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RKO 281 (1999)

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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 »
Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 13 wins & 27 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Louella Parsons
Gregg Toland
Louis B. Mayer
Hedda Hopper
Carole Lombard
Walt Disney
Simeon Andrews ...
John Houseman
Bill Armstrong ...
Mr. Lewis (as William Armstrong)
Darryl Zanuck
David O. Selznick


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


Orson Welles used all his genius to create "Citizen Kane". William Randolph Hearst used all his power to try and destroy it. 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)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Did You Know?


On the script are various other narratives of Orson Welles' work with his Mercury Theatre and his move from New York plays to Hollywood movies (mostly under the supposed "VOICE" character). 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: [Referring to San Simeon] So how big is this monstrosity?
Herman Mankiewicz: The estate? Half the size of Rhode Island.
Orson Welles: You're kidding?
Herman Mankiewicz: No, it's the place God would have built if he had the money.
See more »


Featured in The 57th Annual Golden Globe Awards (2000) See more »


I Can't Get Started
Written by Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke
Performed by Bunny Berigan
Courtesy of The RCA Records Label of BMG Entertainment
See more »

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User Reviews

Glimpses of Greatness, Greed and Grandeur
21 December 2011 | by 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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