A group of reporters are trying to decipher the last word ever spoken by Charles Foster Kane, the millionaire newspaper tycoon: "Rosebud". The film begins with a news reel detailing Kane's life for the masses, and then from there, we are shown flashbacks from Kane's life. As the reporters investigate further, the viewers see a display of a fascinating man's rise to fame, and how he eventually fell off the top of the world.Written by
Many of the myths concerning this film were later popularized by the semi-fictitious TV movie RKO 281 (1999) which purported tell the "real story" behind Citizen Kane's production and filming. Contrary to the latter TV film and popular myth, it was Herman J. Mankiewicz who persuaded Orson Welles to make Citizen Kane, not vice versa. Welles never had a personal grudge against Hearst as Welles and Hearst never met. Welles never visited Hearst's residence at San Simeon. RKO president George Schaefer wasn't fired when "Citizen Kane" opened in May 1941. Instead, he lost his job a year later due to RKO's lackluster box office receipts during his tenure. Marion Davies was neither the primary basis for the Susan Alexander character in Citizen Kane nor a mediocre actress who owed her career to Hearst. She was a successful comedienne in motion pictures long before she and Hearst met. See more »
At party to celebrate the new staff members, in the "front row" from left-to-right, men in positions 4, 5, and 6 are bald-headed, with #6 wearing a distinctive striped suit. As Kane walks in front of them, making fun of Jebedia's necktie, camera angle changes, and man formerly in position #6, has now moved down about five "positions," and is soon to be seated next to Kane. See more »
In a very rare move the director's credit is shown on the same card as the cinematographer's. This was Orson Welles's personal decision to show his thanks to cinematographer Toland for his enormous contributions to the film, meaning equal rights. See more »
Some of the Turner prints have the famous RKO logo removed and replaced with the Turner logo. See more »
On the Criterion Collection DVD of Orson Welles' classic "Citizen Kane" there is an original theatrical trailer where Welles cleverly advertises the film by introducing us to the cast including the chorus girls, whom he refers to as some nice ballyhoo. That pretty much sums up my opinion of the often over analyzed film that always shows up at the top of the list of greatest films ever made. Even though this was the first time I sat down to watch the film as a whole, I knew everything about it from studying it in film class and from the countless number of essays, homages, and parodies that have come down the pike over the years. It seems impossible now to judge the film against a blank slate, but with great ballyhoo comes great scrutiny.
Released in 1941 by RKO as a Mercury Theater Production, "Citizen Kane" is the tale of an influential and shockingly wealthy newspaper tycoon (Welles) inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst. The story follows the investigation into the origins of "Rosebud"-the mysterious word Kane utters on his deathbed. Following newsreel footage announcing Kane's death, we are then thrust into a series of flashbacks through interviews with various people who knew Kane that reveal the nature of his character.
From a technical standpoint, Welles' film is as innovative and engrossing today as it was yesterday. Every single piece of cinematic trickery, every dissolve, every long tracking shot, every seamless edit, every play with chronology, every special effect is perfect. Welles was audacious and inventive with his art, and it is for these technical aspects that "Citizen Kane" will always stand the test of time.
However, the story of "Citizen Kane" remains cold and distant. I didn't instantly connect with the characters and the plot the way I did with other classics from the period like "Casablanca" or "The Third Man" or even more recently, "There Will Be Blood." Often, the supporting players over-act, and the flashbacks are tedious (especially the one detailing Kane's second marriage) or emotionless (like the scene showing Kane's snow covered childhood). There's a certain smug arrogance to the whole production that makes it seem like perhaps Welles was secretly making a comedy. It leaves one wondering how it would've come across had Welles actually been allowed to do a straight up biopic of Hearst.
Is it any wonder that so many critics today hail this as THE all time great? Much of today's cinema is geared towards style and technique over substance, and way back in 1941, Welles was the first to author this very modern brand of cinema where the art is not in the story but how it is told and shown to the audience. His "Citizen Kane" is technically rich, layered, and enthralling but narratively vapid. Did I ever really care about Kane or Rosebud? No, but it was fascinating to watch. It's some very nice ballyhoo indeed.
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