CITIZEN KANE is Orson Welles's greatest achievement--and a landmark of cinema history. The story charts the rise and fall of a newspaper publisher whose wealth and power ultimately isolates him in his castle-like refuge. The film's protagonist, Charles Foster Kane, was based on a composite of Howard Hughes and William Randolph Hearst--so much so that Hearst tried to have the film suppressed. Every aspect of the production marked an advance in film language: the deep focus and deeply shadowed cinematography (from Gregg Toland); the discontinuous narrative, relying heavily on flashbacks and newsreel footage (propelled by a script largely written by Herman L. Mankiewicz); the innovative use of sound and score (sound by Bailey Fesler and James G. Stewart, music composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann); and the ensemble acting forged in the fires of Welles's Mercury Theatre (featuring the film debuts of, among others, Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane, and Agnes Moorehead). Every moment of the film, every shot, has been choreographed to perfection. The film is essential viewing, quite possibly the greatest film ever made and, along with THE BIRTH OF A NATION, certainly the most influential.
1941 - Academy Awards - Best Original Screenplay - Winner
Main Cast & Crew:
Orson Welles - Director
- Format: DVD (75th Anniversary Edition)
- Run Time: 119
- Color Format: B&W
- UPC: 883929555222
- Genre: Drama
- Rating: PG (MPAA)
- Release Date: June 1998
CITIZEN KANE is quite simply one of the greatest films ever made. Orson Welles is astounding as both actor and director in this sweeping drama, based largely on the life of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.
Theatrical release: May 1, 1941, at the RKO Palace in New York City. Shooting ran from July 22 to October 23, 1940. Estimated budget: more than $1 million. The film lost more than $150,000 upon its initial release. Despite critical success, the film was not shown in many theaters because of threats from the Hearst empire. CITIZEN KANE was the directorial debut of the 25-year-old Orson Welles, who had formerly made his name as a radio and theater actor and director. RKO, with great fanfare, had signed him to an exclusive contract, giving him almost total control over his work. The title was suggested by studio man George Schaefer, a staunch defender of the film who ended up losing his job because of it. Other possible titles included AMERICAN and JOHN CITIZEN, U.S.A. Welles claims that after a speaking engagement, police told him not to return to his hotel room because a 14-year-old girl and some cameramen were waiting there for him in order to blackmail him into not showing CITIZEN KANE. At one point Welles considered burning the film himself instead of giving it back the studio, which was caving in to Hearst's complaints that the movie was an attack on him. Hearst's name does appear one time in the film, in the screening room scene. The film includes brief appearances by Alan Ladd, director of photography Gregg Toland, Welles collaborator Richard Wilson, screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, and associate producer Richard Barr. CITIZEN KANE marked the film debuts of Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorehead, Erskine Sanford, George Coulouris, Paul Stewart, William Alland, Gus Schilling, and Ray Collins. Welles purposely wanted to use unfamiliar faces--mostly from his Mercury Theatre radio team--in order not to distract from the story. CITIZEN KANE is number one on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Greatest Movies. CITIZEN KANE was an original selection to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1989. Orson Welles received the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award from Charlton Heston in 1975. Jean Forward dubbed in the singing for Dorothy Comingore and also made a cameo appearance in the film. On the lot, the film was known as RKO 281, which is also the name of a cable film about the relationship between Welles and Hearst, starring James Cromwell (William Randolph Hearst), Roy Scheider (George Schaefer), John Malkovich (Herman L. Mankiewicz), and Liev Schreiber (Orson Welles). CITIZEN KANE lost the Best Picture Oscar to HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, and Welles lost the Best Actor award to Gary Cooper, who won for SERGEANT YORK. Although Bernard Herrmann received an Academy Award nomination for his score for CITIZEN KANE, he actually won the award that year for his music for ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY. Matt Groening (THE SIMPSONS) named Mr. Burns partly after CITIZEN KANE; the C in C. Montgomery Burns comes from Charles Foster Kane.
"...A tour de force of style and an ultimately tragic epic of a quintessentially American captain of industry, it is timelessly brilliant and incisive..." - 07/23/1998 Los Angeles Times, p.C18
"...Its surface is as much fun as any movie ever made. Its depths surpass understanding....CITIZEN KANE is more than a great movie; it is a gathering of all the lessons of the emerging era of sound..." - 05/24/1998 Chicago Sun-Times, p.5
"...[A] masterpiece....[The film] seems more relevant than ever..." - 08/01/2003 Sight and Sound, p.69
"...KANE remains a source of fascination and inspiration..." - 08/01/2003 Total Film, p.120
"...Packed with cool effects and a surprise ending unsurpassed even by THE SIXTH SENSE..." - 01/11/2002 Entertainment Weekly, p.26
"...It introduced a number of lively, nonlinear storytelling techniques..." - 12/01/2003 Premiere, p.5
"Eerily, it seems to predict the arc of Welles's career, one of great promise eventually betrayed or sold short. Time will never diminish the worth of this movie." - 05/01/2006 Premiere, p.97
"CITIZEN KANE was a showstopper." - 09/16/2011 New York Times