Citizen Kane

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Released 1941

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Movie Summary

Director:
Orson Welles
Released:
1941
Rating:
PG

Citizen Kane, first released in 1941, is the first film to be directed by Orson Welles, who also co-wrote, produced and starred in it. The film is based (loosely) on the life of the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who was still alive and very powerful at the time. When reclusive billionaire Charles Foster Kane (Welles) is on his death bed, his last utterance is the word "Rosebud." The public is intrigued by his final word, and reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) is determined to find out the meaning behind it. Thompson decides to interview important people in Kane's life, including his friends, family members, and business associates. While he talks to them, Kane's tragic life story is portrayed through a series of flashbacks. Thompson learns about Kane's childhood, his rise to power as a newspaper mogul and politician, and his relationships with women. As more information about Kane's life is revealed, Thompson finds himself getting one step closer to learning the meaning behind Kane's enigmatic last word.

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (5)

    • In 1962, an international film critics' poll organized by the British magazine "Sight And Sound" voted this film (by a wide margin) the best film ever made. The magazine holds this poll once every ten years. "Citizen Kane" also topped the poll in 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2002. In 2012, it was very narrowly defeated for first place by Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo".

    • The unknown Alan Ladd had an uncredited bit part in the film, appearing as a pipe-smoking reporter in the final scene.

    • In addition to Alan Ladd's unbilled appearance, other reporters in the film are played by the young Arthur O'Connell, Orson Welles's assistant Richard Wilson (a future director), and the film's legendary cinematographer, Gregg Toland, who can be seen in the "News On The March" sequence. They are not credited. Orson Welles's secretary, Katherine Trosper, also briefly appears.

    • Despite its overwhelming critical success, "Citizen Kane" won only one of the several Oscars for which it was nominated, that for Best Original Screenplay. Orson Welles, who shared the award with the veteran Herman Mankiewicz, later insisted that his name was booed whenever it was read out that night.

    • The pianist in the "El Rancho" scenes is an uncredited (and pre-fame) Nat King Cole.

  • QUOTES (11)

  • NOTES (2)

    • This was the first feature film to be directed by Orson Welles, whose 26th birthday fell in the month of the film's opening in May of 1941.

    • The elaborate make-up used in the film to depict its leading characters over a 45-year period was designed by Maurice Seiderman, who had hitherto been a lowly assistant in the RKO make-up department. The head of the department, Mel Berns, was contractually allowed sole make-up credit on all RKO films, and refused to share the credit with Seiderman when Welles requested he do so - even though he had himself contributed almost nothing to the film. As a result, the film carried no make-up credit at all, although Welles always credited his friend Seiderman in interviews about the film, as well as using him on many subsequent movies.

  • ALLUSIONS (2)

    • The "News On The March" newsreel in the film is an obvious parody of the "March Of Time" newsreels popular in US cinemas at the time of the film's release.

    • The voice heard in the "News On The March" newsreel is actually that of William Alland, who plays the reporter, Thompson. He got the job because of his ability to imitate the voice of Westbrook Van Vorhees, the famous narrator of the "March Of Time" newsreels.

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Drama, Suspense

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