American Experience (1988– )
15 user 7 critic

The Battle Over Citizen Kane 

Documentary about the battle between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst over Welles' Citizen Kane (1941). Features interviews with Welles' and Hearst's co-workers also as a relative complete bio of Hearst.
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »




Episode credited cast:
William Alland William Alland ... Himself
Thomas Anderson Thomas Anderson ... Himself
Peter Bogdanovich ... Himself
Jimmy Breslin ... Himself
Richard Ben Cramer ... Narrator (voice)
Marion Davies ... Herself (archive footage)
Leonard de Paur Leonard de Paur ... Himself
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Himself
Richard France ... Himself
William Randolph Hearst ... Himself (archive footage)
William Herz William Herz ... Himself
Sam Leve Sam Leve ... Himself
Norman Lloyd ... Himself
Nancy Loe Nancy Loe ... Herself
Frank Mankiewicz ... Himself


This documentary, produced for PBS' _"American Experience, The" (1988)_ series, chronicles the struggles between filmmaker Orson Welles and newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst over the making and release of Citizen Kane (1941), whose protagonist (Charles Foster Kane) was allegedly a barely fictionalized Hearst. Interviews with contemporaries of Hearst and Welles reveal the intense campaign to suppress the film and ultimately ruin the career of its director. Written by Jesse Garon <>

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Release Date:

29 January 1996 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


This documentary was the basis for the 1999 HBO movie RKO 281 which chronicles the origin and making of Welles and Mankiewicz's masterpiece Citizen Kane. See more »


References The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) See more »

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User Reviews

Interesting Documentary
15 August 2002 | by harry-76See all my reviews

"The Battle Over Citizen Kane" is an informative companion piece to the Welles classic film. For those under-familiar or unfamiliar with the subject, this documentary offers an enlightening introduction. To those already knowledgeable in this subject, "Battle" may be of less interest.

There are sharp parallels made between Welles and Hearst, and there is fine archival footage of the two early careers. Both were giants in their respective areas, with notable crossovers between journalism and theater, thanks to stylistic flamboyancies of each.

This documentary depicts the influence of power and wealth upon the human personality, and how it can become an obsession for greater acquisition--be it in the form of physical object or artistic success.

Both personalities seemed to enjoy courageous controversy and daring defiance--even thriving on it. Both lives were played out like nineteenth century Romantics, vacillating between poles of extreme and excess.

Yet, in the end, it is Welles who emerges the victor. His legacy is forever enshrined in the halls of greatness, long after Heart's name has become faint or forgotten. In his '82 BBC interview, Welles appeared sympathetic to a suggestion made to him in '38 that he should retire from filmmaking.

I personally don't buy that idea. Regardless of the obvious career "decline" after "Kane," Welles crafted many wonderful, memorable performances as actor, and unique, unforgettable films as director. He was and remains a force to be reckoned with, in the media of radio, stage, and motion pictures.

Nor do I fully appreciate such labels as "greatest of all time" slapped upon "Kane." Such titles inadvertently tend to invite comparative--even reactionary--responses, rather than allowing the viewer to freely discover and uncover remarkable layers of quality in the work.

I'm sure they'll eventually be better documentaries on this subject; for now, though, "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" fulfills its objective competently.

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