Saturday, January 7, 2012

This Day in History January 8,

I was totally shocked to discover this story.  Maybe because I have memories of the film that is featured on this day in history today.  I have some unusual memories concerning the film Citizen Kane.  Sometimes my ex-husband got some interesting ideas into his head about films we should see.  I actually watched Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Love the Atomic Bomb.  I know that is not the focus of today's story, but if you ever want to look up a strange film, check it out.  Equally as strange is the film Citizen Kane that he decided we needed to watch.  I first heard of this film when I was growing up watching Columbo reruns.  One of Columbo's cases involves a key phrase from the film "Rosebud."  My ex did not actually like this film--it is very dark, but it is definitely a classic.

I had no idea that when this film was to be released, there were some major issues surrounding it.  William Randolph Hearts, a newspaper tycoon did not find this film very appealing--mainly because the film was based loosely on his life.  And it didn't paint him nor his second wife in a nice light.  To make matters worse, Orson Welles was very young and not well-respected in Hollywood (he had already made a name for himself  on radio--you might know of his notorious War of the Worlds broadcast that casued nationwide panic). But Hollywood was not quick to accept him.

Once the Hollywood screening took place, Hearst got mad, and it was on this date in 1941 that he effectively stopped advertisements for this film.   Hearst made a lot of accusations against those involved with the film, and Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, even offered RKO (the studio who made the film) $842,000 if the president of the studio would destroy the original negatives and all prints of the film.  In retaliation, the president refused and threatened to sue the Fox, Paramount, and Loewes Theater chains when they refused to distribute the film.  Time published the story, and the theaters somewhat relented, but in the end, the film barely broke even.

Amazingly, the film was nominated for nine Academy Awards (only won for Best Screenplay), and Orson Welles and the film were actually booed at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1942!  Later on, Welles and the president of the studio were pushed out of the studio, and the film returned to the archives.  It took another 25 years before it received its rightful honors and is now hailed as one of the best films ever made.

I think the thing that sticks with me from this film are two things.  The beginning and ending are poignant as the main character--Kane--calls out Rosebud.  I don't want to ruin the film for you if you have never seen it, so I won't say any more on that point.  The other thing that has stuck with me is the camera angles that Welles used.  He was truly ahead of his time, and I think that we have a lot to thank him for.  The way in which it is filmed only adds to the macabre nature of the story.  If you ever get a chance to look it up, please do.  It was a film way ahead of its time!

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