RKO 281 (1999)

TV Movie  |  R  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  20 November 1999 (USA)
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Orson Welles produces his greatest film, Citizen Kane (1941), despite the opposition of the film's de facto subject, William Randolph Hearst.



, (documentary "The Battle Over Citizen Kane"), 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 13 wins & 27 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
George Schaefer
Anastasia Hille ...
Simeon Andrews ...
William Armstrong ...
Mr. Lewis
Jay Benedict ...


Coming to Hollywood as a celebrated boy genius featuring a spectacular career arc in New York including his radio hoax War of the Worlds, Orson Welles is stymied on the subject for his first film. After a dinner party at Hearst Castle, during which he has a verbal altercation with William Randolph Hearst, Welles decides to do a movie about Hearst. It takes him some time to convince co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz and the studio, but Welles eventually gets the script and the green light, keeping the subject very hush-hush with the press. The movie is about an aging newspaper publisher who controlled his enemies as ruthlessly as he controlled his friends; and whose mistress was destined for fame. When a rough cut is screened, Hearst gets wind of the movie's theme and begins a campaign to see that it is not only never publicly screened, but destroyed. Written by Greg Bulmash <greg@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


What went on the screen was nothing compared to what went on behind the scenes. See more »


Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some graphic sexual images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

20 November 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

RKO 281: The Battle Over Citizen Kane  »

Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

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Did You Know?


In the fictitious scene where Orson Welles has dinner at San Simeon, he tells the other guests that he was, as a teenage boy traveling in Europe before beginning his acting career, taught the art of bullfighting by the great matador Manolete. As Manolete was two years younger than Welles and did not begin to achieve any renown in the bullring until after the Spanish Civil War (that is to say, at about the time this scene is supposed to be taking place), this is impossible. See more »


When Orson is sketching a picture in front of Manks, he draws a semi-circle around the head of a lone figure on his sketch pad. When the scene cuts to the next part, the circle is not there. See more »


Orson Welles: We need to change the name.
Herman Mankiewicz: What? The title?
Orson Welles: No, no. It's a grand title, "American". I was thinking more the character name. Charles Foster Craig doesn't have the "knives-out" poetry I was looking for.
Herman Mankiewicz: Okay.
Orson Welles: I was thinking of Kane.
Herman Mankiewicz: As in Abel?
Orson Welles: K-A-N-E. One strong syllable, Kane.
Herman Mankiewicz: Craig is one syllable.
Orson Welles: Yes... But it's not a great syllable.
See more »


References Citizen Kane (1941) See more »


I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
Written by George Bassman and Ned Washington
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User Reviews

Glimpses of Greatness, Greed and Grandeur
21 December 2011 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

If you are into vintage movies, vintage America and conspiracy theories, then this is an entertainment for you.

Many other reviews here have outlined the strengths and weaknesses of the film re the truth about the making of Kane, and the relative attributions of credit, blame and opprobrium. I'd like to inject a good word for Roy Scheider's portrayal of RKO boss George Schaefer: His character's struggle to find the right balance between keeping his east coast money men happy, his obvious liking for Welles and the desire to make good movies is very well portrayed.

Something I really enjoyed was the portrayal of Welles' and Mank's visit to the Hearst Castle at San Simeon, California. That is a fascinating place, which saw so many famous and talented people visit during Hearst's time there. There's a movie about the lifetime of that place to be made by someone, though I don't think anyone has ever attempted it? Apparently they didn't use the real location for RKO281 - a lot of it seems to have been done in London. Was that cost, or did the Hearst Castle trustees refuse....? Anyway, if you're up for a good tale woven around some known facts, but not sticking to them too tightly, take the RKO281 ride, you'll have fun. Just don't let it become your true picture of Mr Welles, Mr Hearst or (most of all) Mr Mankiewicz.

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