“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

I chose this quote, because movies are an illusion of time and light.  This was written for my fine arts appreciation class, over the movie Citizen Kane


Directing

Orson Welles a Broadway and radio director and writer who had recently written and starred in the radio “news broadcast” “War of the Worlds” to great critical success was given a 3 movie deal with RKO.  Citizen Kane was the first of these three films.  He made his directorial debut with what is arguably the best motion picture ever made.  In addition to this being one of his first films, the majority of his actors were also novices in film, but most certainly not novices to acting.  Most of the actors are classically trained actors that he brought over from his Mercury Theater group.  Since most of the scenes required “deep focus” these classically trained actors skills leant to the effect, being able to “place themselves firmly in each scene”.  Welles didn’t rely strictly on novices for his film debut though, his cinematographer Gregg Toland, an experienced cinematographer actually sought Welles out, wanting to work with someone who had never worked in film before.  His innovative techniques brought much to the film.  Toland invented lenses for the effects of “deep focus” which would allow the entire frame to be in focus, not just the objects in the forefront.  This “deep focus” technique allowed for stunning camera work to be performed, allowing the audience to focus on multiple items in the frame at any particular given time.  Welles also brought in an experienced make-up artist Maurice Seiderman, who invented new techniques for aging the stars for a fifty-year period in the movie.  Seiderman created new “spirit gum” to affix the prosthetics to Welles’ face, because Welles was allergic to the type usually used.  Seiderman also used full body suites for the aging process, of his own design.  The collection of innovators on this film combined to create cinematic magic.  From Orson Welles unorthodox approach to film, and his inventive cast and crew, the film has stood the test of time as one of the best films in history.

Screenwriting

Orson Welles employed the services of a well-known and well-respected screenwriter of the times, Herman J. Mankiewicz to help co-write the script for Citizen Kane.  There is quite a lot of controversy into exactly how much Welles’ actually contributed to the script for his most popular work though.  Welles had been taking writing credit for much of his previous works with the Mercury Theater group, even though he had not been the sole contributor on most of these works.  Howard Koch wrote War of the Worlds, the radio broadcast that spring boarded Welles Hollywood career, however Welles had taken sole credit for the writing.  This is the case with many of his Broadway productions as well; he had begun to believe the hype and wanted to take full writing credit from Mankiewicz and Mercury writer John Houseman who had in collaboration with Mankiewicz writing the first draft of the script that would become Citizen Kane.  Houseman, who had worked with Welles previously on Broadway and in Radio, succumbed to Welles, however Mankiewicz with threats of legal action, would not be bullied.  The character of Charles Foster Kane is loosely based on the newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, and arguably the movie would not have had the believability of this character had Mankiewicz’s personal knowledge of Hearst had not been employed.  Mankiewicz had a relationship with Hearst, which included personal knowledge of him and his life, having spent a lot of time on Hearst’s ranch in San Simeon California.  This knowledge and the character development would have been unachievable without Mankiewicz’s first-hand knowledge of the subject.  The film did such a wonderful job portraying Hearst, that Hearst managed to have the film blacklisted for a long period of time, which he would not have done if the character of Kane had not resembled him in such an intimate way.  While Welles did bring his creativity to the script, this personal knowledge and experience would have been unattainable without Mankiewicz.

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