No matter what movie list you look at all across the interwebs you’ll come to the realization that sitting at the top (or near the top) is Citizen Kane. That 1941 vehicle which launched Orson Welles’ and his Mercury Theatre troupe out of the stage/radio and into the upper echelon of movie making.
This wasn’t the Mercury Theatre’s first brush with stardom. They also produced the legendary radio show “War of the Worlds” which had been so realistic in its day that it fooled people into believing that an actual alien invasion was happening causing people to hide in their basements or even commit suicide out of fear.
Citizen Kane rose the bar of filmmaking, storytelling and acting in its day so high that even 70 years past movies rarely reach that same plateau. Citizen Kane often has been given the moniker of “Best Movie of All-Time” for being so ground breaking and the first of its kind though I’d argue that there have been movies as good since.
Spoofed by many…as with The Simpsons, and Pinky and The Brain:
And influenced by countless more:
Let’s look at the specs for this so-called masterpiece before I delve into it:
- Loosely based around real-life newspaper tycoon, William Randolf Hearst (who owned the largest collection of newspaper/magazine companies in the world at one point).
- The movie bombed in the box office when it was originally released. It didn’t find its due until its tv revival in 1956.
- Listed as #1 on AFI’s 100 Movies…100 Years both on the 1998 and 2007 versions (sorry about the spoiler if no one has watched that show).
- All the actors in Citizen Kane were Orson’s friends from the Mercury Theatre. Welles had complete control on the production of Citizen Kane to allow to cast a group of unknowns.
- Welles wanted to make a movie version of Heart of Darkness but the production company, RKO, didn’t like the premise.
- During production, Citizen Kane was codenamed RKO 281.
- When William Randolf Hearst heard about Citizen Kane being based on him, he banned all publicity in his massive conglomerate of papers from mentioning RKO or Citizen Kane unless RKO agreed to NEVER release the movie.
- Hearst threatened a smear campaign to run editorials in all of his papers about RKO hiring immigrants and refugees if they continued to go forward with the movie.
- MGM offered to reimburse RKO for the cost of making Citizen Kane if they destroyed the prints.
- A pre-screening with New York corporate heads of studios and lawyers to determine the possible legal implications of the release resulted in about three minutes being cut from the final cut.
- The movie was released on schedule to the largest promotional campaign in its day. However, in fear of potential repercussions from Hearst, many movie chains refused to show the movie (hence the lost revenue).
- Citizen Kane was nominated for 9 Oscars in 1941 (Best Picture, Best Director – Orson Welles, Best Actor – Orson Welles, Best Writing, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Musical Score and Best Sound Recording).
- Critics expected Citizen Kane to sweep however only ended up with the Best Writing Oscar. It had come to light years later that most of Hollywood was against the movie from ever coming out because of the hornet’s nest it shook up against Hearst. Many voters voted against the movie on that reason alone.
- “Rosebud”: Orson Welles claimed this addition to the movie was nothing more than “a gimmick, really, a rather tawdry device, a dollar-book Freudian gag.” However, it has since come to light that “Rosebud” was the nickname for one of Heart’s mistresses, Marion Davies.
- The final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark was influenced by the Rosebud scene from Citizen Kane (warning SPOILERY).
For those of you who haven’t watched the movie and don’t mind being spoiled by the mystery of Kane, allow Lucy from the Charlie Brown comics to sum it up for you. But even if you know the end, the journey is what Citizen Kane is all about.
For those who just want the trailer, check out the Ultimate Rankatron post or click on the left bar over there somewhere for the Vodvid.