Film of the Week- Citizen Kane- 9.05.21.

If you have seen ‘Mank’ then watch the film it was all about-Citizen Kane- the 1941 first film by the precocious theatre director and actor Orson Welles.

Welles was a successful producer and director of his Mercury Theatre on Broadway with his own group of actors who followed him to Hollywood when RKO courted him with a contract and cart blanche to make his first feature film. With Herman J Mankiewicz he wrote the screenplay for a semi-biographical story loosely based on media barons William Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.

What emerged is a kaleidoscopic history of Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles as he is plucked from his childhood home to become a privileged, insanely rich playboy who bought a struggling newspaper and become a media giant with a colossal estate and mansion stuffed with the art treasures of the world. But his last word on his death bed is ‘Rosebud’ and the film is a quest by a journalist to find the meaning of it.

What has made the film top the critics polls of best film is the bravura of Welles direction and the superb deep focus cinematography by Greg Toland with dramatic use of lighting and shadows that broke convention and influenced future film making. It was not a box office success but has since become a cult critical champion. But for Welles the studio system denied him the freedom to make films in the same way. As to Mank and Welles they won a joint Oscar despite enduring controversy as to who wrote what!

Watch it on the BBC I-Player and Mank is on Netflix.