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Friday, April 30, 2021

The 80th Anniversary of "CITIZEN KANE"

by George Haloulakos

With the Academy Awards having just completed its annual recognition of the best film productions for the prior year, we thought it might be fun as well as timely to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of what the American Film Institute (AFI) has ranked the Number One movie of all time: "CITIZEN KANE."

Before we begin, here is a fun question for you to think about: As the Number One movie of all time (according to AFI), how many Academy Awards do you think "CITIZEN KANE" won?  More than five?  More than ten? The answer is at the end of this month's blog.

Released in 1941, "CITIZEN KANE" was directed, produced and co written by Orson Welles, who also starred in the lead role.  Much has been written and discussed about "CITIZEN KANE," including its groundbreaking film making techniques such as the innovative lighting and close-up / focusing methods of cinematographer Gregg Toland and the dramatic, sharp editing style of Robert Wise.  At  the time of its release, Welles was just 25 years old but already a media star because of his famous radio show Mercury Theatre on the Air, that had stirred the imagination of an entire nation with its "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast a few years earlier that sounded so realistic, large segments of the listening audience actually thought an invasion by the planet Mars was actually underway!

Essentially, "CITIZEN KANE" is a biography of the rise and fall of a fictional publishing magnate Charles Foster Kane, that closely resembled William Randolph Hearst.  This in itself, is an entirely separate multi layered story but is worth reading as it involved behind-the-scenes efforts by Hearst aimed initially at stopping its production and then later suppressing publicity of the film following its theatrical release.  If you have never viewed this film before, now would be a great opportunity to appreciate the iconic status "CITIZEN KANE" as the film follows the efforts of a news reporter to unveil the mystery of the word "Rosebud" - the last word uttered by Kane just prior to his passing.  In the process, we learn about Kane's entire storied life beginning with his childhood.  While the news reporter does not himself find out the true meaning of "Rosebud" the viewer is allowed to learn (or rather "see") that "Rosebud," is in fact, the name of Kane's beloved sled from his childhood.  A childhood that sadly and poignantly was taken from Kane at a young age, and that he vainly sought to regain for the rest of his life, even while rising to the heights of financial success.

The dynamics of political ambition, media and gossip of the day provide a flashpoint to "CITIZEN KANE" that is eerily similar to the 24/7 digital media of the 21st century.  As the viewer will see, the dark side of such a world is very much the same in 1941 as it is in 2021.  Human nature really has not changed all that much!  (The famous photo of Kane seeking political office is posted above.)

For those of you in the Galaxy Nostalgia Network audience who enjoy watching ME TV which airs classic TV programs from the 1950s - 1970s, one of the most endearing aspects of "CITIZEN KANE" is to watch members of the stellar supporting cast (all of whom were part of Welles' Mercury Theatre) before their memorable TV roles shine forth as star contributors in this landmark film.  Before they became stars, the following people made their mark in this classic film:

> Agnes Moorhead (who played Endora the witch in "Bewitched") -- portrays Mary Kane, the mother of Charles Foster Kane!

> Ray Collins (Lt Tragg on "Perry Mason") -- as James W. Gettys, arch political rival to Kane.

> Everett Sloane (who starred in a variety of dramatic roles in "Patterns" and "Twilight Zone")  -- as a lifetime business associate of Kane.

And here is one more thing to listen as well as look for when watching "CITIZEN KANE" -- that familiar, wonderful, deep, friendly voice coming forth from the shadows (where there are numerous news reporters gathered in a conference asking questions about the life of Charles Foster Kane) is none other than Alan Ladd (famous years later as the good samaritan gunfighter "Shane"), in an uncredited role.  Look closely in the closing moments of the film and you will see Mr Ladd's silhouette as he is sporting a hat and smoking a pipe in his reporter role!

Finally, the answer to our question on how many Academy Awards did "CITIZEN KANE" win is (1) Academy Award, for Best Screenplay.

Do you have any special memories or thoughts about "CITIZEN KANE" and its memorable cast of actors?  Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.

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