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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 »



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


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)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

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Did You Know?


The size of the principal actors had to be modified for their roles. Liev Schreiber, who stands 6'3", had to bulk up to portray Orson Welles, while John Malkovich, who stands about 6'1" (a full head taller than the real Herman J. Mankiewicz), had to be made to look much slighter and smaller than usual. James Cromwell, who stands a towering 6'7", was surrounded by actors in lifts, as the real William Randolph Hearst was about 6'3" or 6'4". See more »


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 Radio Pictures. See more »


[last lines]
Herman Mankiewicz: Was it worth it?
Orson Welles: I don't know. I can't imagine doing it any other way. I suppose it's just my character.
Herman Mankiewicz: It won't be easy having made your masterpiece at 26.
Orson Welles: Is that what you think - that I'm just going to burn out at the ripe old age of 26?
Herman Mankiewicz: All stars burn out, Orson. It's the flame that counts.
Orson Welles: [toasting] To the flame.
Herman Mankiewicz: To the flame.
See more »


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

fascinating film for fans of Welles, who of course will tear it to shreds
9 December 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Very interesting movie about the battle to get Citizen Kane made has carved out a tricky niche for itself; the movie is going to be most interesting to fans of Welles and Kane, and those people are going to have such specific expectations about what the movie should be that they can't be satisfied.

I see a number of reviews here complaining that this movie doesn't show why Kane was a great movie, but that's not the movie that was being made. It is a short movie about a specific struggle, with brief glimpses into the filming, and unless it had been titled, "RKO 281: The Making of Citizen Kane," you can't fault it for not spending an hour on Welles innovations.

The film is entertaining, Schreiber is a good Welles and Malkovitch is also quite good. I note people also complain that the movie isn't all that accurate. I do wish the film had done a better job with Marian Davies, as one hears her described as fantastically charming and loved by Hollywood (it has been said that Welles' flaying of Davies did more to bring out the knives of the Hollywood press than his portrayal of Hearst). But come on, how can one complain about liberties taking with reality in a movie made about Welles, who loved taking liberties with reality?

28 of 32 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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