It’s Oscar month and it is in that spirit that I continue to salute the award winning masterpieces that once made that now debased industry great. Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema classic is arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest Hollywood movie in history, Citizen Kane. It’s Welles’ masterwork.
Citizen Kane received nine nominations at the 1941 Academy Awards:
Outstanding Motion Picture – Mercury
Best Director – Orson Welles
Best Actor – Orson Welles
Best Writing (Original Screenplay) – Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
Best Art Direction (Black-and-White) – Perry Ferguson, Van Nest Polglase, Al Fields, Darrell Silvera
Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) – Gregg Toland
Best Film Editing – Robert Wise
Best Music (Music Score of a Dramatic Picture) – Bernard Herrmann
Best Sound Recording – John Aalberg
Citizen Kane, written, produced, directed and played by Orson Welles, is probably the most exciting film that has come out of Hollywood for twenty-five years. I am not at all sure that it isn’t the most exciting film that ever came out of anywhere.
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Orson Welles’s Controversial ‘Citizen Kane’ Proves a Sensational Film at Palace
By BOSLEY CROWTHER, NY Times
Published: May 2, 1941
Within the withering spotlight as no other film has ever been before, Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane” had is world première at the Palace last evening. And now that the wraps are off, the mystery has been exposed and Mr. Welles and the RKO directors have taken the much-debated leap, it can be safely stated that suppression of this film would have been a crime. For, in spite of some disconcerting lapses and strange ambiguities in the creation of the principal character, “Citizen Kane” is far and away the most surprising and cinematically exciting motion picture to be seen here in many a moon. As a matter of fact, it comes close to being the most sensational film ever made in Hollywood.
(Originally published by the Daily News on May 2, 1941. This story was written by Kate Cameron.)
The most talked about picture of the year, Orson Welles’ production of “Citizen Kane,” finally had its New York premiere at the Palace theatre last night, where an eager first night audience enthusiastically applauded the young theatrical man’s latest achievement.
“Citizen Kane,” the first picture made by Welles to reach the screen, arrived at the Palace only after a major battle of words and wits had been engaged in by the executives of RKO, who released the film, and Welles, on one side, and the legal advisers of William Randolph Hearst, on the other. The latter evidently imagined that the central character of the picture, one Charles Foster Kane, bore an uncomfortably close resemblance of the great California publisher.
We are not, however, concerned with the controversy, except to say that the portrait of Kane seems more like a composite of a dozen or more American tycoons, rather than a faithful representation of an individual. We are interested in the picture, however, as a contribution to the screen and in that respect, it is one of the most interesting and technically superior films that has ever come out of a Hollywood studio. Aside from tendency to revert to the inadequate lighting of sets that distinguished primitive Russian, German and French films, Welles has approached his subject matter in an original manner.
In the first place, he has done away with the long list of credits that clutter up the beginning of a film, and for this, he has earned our heartfelt gratitude. He begins his story with a March-of-Time-like review of Kane’s life, immediately following the publisher’s death in his castle-like home. In their search for a punch ending to the picture, the film men assign one of their reporters to interview Kane’s most intimate friends and business associates. Thus the story is put together on the screen in piecemeal fashion as bits of information are gleaned from various people and light is thrown on the character of the man by his widow, his best friend and lifelong companion, the business manager of his publishing enterprises and the banker who controlled the purse-strings to his fabulous fortune.
Welles Shines as Actor.
Some day, and the time won’t be long in arriving, Welles will be the greatest director in Hollywood. Today, he may be listed among the top ranking directors and his superb performance of the title role of the picture makes him one of the outstanding actors of the screen. Only Charles Chaplin has equalled the Welles achievement on a major Hollywood production, for like the producer of “The Great Dictator,” Welles has written the story of Kane, in collaboration with Herman Mankiewicz, produced the picture himself, directed it and played the leading role to perfection.
The Kane biography shows him as a wealthy young man who comes out of college filled with sociological ideas for the betterment of his fellow-men. With an unlimited fortune at his command, he buys a daily paper and through its editorial columns put his ideas into practice. He makes a bid for political power by running for the governorship, but he is defeated by a swinger of votes when he tries to smoke the crooked bosses out of the party’s machine. Editor Kane marries a daughter of the rich, loses his wife when he becomes too obsessed with his papers and lust for power, and takes comfort in the arms of a young singer, whom he meets in a chance encounter on the street.
Dies Alone and Friendless.
After his divorce and remarriage, Kane tries to drive his second wife into a professional career, hiring the best vocal coaches in the world and building the finest opera house in America for the debut.
His wife, however, fails him, even though he makes her mistress of a modern “Xanadu,” a castle stronghold built to house his great art treasures gathered from all parts of the world. Bereft of his wife and his friends, the lonely old man dies, surrounded by his valuable possessions and clutching in his hand a cheap bauble that has been a constant reminder of his lost childhood.
Welles displays touches of genius in the handling of his story. His cast, made up of players from his Mercury Theatre group, respond like sensitive musicians to the movements of the conductor’s baton. Dorothy Comingore, who plays Kane’s second wife, is exquisitely lovely and a fine young actress. Joseph Cotton, as Kane’s friend, Leland is superb, as are Everett Sloane, George Coulouris, Ruth Warrick, Erskine Sanford and Ray Collins.
The picture will run indefinitely at the Palace on a two-a-day schedule.
CITIZEN KANE; original screen play by Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz; produced and directed by Orson Welles; photography by Gregg Toland; music composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann; released through RKO-Radio. At the Palace.
Charles Foster Kane . . . . . Orson Welles
Kane, aged 8 . . . . . Buddy Swan
Kane 3d . . . . . Sonny Bupp
Kane’s Father . . . . . Harry Shannon
Jedediah Leland . . . . . Joseph Cotten
Susan Alexander . . . . . Dorothy Comingore
Mr. Bernstein . . . . . Everett Sloane
James W. Gettys . . . . . Ray Collins
Walter Parks Thatcher . . . . . George Coulouris
Kane’s Mother . . . . . Agnes Moorehead
Raymond . . . . . Paul Stewart
Emily Norton . . . . . Ruth Warrick
Herbert Carter . . . . . Erskine Sanford
Thompson . . . . . William Alland
Miss Anderson . . . . . Georgia Backus
Mr. Rawlston . . . . . Philip Van Zandt
Headwaiter . . . . . Gus Schilling
Signor Matiste . . . . . Fortunio Bonanova