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The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996)

aka The Battle Over Citizen Kane

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Details: 108 mins · English


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In Citizen Kane, Welles plays Charles Foster Kane, whose fictional life partially mirrors that of Hearst's. However, Chicago inventor and utilities magnate Samuel Insull, Chicago Tribune publisher Robert R. McCormick, and even Welles' own life were used in creating Kane.

In 1939, based partly on the strength of his imaginative and successful New York plays which were produced under the aegis of the Mercury Theatre (such as an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, which featured an all-black cast and was set in the jungle), and the infamy of his October 30, 1938 radio broadcast of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds which sent residents of Grover's Mill, New Jersey into a panic, Orson Welles was able to negotiate a virtually unheard-of two-picture deal with RKO Pictures, the smallest of the 'big five' major studios in this era. The deal gave him creative control under a budget limit.

The Battle Over Citizen Kane also details the lives of Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst before Citizen Kane, Hearst's manipulation of the heads of the four largest Hollywood studios: Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros. to combine their efforts and financial strength to buy the camera negative of the film from RKO with the express purpose of destroying it, and how the film affected their lives after the release of the film.

During this period, however, William Randolph Hearst was actually millions of dollars in debt mainly owing to his excessive spending, particularly on his continuing construction of his already sprawling mansion near San Simeon, California which was located on a property approximately half the size of the state of Rhode Island. While married to Millicent Hearst, he kept a mistress over twenty years his junior, the actress Marion Davies. Davies had been a silent film-era star who worked on a number of talkies, but with less success.

After the release of Citizen Kane to relatively positive critical reviews and largely indifferent popular response, Orson Welles moved on to his second project, The Magnificent Ambersons. However, after Citizen Kane did not become a money-maker, The Magnificent Ambersons was wrested from his control; this time he did not have the right of final cut. RKO re-edited the film itself and released it. William Randolph Hearst died in 1951; Orson Welles died in 1985.

The events chronicled in The Battle Over Citizen Kane were dramatized in the 1999 HBO film, RKO 281. "281" was the internal production name of Citizen Kane.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2000-11-14

DVD : 2000-04-25