Citizen Kane


Citizen Kane marked a decline in Welles's success. Author Joseph McBride said the problems in making the film caused damage to his career. This started in 1942 when RKO violated its contract with Welles by re-editing The Magnificent Ambersons against his will.[141] That June Schaefer resigned from RKO and Welles's contract was promptly terminated.[107]

Welles himself has been retroactively compared to Charles Foster Kane. Wise believed that Kane resembled Welles's life story more than Hearst's and said "Orson was doing an autobiographical film and didn't realize it, because it's rather much the same, you know. You start here, and you have a big rise and tremendous prominence and fame and success and whatnot, and then tail off and tail off and tail off. And at least the arc of the two lives were very much the same."[68] Bogdanovich disagreed with this and said that Kane "had none of the qualities of an artist, Orson had all the qualities of an artist." Bogdanovich also noted that Welles was never bitter "about all the bad things that happened to him" and enjoyed life in his final years.[167]

The 1999 HBO film RKO 281 depicted the making of the film and Hearst's attempts to prevent its release. It was based on the documentary The Battle over Citizen Kane, but differed from its source by "downplaying [Mankiewicz's] role in bringing the idea of a Hearst-based movie"[168] and inventing such historically inaccurate incidents as Welles visiting Hearst Castle and meeting Hearst before writing the film's script.[169]

Release in Europe

During World War II Citizen Kane was not seen in most European countries. It was shown in France for the first time on July 10, 1946 at the Marbeuf theatre in Paris.[170]:34–35[ae] Initially most French film critics were influenced by the negative reviews of Jean-Paul Sartre in 1945 and Georges Sadoul in 1946.[5]:118 At that time many French intellectuals and filmmakers shared Sartre's negative opinion that Hollywood filmmakers were uncultured.[172]:124 Sartre criticized the film's flashbacks for its nostalgic and romantic preoccupation with the past instead of the realities of the present and said that "the whole film is based on a misconception of what cinema is all about. The film is in the past tense, whereas we all know that cinema has got to be in the present tense."[173][174]

André Bazin, a little known film critic working for Sartre's Les Temps modernes, was asked to give an impromptu speech about the film after a screening at the Colisée Theatre in the autumn of 1946[170]:36 and changed the opinion of much of the audience. This speech led to Bazin's 1947 article "The Technique of Citizen Kane",[172]:125 which directly influenced public opinion about the film.[172]:124 Carringer wrote that Bazin was "the one who did the most to enhance the film’s reputation."[5]:118[af] Both Bazin's critique of the film and his theories about cinema itself centered around his strong belief in mise en scène. These theories were diametrically opposed to both the popular Soviet montage theory[111]:xiii and the politically Marxist and anti-Hollywood beliefs of most French film critics at that time.[170]:36 Bazin believed that a film should depict reality without the filmmaker imposing their "will" on the spectator, which the Soviet theory supported.[111]:xiii Bazin wrote that Citizen Kane's mise en scène created a "new conception of filmmaking"[111]:233 and that the freedom given to the audience from the deep focus shots was innovative by changing the entire concept of the cinematic image.[172]:128 Bazin wrote extensively about the mise en scène in the scene where Susan Alexander attempts suicide, which was one long take while other films would have used four or five shots in the scene.[111]:234 Bazin wrote that the film's mise en scène "forces the spectator to participate in the meaning of the film" and creates "a psychological realism which brings the spectator back to the real conditions of perception."[112]:72

In his 1950 essay "The Evolution of the Language of Cinema", Bazin placed Citizen Kane center stage as a work which ushered in a new period in cinema.[175]:37 One of the first critics to defend motion pictures as being on the same artistic level as literature or painting, Bazin often used the film as an example of cinema as an art form[172]:129 and wrote that "Welles has given the cinema a theoretical restoration. He has enriched his filmic repertory with new or forgotten effects that, in today’s artistic context, take on a significance we didn’t know they could have."[111]:236 Bazin also compared the film to Roberto Rossellini's Paisà for having "the same aesthetic concept of realism"[172]:117–118 and to the films of William Wyler shot by Toland (such as The Little Foxes and The Best Years of Our Lives), all of which used deep focus cinematography that Bazin called "a dialectical step forward in film language."[112]:71

Bazin's praise of the film went beyond film theory and reflected his own philosophy towards life itself.[172]:125 His metaphysical interpretations about the film reflected human kind’s place in the universe.[172]:128 Bazin believed that the film examined one persons identity and search for meaning. It portrayed the world as ambiguous and full of contradictions, whereas films up until then simply portrayed people’s actions and motivations.[172]:130 Bazin's biographer Dudley Andrew wrote that:

The world of Citizen Kane, that mysterious, dark, and infinitely deep world of space and memory where voices trail off into distant echoes and where meaning dissolves into interpretation, seemed to Bazin to mark the starting point from which all of us try to construct provisionally the sense of our lives.[172]:129

Bazin went on to co-found Cahiers du cinéma, whose contributors (including future film directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard) also praised the film.[175]:37 The popularity of Truffaut's auteur theory helped the film's and Welles's reputation.[176]:263


By 1942 Citizen Kane had run its course theatrically and, apart from a few showings at big city arthouse cinemas, it largely vanished and both the film's and Welles's reputation fell among American critics. In 1949 critic Richard Griffith in his overview of cinema, The Film Till Now, dismissed Citizen Kane as "... tinpot if not crackpot Freud."[5]:117–118

Citizen Kane was re-released in 1952 after gaining popularity on TV. A journalist from the London Evening News wrote that after seeing the film for the first time he “came away marveling.”[50]:49

In the United States, it was neglected and forgotten until its revival on television in the mid-1950s. Three key events in 1956 led to its re-evaluation in the United States: first, RKO was one of the first studios to sell its library to television, and early that year Citizen Kane started to appear on television; second, the film was re-released theatrically to coincide with Welles's return to the New York stage, where he played King Lear; and third, American film critic Andrew Sarris wrote "Citizen Kane: The American Baroque" for Film Culture, and described it as "the great American film" and "the work that influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since Birth of a Nation."[177] Carringer considers Sarris's essay as the most important influence on the film's reputation in the US.[5]:119

During Expo 58, a poll of over 100 film historians named Kane one of the top ten greatest films ever made (the group gave first-place honors to The Battleship Potemkin). When a group of young film directors announced their vote for the top six, they were booed for not including the film.[141]

In the decades since, its critical status as the greatest film ever made has grown, with numerous essays and books on it including Peter Cowie's The Cinema of Orson Welles, Ronald Gottesman's Focus on Citizen Kane, a collection of significant reviews and background pieces, and most notably Kael's essay, "Raising Kane", which promoted the value of the film to a much wider audience than it had reached before.[5]:120 Despite its criticism of Welles, it further popularized the notion of Citizen Kane as the great American film. The rise of art house and film society circuits also aided in the film's rediscovery.[5]:119 David Thomson said that the film 'grows with every year as America comes to resemble it."[101]:1172

The British magazine Sight & Sound has produced a Top Ten list surveying film critics every decade since 1952, and is regarded as one of the most respected barometers of critical taste.[178] Citizen Kane was a runner up to the top 10 in its 1952 poll but was voted as the greatest film ever made in its 1962 poll,[179] retaining the top spot in every subsequent poll[180][181][182] until 2012, when Vertigo displaced it.[183]

The film has also ranked number one in the following film "best of" lists: Julio Castedo's The 100 Best Films of the Century,[184] Cahiers du cinéma 100 films pour une cinémathèque idéale,[185] Kinovedcheskie Zapiski,[186] Time Out magazine Top 100 Films (Centenary),[187] The Village Voice 100 Greatest Films,[188] and The Royal Belgian Film Archive's Most Important and Misappreciated American Films.[189]

Ebert called Citizen Kane the greatest film ever made: "But people don't always ask about the greatest film. They ask, 'What's your favorite movie?' Again, I always answer with Citizen Kane."[190]

In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. Citizen Kane was one of first 25 films inducted into the registry.[191]

On February 18, 1999, the United States Postal Service honored Citizen Kane by including it in its Celebrate the Century series.[192] The film was honored again February 25, 2003, in a series of U.S. postage stamps marking the 75th anniversary of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Art director Perry Ferguson represents the behind-the-scenes craftsmen of filmmaking in the series; he is depicted completing a sketch for Citizen Kane.[193]

Citizen Kane was ranked number one in the American Film Institute's polls of film industry artists and leaders in 1998[194] and 2007.[195] "Rosebud" was chosen the 17th most memorable movie quotation in a 2005 AFI poll.[196] The film's score was one of 250 nominees for the top 25 film scores in American cinema in another 2005 AFI poll.[197]

The film currently has an incredibly rare 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 66 reviews by approved critics.[198]


Citizen Kane has been called the most influential film of all time.[199] Richard Corliss has asserted that Jules Dassin's 1941 film The Tell-Tale Heart was the first example of its influence[200] and the first pop culture reference to the film occurred later in 1941 when the spoof comedy Hellzapoppin' featured a "Rosebud" sled.[201][ag] The film's cinematography was almost immediately influential and in 1942 American Cinematographer wrote "without a doubt the most immediately noticeable trend in cinematography methods during the year was the trend toward crisper definition and increased depth of field."[203]:51

The cinematography influenced John Huston's The Maltese Falcon. Cinematographer Arthur Edeson used a wider-angle lens than Toland and the film includes many long takes, low angles and shots of the ceiling, but it did not use deep focus shots on large sets to the extent that Citizen Kane did. Edeson and Toland are often credited together for revolutionizing cinematography in 1941.[203]:48–50 Toland's cinematography influenced his own work on The Best Years of Our Lives. Other films influenced include Gaslight, Mildred Pierce and Jane Eyre.[5]:85–86 Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa said that his use of deep focus was influenced by "the camera work of Gregg Toland in Citizen Kane" and not by traditional Japanese art.[204]

Its cinematography, lighting and flashback structure influenced such film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s as The Killers, Keeper of the Flame, Caught, The Great Man[120]:425 and This Gun for Hire.[5]:85–86 David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson have written that “For over a decade thereafter American films displayed exaggerated foregrounds and somber lighting, enhanced by long takes and exaggerated camera movements.” However, by the 1960s filmmakers such as those from the French New Wave and Cinéma vérité movements favored "flatter, more shallow images with softer focus" and Citizen Kane's style became less fashionable. American filmmakers in the 1970s combined these two approaches by using long takes, rapid cutting, deep focus and telephoto shots all at once.[176]:798 Its use of long takes influences film's such as The Asphalt Jungle, and its use of deep focus cinematography influenced Gun Crazy,[176]:389–390 The Whip Hand, The Devil's General and Justice Is Done.[176]:414 The flashback structure in which different characters have conflicting versions of past events influenced La commare secca[176]:533 and Man of Marble.[176]:747

The film's structure influenced the biographical films Lawrence of Arabia and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters – which begin with the subject's death and show their life in flashbacks – as well as Welles's thriller Mr. Arkadin.[141] Rosenbaum sees similarities in the film's plot to Mr. Arkadin, as well as the theme of nostalgia for loss of innocence throughout Welles's career, beginning with Citizen Kane and including The Magnificent Ambersons, Mr. Arkadin and Chimes at Midnight. Rosenbaum also points out how the film influenced Warren Beatty's Reds. The film depicts the life of Jack Reed through the eyes of Louise Bryant, much as Kane's life is seen through the eyes of Thompson and the people who he interviews. Rosenbaum also compared the romantic montage between Reed and Bryant with the breakfast table montage in Citizen Kane.[205]:113–116, 300–302

Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon is often compared to the film due to both having complicated plot structures told by multiple characters in the film. Welles said his initial idea for the film was "Basically, the idea Rashomon used later on,"[7]:53 however Kurosawa had not yet seen the film before making Rashomon in 1950.[206]:78 Nigel Andrews has compared the film's complex plot structure to Rashomon, Last Year at Marienbad, Memento and Magnolia. Andrews also compares Charles Foster Kane to Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull and Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood for their portrayals of "haunted megalomaniac[s], presiding over the shards of [their] own [lives]."[207]

The films of Paul Thomas Anderson have been compared to it. Variety compared There Will Be Blood to the film[208] and called it "one that rivals Giant and Citizen Kane in our popular lore as origin stories about how we came to be the people we are."[209] The Master has been called "movieland’s only spiritual sequel to Citizen Kane that doesn’t shrivel under the hefty comparison"[210] and the film's loose depiction of L. Ron Hubbard has been compared to Citizen Kane's depiction of Hearst.[211] The Social Network has been compared to the film for its depiction of a media mogul and by the character Erica Albright being similar to Rosebud.[212] The controversy of the Sony hacking before the release of The Interview brought comparisons of Hearst's attempt to suppress the film.[213] The film's plot structure and some specific shots influenced Todd Haynes's Velvet Goldmine.[214] Abbas Kiarostami's The Traveler has been called "the Citizen Kane of the Iranian children’s cinema."[215] The film's use of overlapping dialogue has influenced the films of Robert Altman and Carol Reed.[120]:412 Reed's films Odd Man Out, The Third Man (in which Welles and Cotten appeared) and Outcast of the Islands were also influenced by the film's cinematography.[120]:425

Many directors have listed it as one of the greatest films ever made, including Woody Allen, Michael Apted, Les Blank, Kenneth Branagh, Paul Greengrass, Michel Hazanavicius, Michael Mann, Sam Mendes, Jiri Menzel, Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese,[216] Denys Arcand, Gillian Armstrong, John Boorman, Roger Corman, Alex Cox, Milos Forman, Norman Jewison, Richard Lester, Richard Linklater, Paul Mazursky, Ronald Neame, Sydney Pollack[217] and Stanley Kubrick.[218] Yasujirō Ozu said it was his favorite non-Japanese film and was impressed by its techniques.[219]:231 François Truffaut said that the film "has inspired more vocations to cinema throughout the world than any other" and recognized its influence in The Barefoot Contessa, Les Mauvaises Rencontres, Lola Montès, and 8 1/2.[220]:279–280 Truffaut's Day for Night pays tribute to the film in a dream sequence depicting a childhood memory of the character played by Truffaut stealing publicity photos from the film.[221] Numerous film directors have cited the film as influential on their own films, including Theo Angelopoulos[222] Luc Besson, the Coen brothers, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, John Frankenheimer, Stephen Frears, Sergio Leone, Michael Mann, Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese, Bryan Singer and Steven Spielberg.[223] Ingmar Bergman disliked the film and called it "a total bore. Above all, the performances are worthless. The amount of respect that movie has is absolutely unbelievable!"[224]

William Friedkin said that the film influenced him and called it "a veritable quarry for filmmakers, just as Joyce's Ulysses is a quarry for writers."[225]:210 The film has also influenced other art forms. Carlos Fuentes's novel The Death of Artemio Cruz was partially inspired by the film[226] and the rock band The White Stripes paid unauthorized tribute to the film in the song "The Union Forever".[227]

Film memorabilia

In 1982, film director Steven Spielberg bought a "Rosebud" sled for $60,500; it was one of three balsa sleds used in the closing scenes and the only one that was not burned.[228][229] After the Spielberg purchase, it was reported that retiree Arthur Bauer claimed to own another "Rosebud" sled.[230] In early 1942 when Bauer was 12 he won an RKO publicity contest and selected the hardwood sled as his prize.[231] In 1996, Bauer's estate offered the painted pine sled at auction through Christie's.[231] Bauer's son told CBS News that his mother had once wanted to paint the sled and use it as a plant stand, but Bauer told her to "just save it and put it in the closet."[232] The sled was sold to an anonymous bidder for $233,500.[233]

Welles's Oscar for Best Original Screenplay was believed lost until it was rediscovered in 1994. It was withdrawn from a 2007 auction at Sotheby's when bidding failed to reach its estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million.[234] Owned by the charitable Dax Foundation,[234] it was auctioned for $861,542 in 2011 to an anonymous buyer.[235] Mankiewicz's Oscar was sold at least twice, in 1999 and again in 2012, the latest price being $588,455.[236]

In 1989, Mankiewicz's personal copy of the Citizen Kane script was auctioned at Christie's. The leather-bound volume included the final shooting script and a carbon copy of American that bore handwritten annotations — purportedly made by Hearst's lawyers, who were said to have obtained it in the manner described by Kael in "Raising Kane".[237][238] Estimated to bring $70,000 to $90,000,[239] it sold for a record $231,000.[240]

In 2007, Welles's personal copy of the last revised draft of Citizen Kane before the shooting script was sold at Sotheby's for $97,000.[234] A second draft of the script titled American, marked "Mr. Welles' working copy", was auctioned by Sotheby's in 2014 for $164,692.[241][ah] A collection of 24 pages from a working script found in Welles's personal possessions by his daughter Beatrice Welles was auctioned in 2014 for $15,000.[243]

In 2014 a collection of approximately 235 Citizen Kane stills and production photos that had belonged to Welles was sold at auction for $7,812.[244][245]

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