1941 • 119 Minutes • 1.37:1 • United States
Black & White • English • RKO
Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Everett Sloane, George Coulouris
Writers: Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
Producers: Orson Welles, George Schaefer
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Awards & Honors
Winner: Best Writing, Original Screenplay – Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
Nominated: Best Picture
Nominated: Best Actor in a Leading Role – Orson Welles
Nominated: Best Director – Orson Welles
Nominated: Best Cinematography, Black and White – Gregg Toland
Nominated: Best Art Direction/Interior Decoration, Black and White
Nominated: Best Sound, Recording
Nominated: Best Film Editing – Robert Wise
Nominated: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture – Bernard Herrmann
American Film Institute:
AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies – #1
AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes – “Rosebud…” #17
AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #1
The Essential Films:
100 Greatest Films of All Time – #6
The 85 Best Pictures to Never Win Best Picture
National Board of Review
Top Ten Films
Winner: Best Film
National Film Preservation Board
1989 – Inducted into National Film Registry
You know Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been rich I might have been a really great man.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead
(Originally Published at Superfriends Universe)
Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’ magnum opus, examines the life of Charles Foster Kane, a wealthy newspaper baron who is heavily based on contemporary media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Kane, alone in his palace which he has named “Xanadu”, dies in his sleep, uttering one word before he passes: “Rosebud.” After leading such a public life where he accomplished many great things, the significance of his final word remain a mystery. Told through a series of flashbacks, a newspaper reporter tracks down key figures of Kane’s life to try and unravel the enigma that is Charles Foster Kane.
“Ahead of its time” is a term often applied to films that push the cinematic envelope, but there is no film Citizen Kane. Almost everything about the film defied convention. As we’ve covered already, the pre-production for this film was unheard of. Welles had a unique contract that allowed him autonomy to do basically whatever he wanted, from story to production. He hired his own crew. He cast his own mostly unknown actors out of his Mercury Theater company. The set was completely closed, even to RKO studio heads. Legend has it that when said executives tried to visit the set, Welles would have his crew toss a baseball around and would tell the execs that if he wanted them to stop wasting time and money they’d have to leave the set. When watching the finished film and comparing it to other Hollywood productions of the era, the difference is astounding. Everything from the story structure to the editing to the cinematography was just not standard Hollywood filmmaking.
of which the term is more appropriate than with
At various stages of pre-production the film had different names such as John Citizen, USA or The American before finally settling on Citizen Kane. Those names are very telling as the story of Citizen Kane is an examination not just of the title character, but the American Dream as well. The story of “rags to riches” success is the myth the many strive for, yet this film destroys. While Kane becomes a great man, his idealism doesn’t allow himself to be seen as one because in his mind he didn’t achieve everything he wanted to. He was never satisfied and he knows that the presence of his wealth destroyed the idealism. He even expresses this resentment towards money late in his life this to his former guardian, Walter Parks Thatcher:
Charles Foster Kane: You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.
Thatcher: Don’t you think you are?
Charles Foster Kane: I think I did pretty well under the circumstances.
Thatcher: What would you like to have been?
Charles Foster Kane: Everything you hate.