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Citizen Kane

By Ray Pride

OCTOBER 12, 1998:  There isn't a month goes by most filmmakers don't think about "Kane." Orson Welles' great first feature recasts the history of American yellow journalism and politics of the early part of this century through the prism of the collective memories of a William Randolph Hearst-like press lord. It's one of the best examples of a successful collaboration you'll ever see: Welles' bag of tricks, influenced by radio and magic; the sublime deep-focus camerawork of Gregg Toland, his earlier experiments enlarged by Welles' insistence on further innovation; co-screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz's knowledge of Hollywood and Hearst; John Houseman's producing skills; the young-but-cranky Bernard Hermann's pastiche score; the talented Mercury Players. In the invaluable interview book, "This Is Orson Welles" (DaCapo), Welles says, "I'd been nursing an old notion--the idea of telling the same thing several times--and showing exactly the same scene from different points of view. Basically, the idea 'Rashomon' used later on. [Co-writer Mankiewicz] liked it, so we started searching for the man it was going to be about. Some big American figure--couldn't be a politician, because you'd have to pinpoint him. We got pretty quickly to the press lords... I wanted the man to seem a very different person depending on who was talking about him. 'Rosebud' was Mank's, and the many-sided gimmick was mine. Rosebud remained, because it was the only way we could find to get off, as they used to say in vaudeville. While the promised fresh print won't be the revelation the re-edit of "Touch of Evil" has been, there's every reason to see "Kane" on screen if you haven't before. Go.


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