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RKO 281 (1999)

TV Movie  |  R  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  20 November 1999 (USA)
7.1
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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.

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Title: RKO 281 (TV Movie 1999)

RKO 281 (TV Movie 1999) on IMDb 7.1/10

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Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 7 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

Coming to Hollywood as a celebrated boy genius featuring a spectacular career arc in New York including his "War of the Worlds" radio hoax, 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 Hearst, Welles decides to do a movie about Hearst. It takes him some time to convince co-writer Herman Mankiewicz and the studio, but Welles eventually gets the script and the green light, keeping the subject very hush-hush with the press. 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

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

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Release Date:

20 November 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

RKO 281: The Battle Over Citizen Kane  »

Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

16:9
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was originally planned as a theatrical film. The original cast consisted of Edward Norton as Orson Welles, Marlon Brando as William Randolph Hearst, Madonna as Marion Davies, Dustin Hoffman as Herman J. Mankiewicz, Meryl Streep as Louella Parsons. Ridley Scott was slated to direct. But studios passed on the film because of the projected $40 million budget. Scott dropped out as director. Brando and Hoffman also dropped out. Gene Hackman was considered to replace Brando and Al Pacino was considered to replace Hoffman. Eventually, the project was scaled down to a TV-movie and the entire cast was replaced. See more »

Goofs

When Welles stops George Schaefer in the bar, he says he wants to go to New York and talk to "the stockbrokers." He means the stockholders of RKO. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
Herman J. 'Mank' Mankiewicz: All stars burn out, Orson. It's the flame that counts.
Orson Welles: [toasts] To the flame.
Herman J. 'Mank' Mankiewicz: To the flame.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Brief Film Reviews: My DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Song Of India
Written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (as Nicholas A. Rimsky-Korsakoff)
Arrangement by Tommy Dorsey and Red Bone
See more »

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User Reviews

A brave attempt
21 June 2009 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Orson Welles was just twenty-six years of age when he made "Citizen Kane." A film regarded by many to be one of the best films ever made. As Welles quipped: "I started at the top and worked down." There is no doubt that Orson Welles was a genius (child prodigy), and that he never made a better film than "Citizen Kane." "RKO 281" (the original production number given to "Kane" by the studio), is the story of the trials and tribulations of making "Citizen Kane." By rights, a film about the making of "Citizen Kane", should pack more of a wallop than this one does. The subject has all the ingredients of high melodrama that's for sure; only this film doesn't quite live up to it. This is not necessarily the fault of the director: it's just that the topic is a far too complex one to be portrayed in a mere eighty three minutes. Still and all, "RKO 281" is not a bad little film about how one of the true geniuses of the cinema, who was treated so abysmally by the system that allowed him to make the film in the first place. Under pressure from William Randolph Hearst (whom "Kane" is a thinly disguised version), the heads of the other major studios devised a plan to ensure the film would never ever be seen again. Thankfully, George Schaeffer at RKO didn't go along with this idea. The film had its premier, but failed to engage cinema audiences, and effectively sank without a trace, no doubt helped by a total ban on advertising by the Hearst organization. Praise should go to Liev Schreiber as Welles, Roy Scheider as RKO boss, George Schaeffer, John Malcovich as Herman Mankiewicz, John Cromwell as Hearst and Melanie Griffith as Marion Davies. A special mention should also go to Brenda Blethyn as Hearst columnist Louella Parsons. In addition, Orson Welles second feature, "The Magnificent Ambersons", suffered the ignominy of having the editing of the film taken away from by RKO, who not only removed an hour of footage, but also shot a new, happier ending and tacked it onto the film. Although the extensive notes left by Welles on how the film was to be cut have survived, the excised scenes have not.


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