were whipped into a frenzy by Louella Parsons. Personally, bigwigs like Jack Warner, David O. Selznick, or Harry Cohn were not threatened by the film, but they did feel heat from Parsons and her boss, W.R. Hearst. Apparently, they were not sure what incriminating evidence, if any, Parsons had on them and any of their contracted stars. The ringleader of this coalition was MGM boss Louis B. Mayer, who went a long way back with Hearst, all the way to when Marion Davies was a box office draw at MGM. Mayer and other studio heads pooled their resources and approached RKO president George Schaefer with a bid of upwards of $800,000 to buy and then burn the negative and all the prints. This was a tempting offer since the near-million would have provided RKO with a tidy profit on their initial investment and would have looked much more attractive to the stockholders than the black-eye the studio was receiving in Hollywood and in Hearst's newspapers. However, backed by RKO's benefactor in New York, Nelson Rockefeller, Schaefer turned the offer down, and countered the offer by threatening a lawsuit. The coalition, fearful of reprisals the studios couldn't afford, backed down. Parsons and company kept the heat turned up on Welles, even going so far as to get the federal government involved when allegations of Welles' political leanings were called into question.

Welles denied that Kane was wholly drawn from Hearst: "It is not based upon the life of Mr. Hearst or anyone else. On the other hand, had Mr. Hearst and similar financial barons not lived during the period we discuss, Citizen Kane could not have been made." Welles' partial portrait of Hearst was close enough to the mark to draw a 1948 lawsuit against the boy wonder director from Ferdinand Lundberg, author of Imperial Hearst, A Social Biography, published in 1936. The suit was settled out of court.

On the same night Citizen Kane opened in San Francisco, Orson Welles found himself sharing a hotel elevator with none other than William Randolph Hearst. Welles introduced himself and asked Hearst if he would like to come to the opening of the picture. Hearst maintained an icy silence. As Hearst got off the elevator, Welles said, "Charles Foster Kane would have accepted."

In 1971, film critic Pauline Kael argued that it was Herman Mankiewicz's script that pushed the film into the pantheon of great American movies. She implied that Welles' own credit as screenwriter was inaccurate. Filmmaker and critic Peter Bogdanovich answered in favor of Welles. The two writers traded barbed comments and well-documented arguments in print, essentially duking it out as surrogates for their heroes. The debate over who was right continues today.

Louella Parsons wrote in her autobiography Tell It to Louella, twenty years after the release of Citizen Kane, "I believe I have carried only one grudge for any length of time and that was against Orson Welles...I am still horrified by the picture...The boy genius certainly used all his talents just to do a hatchet job." Part of the reason Parsons was so incensed by Welles and his movie is that she considered herself a friend of his family in Grande Tour, Illinois. When she caught wind that Welles' first picture at RKO was going to be about her boss, W.R. Hearst, she dialed him up. He assured her that the picture was "about a completely fictional publisher." But then he surprised Parsons by showing her chief rival, Hedda Hopper, a personal screening of the unfinished picture. According to Parsons, Hopper couldn't wait to tell Hearst that his own gossip watchdog failed him. Because of Welles' perceived double cross and the embarrassing situation she fell into, Parsons and a flood of black ink fell upon Citizen Kane, damaging its box office take severely. Meanwhile, Hopper became Welles' biggest Hollywood booster with a six-part radio program glorifying Welles' life and accomplishments.

Steven Spielberg paid $55,000 for one of the three original Rosebuds in 1982. Spielberg made the purchase by telephone during an auction at Sotheby's in New York City. While one of the duplicate sleds had been burned as part of the movie's ending, some sources say that two sleds were destroyed for the cameras, leaving only one sled left. But according to others, one of the remaining Rosebuds was given to Tom Mankiewicz, the son of Herman Mankiewicz, who had co-written the film with Welles.

Although their union was a well-known fact, Hearst's long extra-marital relationship with Marion Davies was never mentioned in Hollywood papers, even in Hearst's rival scandal sheets.

Legend has it that Herman Mankiewicz used "Rosebud" as an inside joke, because as a friend of Marion Davies, he knew "rosebud" was William Randolph Hearst's pet name for the most intimate part of her anatomy. This possibility was given some credence in an essay written for the New York Review of Books by Gore Vidal, a close friend of Hearst.

In the famous dinner table montage, Emily refers to an unidentified, "ghastly" or "dreadful" gift given to Kane's infant son by Mr. Bernstein. Although the object is never identified or referred to again, some film scholars think that Emily is referring to a Jewish symbol, such as a Menorah or a Star of David. Given Emily's blue-blood background and the prejudices of the era, it is likely that the script is hinting at a deep-rooted anti-Semitism.

When Welles was asked by friends how Kane's last words could have been heard when he died alone, Welles reportedly stared for a long time before saying, "Don't you ever tell anyone of this."

While their past histories were extremely rocky, Orson Welles wrote a glowing foreword in 1975 for Marion Davies' memoir, The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst. Welles maintained in the three-page introduction that the fictional character of Susan Alexander "bears no resemblance at all" to Marion Davies. Welles admits that he contributed to the misinterpretation of Davies' career but that he reveled in the ability to set the record straight. He proclaimed: "Marion Davies was one of the most delightfully accomplished comediennes in the whole history of the screen. She would have been a star if Hearst had never happened. She was a delightful and very considerable person. The proof is in this book, and I commend it to you."

William Randolph Hearst III said in 1985 that he enjoyed Citizen Kane and that Welles could visit his grandfather's San Simeon estate anytime he pleased - "on my tab."

One of Hollywood's greatest screenwriters commenting on one of Hollywood's greatest directors: "There but for the grace of God, goes God." - Herman Mankiewicz on Orson Welles.

Many scenes in Citizen Kane were shot during arduous, all night shoots. Many times after pulling a difficult all-nighter, Welles and the rest of the cast and crew would sit on the curb at RKO and drink cocktails at 6:30 a.m., instead of 6:30 p.m. when every other "normal" Hollywood actor or crew member would break for refreshment.

Welles ran the film across cheesecloth to make the newsreel on Kane's death look as rough as the real thing.

There is a sparing use of facial close-ups in the film. The Mercury Theater Players' style of theatrical gestures and mannerisms were unsuited to studio intercutting of close ups.

Dorothy Comingore was pregnant at the time of filming. This required much preparation and camera trickery from cinematographer Gregg Toland.

The scene of the reporters watching the newsreel was filmed in an RKO projection room. Susan's nightclub was a set normally used for Westerns.

It has been estimated that up to 80% of the shots in Citizen Kane employ some degree of trickery or special effects.

The use of the subjective camera, where the camera lens takes on an omniscient movement, is seen in the opening segments of the film and in the camera pan into Susan's nightclub. Welles was planning to use the first person point of view camera throughout his initial RKO project, an aborted attempt at adapting Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. However, once the budget bloomed beyond the confines of RKO's bank account, Welles abandoned the project but still used the subjective camera method in parts of Citizen Kane. Hollywood actor Robert Montgomery later used this device in his directorial debut, an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Lady in the Lake (1946).

Gregg Toland's greatest contribution to the production was his use of deep focus photography. The term refers to a strategy of lighting, composition, and lens choice that allows everything in the frame, from front to back, to be in focus simultaneously. With the lighting and lenses available in 1941, this was just becoming possible, and Toland had experimented with deep focus in John Ford's The Long Voyage Hom (1940). Toland had been particularly devoted to the deep focus lensing pioneered by James Wong Howe's work in Transatlantic (1930) and developed his craft with such classics as Les Miserables (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and Wuthering Heights (1939).

The interiors of Kane's Xanadu are based on magazine photos of San Simeon, where Welles and Mankiewicz had both been guests. The exteriors are said to be based on the castle in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Famous Quotes from CITIZEN KANE

Charles Foster Kane: As Charles Foster Kane who owns eighty-two thousand, six hundred and thirty-four shares of public transit - you see, I do have a general idea of my holdings - I sympathize with you. Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel. His paper should be run out of town. A committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars.

Susan: Forty-nine acres of nothing but scenery and statues. I'm lonesome.

Thompson: Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted, and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost. Anyway, I don't think it would have explained everything. I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle... a missing piece.

Charles Foster Kane: You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man.
Thatcher: Don't you think you are?
Charles Foster Kane: I think I did pretty well under the circumstances.
Thatcher: What would you like to have been?
Charles Foster Kane: Everything you hate.

Charles Foster Kane: Hello Jedediah.
Leland: Hello, Charlie. I didn't know we were speaking...
Charles Foster Kane: Sure, we're speaking, Jedediah - you're fired.

Emily: Really Charles, people will think-...
Charles Foster Kane: ---what I tell them to think.

Bernstein: President's niece, huh? Before Mr. Kane's through with her, she'll be a president's wife.

Emily: He happens to be the President, Charles, not you.
Charles Foster Kane: That's a mistake that will be corrected one of these days.

Bernstein: There's a lot of statues in Europe you haven't bought yet.
Charles Foster Kane: You can't blame me. They've been making statues for some two thousand years, and I've only been collecting for five.

Charles Foster Kane: You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in... 60 years.

Compiled by Scott McGee

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teaser Citizen Kane (1941)

The Big Idea Behind CITIZEN KANE

Orson Welles' patented recipe for creating the character, Charles Foster Kane, included these ingredients:

- one gallon of William Randolph Hearst, the billionaire newspaper baron whose waning power and influence left him vulnerable to young upstarts like the 25 yearold Orson Welles.

- two quarts of Orson Welles himselfaccording to John Houseman, the Mercury Theater cofounder and a producer on Citizen Kane, Charles Foster Kane was based largely on Welles. Houseman points out the scene where Kane demolishes Susan's dressing room. He maintains that the scene "was definitely inspired by the great final scene of separation between Orson and me when he threw four flaming dish warmers at me. The same kind of insane destruction at the loss of something that he really felt very strongly about was used there..." Furthermore, Kane's early life, his appetite, and his ascendancy to power resembles Welles more more than it does Hearst.

- 2/3 cup of munitions magnate Basil Zaharoff.

- 1/2 cup of millionaire stock swindler Ivar Kreuger.

- 4 tablespoons of Jules Brulatour, the Kodak chief who tried to turn his wife into a respected opera singer.

- 2 tablespoons of Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine. Although Citizen Kane was seen as an attack on W.R. Hearst, it also took aim at Luce's concept of faceless group journalism, as then practiced in Tim and the March of Time newsreels, which the "News on the March" deliberately parodies. The reason you do not see any of the reporters is that Welles and Mankiewicz were ribbing the anonymity of Luce's writers and editors.

- 10 ounces of Chicago newspaper czar Harold McCormick (of the Chicago Tribune family), who left his wife, Edith Rockefeller McCormick, after being seduced by a Polish prima donna named Ganna Walska. McCormick was the chief sponsor of the Chicago Opera Company and used his influence to have Walska cast in the opera Zaza. Frances Alda, one of the most expensive voice coaches in the world, was hired to make a singer out of Walska, a task that was in vain because Walska had an awful voice, and Zaza went down as one of the bigger disasters of 1920. Eventually, Walska walked out on McCormick, but he chased her to Europe where she convinced him that the only way to cure his impotence problem was to have thyroid glands from monkeys transplanted into his own body by a European quack. Word has it that Welles was fascinated with this story in his youth.

- Add a pinch of plot similarity to I Loved a Woman (1933), a story about a millionaire merchant who collects artwork and sponsors a struggling opera singer, and profits from selling $50 million dollars' worth of spoiled meat to soldiers in the SpanishAmerican War.

- Sprinkle a dash of flashback technique which was used in both A Man to Remember (1938), the story of a country doctor and his career, and The Power and the Glor (1933), starring Spencer Tracy as a railroad employee who rises to become the wealthy president of the company.

- Set the patented RKObrand production oven to bake. Cook for several months. Serve to public on May 1, 1941.

by Scott McGee

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teaser Citizen Kane (1941)

Behind the Camera on CITIZEN KANE

Orson Welles brought New York actress Ruth Warrick out to Hollywood to test for the part of Emily Norton Kane. He tempted her by telling her that he was looking for a real lady, a woman of charm and good upbringing, to play the part. He was not looking for someone who could act like a lady, but an actual lady. After several tests of Hollywood actresses, Welles came to the conclusion that "there are no ladies in Hollywood." Warrick flew out for a screen test and was awarded the part.

The excesses that Welles exhibited during production offer a glimpse of the madness behind his method. According to Ruth Warrick, the actress who portrays Emily Norton Kane, Welles was not in good shape at the beginning of production. When principal photography began, Welles was suffering from the effects of caffeine poisoning as the result of consuming thirty to forty cups of coffee a day. Welles then switched to tea, figuring that the hassle of having to brew the beverage would naturally limit his intake. But Welles had someone on call to brew the tea for him, and within two weeks, Welles was the color of tannic acid. It was also reported that he would go for long periods without eating, then put away two or three large steaks with side items at one sitting.

During the violent rampage through Susan Alexander's bedroom, Welles badly gashed his left hand. Luckily, the camera did not capture his injury or else expensive retakes would have been in order. Welles also spent some time in a wheelchair, due to an injured ankle sustained when he fell down the staircase in the scene between Kane and Boss Gettys (Ray Collins). This untimely accident forced Joseph Cotten to jump feet first into his first and most important scene, the interview between the aged Jed Leland and the reporter. Poor Joe had to start shooting without a finished script or any idea when he would have to report to the set in order to have the old age makeup applied: 4:00 a.m. Cotten shot the scene in one day, but had to return a few days later to re-shoot the scene, due to an unconvincing wig. While the makeup artists were making a new wig for the scene, Cotten went to Tex's Tennis Shop and bought a tennis sun visor that his character eventually wore throughout the scene.

The cast of Citizen Kane enjoyed a close camaraderie with director Orson Welles and with each other, with the exception of Dorothy Comingore (Susan Alexander Kane). Welles treated her with contempt on the set, while showing only courtesy to Ruth Warrick, who played the first Mrs. Kane. Warrick objected to the shabby treatment that was obvious to everyone on the set. But Welles explained, "I treat her that way because she's got to hate my guts when we get to the later scenes. When she yells and screams and finally walks out on me, I want her to feel every bit of it in her bones." Warrick argued that an actress does not have to suffer real abuse in order to show those emotions. But Welles said, "That's just the point. She is not an actress. She is Susan Alexander, and she'll probably end up just like the woman she's playing. I'm not mistreating her. I treat her exactly as she expects to be treated. She wouldn't respect anything else." Comingore's subsequent life played out like a bad melodrama. Her film career after Citizen Kane came to a grinding halt when she was blacklisted in 1951 for her affiliation with known Communist Party members. Her final film was The Big Night (1951), directed by Joseph Losey (also blacklisted). Her personal life was also rocky. A few years after the release of Citizen Kane, her marriage failed. Once her ex-husband won custody of their children, Comingore became an alcoholic and frequented nightspots, telling willing patrons her tales of woe. It was later reported that she was arrested for solicitation on Hollywood Boulevard. Her sad life came to an end in 1971.

Many scenes in Citizen Kane were shot during arduous, all night shoots. Many times after pulling a difficult all-nighter, Welles and the rest of the cast and crew would sit on the curb at RKO and drink cocktails at 6:30 a.m., instead of 6:30 p.m. when every other "normal" Hollywood actor or crew member would break for refreshment.

Gregg Toland used faster film and much more powerful lighting that made it possible to get deep focus shots. Toland also used a self-blimped (self-muffling) camera, which meant that Welles had the freedom of greater camera movement. Some historical and critical accounts credit Welles for being the first to place ceilings prominently in shots. While Welles certainly used these extreme low-angle shots to great effect, going so far as to dig a hole in the soundstage floor to get a low enough angle, he most likely got the idea from John Ford's Stagecoach (1939). Welles has admitted that he learned filmmaking from Ford and Stagecoach in particular. He claimed to have watched the film 40 times during the production of Citizen Kane. Once asked whom he considered his influences, Welles remarked, "The old masters, by who I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford."

In the scene where Kane and his entourage set off for the beach from Xanadu, large birds are seen flying across the background. In fact, the background was lifted from a science fiction film to reduce costs, and the birds are, in fact, pterodactyls. The prehistoric beasties were probably lifted from either King Kong (1933) or Son of Kon (1933).

Despite the enormous controversy surrounding Citizen Kane, the film actually passed the review of the Hays Office, the self-regulatory censorship office that set production codes in Hollywood. It's actually surprising that the film passed without incident, given the power that someone like William Randolph Hearst could have brought to bear on such an organization.

Susan Alexander Kane's disastrous debut in the opera world is accompanied by a libretto written not by the film's composer, Bernard Herrmann, but by producer John Houseman. According to Houseman, Herrmann had decided not to use a scene from a standard opera but to create one on his own. He decided that it should be a French opera and asked Houseman to write it. Houseman hurriedly assembled a mixed bag from Racine's "Athalie", "Phe," and others. It did not make any sense. As lip-synched by Dorothy Comingore, the opera is barely intelligible, but Welles built one of the film's most visually striking sequences.

Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz wrote the balance of the screenplay for this film from a hospital bed recovering from an illness. But his poor health was the least of his worries. Welles eventually tried to claim sole credit for the screenplay, an action that Mankiewicz was determined to prevent. He countered with arbitration with the Screen Writers Guild, the organization that settles disputes over screenwriting credit. The Guild ruled in favor of Mankiewicz and he won top billing over Welles' name on the title card.

The true unsung hero behind the production of Citizen Kane is an artist named Perry Ferguson, the primary creator of the ornate sets and the film's dazzling art direction. While Van Nest Polglase was RKO's administrative head of the art department, it was Ferguson who Welles hired to create sets that looked expensive, but were wholly reflective of the film's severely limited budget. Ferguson ended up doing his job so well that Citizen Kane remains a textbook example to this day of how to function creatively under severe budgetary constraints. Indeed, when Welles reported to RKO studio chief George Schaefer, he proudly stated that the film is deceptively much less expensive than it looked on the screen. And speaking of Schaefer, he too deserves plenty of accolades for standing up courageously for Welles and the film in front of his fellow studio chiefs and the RKO board of directors.

by Scott McGee

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teaser Citizen Kane (1941)

The Critics' Corner on CITIZEN KANE

The major newsweeklies had glowing remarks for Citizen Kane. Time (March 17, 1941) called the film "the most sensational product of the U.S. movie industry. It has found important new techniques in picture making and story-telling. Artful and artfully artlessit is a work of art created by grown people for grown people." Not to be undone, The Nation hailed the picture in its April 26, 1941 issue as "probably the most original, exciting, and entertaining picture that has yet been produced in this country." John O'Hara's review in Newsweek (March 17, 1941) commented on the Hearst empire blackout that would prohibit many viewers from seeing the picture: "It is with exceeding regret that your faithful bystander reports that he has just seen a picture which he thinks must be the best picture he ever saw... It lacks nothing." Of course, not everyone thought so highly of the film. A review for The New Republic (June 2, 1941) found the film unexceptional and felt it held "no great place" in the annuals of cinema.

"..no one will dispute that Kane is still regarded as Welles's most important film. In technical virtuosity and dramatic structure it is the most influential work of the sound era, the picture to which not only Welles films but all films must, inevitably, be compared. Kane is a cinematic reference point which should be seen over and over again to learn the language of film, to learn its potential as a storytelling medium and as an outlet for personal and artistic expression." - Danny Peary, Cult Movies.

Citizen Kane has the dimensions of a tragedy, but the tragedy is expressed in a dazzling cluster of cinematic metaphors and devices. Quite suddenly, in 1941, the cinema comes of age, with a film that - triumphantly, vividly - proclaims its independence and its mesmeric fascination." - Peter Cowie, Eighty Years of Cinema.

"The essence of the film lies in its story, comparable to a great modern novel, and in its often expressionistic style. It studies Kane from every aspect, accentuating his egotism and his loneliness. Welles (who himself had some of Kane's characterics incarnated Kane and, despite some misuse of make-up, is an imposing presence who pushes all the other actors...into the background." - Georges sadoul, Dictionary of Films.

Awards & Honors

In 1998, Citizen Kane is voted the #1 film of all time by the American Film Institute.

In a poll of 250 of the world's film critics' "Ten Best Lists" conducted every ten years, Sight and Sound, a reputable film magazine published by the British Film Institute, Citizen Kane placed first in the 1992 poll. It held that top spot in the 1982, 1972, and 1962 poll. Ironically, it did not place at all in 1952's poll.

The other films on the 1992 list:

2. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
3. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
4. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
6. (tie) L'Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934), The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer, 1928), Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955), and Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925).
10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968).

While Citizen Kane is now routinely considered the benchmark of excellence in American filmmaking, the Academy Awards® didn't think so highly of the film in 1941. Nominated for nine Academy Awards® including Best Picture, Actor (Orson Welles), Director, Score (of a Dramatic Picture), Cinematography (Black-and-White), Art Direction/Interior Decoration (Black-and-White), Sound Recording, and Film Editing, the film walked off with only one Oscar® - for Best Original Screenplay. The film even earned a chorus of "boos" when the nominations were first announced. Welles himself was granted an honorary Academy Award® in 1970, for "superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures."

Perhaps the film's most unique superlative can be found in film reviews for other films. When a film is praised as being the best in its class, some critics reference the Orson Welles masterpiece, as in one review for Bab (1995) that hailed the sweet fantasy as "the Citizen Kane of pig movies."

Celebrated writer-director Preston Sturges presented the Academy Awardreg; for Best Original Screenplay to Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles on February 26, 1942 in Los Angeles. The victorious duo was not present though, so RKO chief George Schaefer accepted on its behalf. Mankiewicz stayed home that night because, as his wife explained, "He did not want to be humiliated. He thought he'd get mad and do something drastic when he didn't win." Had the Hollywood veteran been there, he would have been glad to hear a chorus of people screaming, "Mank! Mank! Mank! Mank!" Still, many people booed the winners. But according to Louella Parson's biographer George Eells, "Privately, many of the same people who booed conceded that it was a superb film but the popular stance was to pretend disapproval."

Compiled by Scott McGee

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teaser Citizen Kane (1941)

Controversy has long swirled around the authorship of the screenplay for RKO's Citizen Kane (1941), which brought Oscars to Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles. As the film was being prepared for release, Welles attempted to claim sole credit and acknowledged the contributions of Mankiewicz only after being forced to do so by the Writers Guild. Critic Pauline Kael, in her 1971 The Citizen Kane Book, revived the debate with her carefully detailed argument that it was Mankiewicz who was primarily responsible for the screenplay, from inception of the idea through the shooting script. And just what was the extent of the uncredited contribution of frequent Welles associate John Houseman? Whatever the balance of the collaboration, this much is known: When Mankiewicz and Welles began work on the script, it was titled American, and its central figure was an even more thinly veiled caricature of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst than appears in the completed film.

Welles' imaginative storytelling style as a director was reinforced by magnificent performances, beginning with his own in the title role, and groundbreaking techniques in photography, editing and sound. But when the film's highly guarded subject matter was at last revealed at previews in February 1941, Hearst reacted with outrage, forcing repeated postponements of Citizen Kane's premiere with threats of libel and refusing to have the film mentioned in any of his newspapers. The movie finally opened on May 1, 1941, to brilliant notices. However, pressure from Hearst and his friends in the film industry kept it out of many theaters, and it proved too sophisticated for small-town audiences. The film closed its first run with a loss of some $150,000. It was only after World War II, when it resurfaced in Europe and then on American television, that Citizen Kane took its rightful place as a cinematic masterpiece.

Citizen Kane won Oscar nominations in eight other categories: Best Picture, Actor (Welles), Director (Welles), Black and White Cinematography, Interior Decoration, Sound Recording, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture and Film Editing. In what now seems an irony, since the film is considered by many the greatest ever made, the screenplay award was its only Oscar;and some audience members at that year's Academy Awards ceremonies, allegedly influenced by Hearst columnist Louella Parsons, booed the announcement of that victory.

Producer/Director: Orson Welles
Screenplay: Herman J. Mankiwiecz, Orson Welles, John Houseman (uncredited)
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Perry Ferguson (associate)
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Costume Design: Edward Stevenson
Editing: Robert Wise
Original Music: Bernard Herrmann
Principal Cast: Orson Welles (Charles Foster Kane), Joseph Cotton (Jedediah Leland), Dorothy Comingore (Susan Alexander), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Mary Kane), Ruth Warrick (Emily Norton Kane), Ray Collins (Boss James "Jim" W. Gettys), Herbert Carter (Everett Sloane)
BW-120m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

By Roger Fristoe

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