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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.
The singing voice of "Susan Alexander Kane" was dubbed by Jean Forward.
The gossip columnist Louella Parsons insisted on seeing the film at a private showing before its official opening and arrived at RKO Studios accompanied by her chauffeur. Before the film was half-over, Parsons, realising it was a veiled and highly critical portrait of her boss, William Randolph Hearst, stormed out of the projection room. Her chauffeur, however, insisted on staying to the end, and, on leaving, was heard to say, "Very good picture!" in a most enthusiastic tone.
The actors playing the reporters sitting in the dark in the projection-room scene near the beginning of the film also turn up in quite different roles elsewhere in the film; their faces are in shadow, but several (including Joseph Cotten) are nonetheless recognisable.
Although Orson Welles was attacked throughout his career for over-extravagence, he worked hard to bring his films in on time and on budget. Despite its lavish appearance and epic storyline, Citizen Kane was completed ahead of schedule and on a budget of only $842,000, considerably less than such recent RKO films of the period as Bringing Up Baby or Gunga Din.
Charles Foster Kane: Rosebud!
Jedediah Leland: I guess I was what you'd nowadays call a stooge, huh?
Boss Jim Gettys: You're making a bigger fool of yourself than I thought you would, Mr. Kane.
Walter Parks Thatcher: Mr. Charles Foster Kane, in every essence of his social beliefs, and by the dangerous manner in which he has persistently attacked the American traditions of private property, initiative and opportunity for advancement is, in fact, nothing more or less than a Communist.
Jerry Thompson: (sarcastically, to Raymond): Sentimental fellow, aren't you?
Raymond: Yes and no.
Emily Kane: Sometimes, I think I'd prefer a rival of flesh and blood.
Charles Foster Kane: You buy a bag of peanuts in this town, you get a song written about you.
Mr. Bernstein: It's no trick to make a lot of money - if all you want is to make a lot of money.
Charles Foster Kane: [dictating telegram]: Dear Wheeler. You provide the prose poems, I'll provide the war.
Mr. Bernstein: That's fine, Mr.Kane.
Charles Foster Kane : Yes, I rather like it myself.
Charles Foster Kane: I run a couple of newspapers. What do you do?
Jedediah Leland: When I was a young man, there was an impression around that nurses were pretty. Well, it was no truer then than it is today.
Charles Foster Kane: If I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man.
Mr. Bernstein: Who's a busy man? Me? I'm the Chairman of the Board. I got nothing but time.
Susan Alexander Kane: Come around and tell me the story of your life sometime.
Boss Jim Gettys: You're going to need more than one lesson. And you're going to get more than one lesson.
Charles Foster Kane: Hello, Jedediah.
Jedediah Leland: Hello, Charlie. I didn't know we were speaking.
Charles Foster Kane: Sure, we're speaking. You're fired.
Kane Jr. : Is Pop governor yet, Mother?
Emily Kane: Not yet, Junior.
Charles Foster Kane: I had no idea you had this flair for melodrama, Emily.
Mr. Bernstein: One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and, as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress, she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since when I haven't thought of that girl.
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.
The film had several openings across the USA in the first week of May, 1941; its Chicago opening occurred on May 6th, Orson Welles's 26th birthday.
The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
It was widely thought that all the leading actors in this film were making their movie debuts in it, but Fortunio Bonanova and Dorothy Comingore had both been in previous films, the latter under a different name ("Linda Winters"). George Coulouris has recounted that the delays in starting "Citizen Kane" led him to take a small role first in "All This And Heaven Too", both as a way of occupying his time and making some money.
Before the official start of shooting, Orson Welles spent two weeks allegedly making "camera tests"; he was actually filming scenes which made their way, as he always intended, into the final movie. It was a way of appearing to be ahead of schedule, thus keeping RKO executives happy with him.
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.
In the "News On The March" newsreel early in the film, we briefly hear that Kane's first wife and son were both killed in a car crash near Trenton, New Jersey. In Orson Welles's most famous radio broadcast, the 1938 adaptation of "The War Of The Worlds", the Martian invaders are said to land on Earth outside the same town. There may be a veiled allusion to the same broadcast in the scene where Kane tells an interviewer, "Don't believe everything you hear on the radio!"
Although, for obvious reasons, Citizen Kane is usually regarded as a film a clef about William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies, the sub-plot concerning Susan Alexander Kane's operatic career is more likely inspired by the activities of Jules Brulatour, the Eastman Kodak millionaire, who spent a fortune trying (with disastrous lack of success) to make a singing star out of his wife.
The character of Jedediah Leland was chiefly based on a real-life drama critic, Ashton Stevens, who had been a friend of Orson Welles's family. The character of Mr. Bernstein takes his name (though little else) from Dr. Maurice Bernstein, who was the Welles family doctor when Orson Welles was a child and later became his guardian after both his parents had died. Everett Sloane, who plays Mr. Bernstein, bore quite a noticeable facial resemblance to the doctor.