CITIZEN KANE (1941)
Citizen Kane was withdrawn from general release after a year, eventually reflecting a loss of $150,000.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