Photo Courtesy of RKO Productions

March 11, 2016

WATCH ME IF YOU CAN | 25 Things You Probably didn’t Know about Citizen Kane

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Even though Citizen Kane is turning 75 this year and I LOVE keeping up with the number of things on the list with their age, I realize that 75 things about Kane would be lowkey obsessive, even for me. But how else could I honor the best film of the twentieth century (and perhaps all time) without going a bit berserk?

This one’s for all the Orson Welles fangirls out there. I feel your love.

  1. It won the 1941 Oscars for Best Writing for an Original Screenplay, but was nominated for ninth overall. Which is kind of interesting, considering it is one of the best films of all time.
  2. Initially, Kane was a failure at the box office; the hype and publicity surrounding it made it highly anticipated.  But when it was released in the 50s, it was a let-down.
  3. Its box office revenue was $1,585,634 in the U.S., and its budget was over $800,000.
  4. Orson Welles was unrecognized for his work by the Academy until 1971, when he received an honorary Oscar “for superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures.”
  5. The film is loosely based upon the life of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.  He was so angry when it came out that he accused Welles of being a communist, attempting to keep it out of the theaters.
  6. To Hearst, the most offensive thing was the fact that “Rosebud” was not the name of a childhood sled.  Reportedly, Hearst used this term as the name he gave his mistress’s unmentionables.
  7. Many scenes of Kane were shot throughout the night, and the cast and crew would go to the bars at 6:30 a.m. once they called it a night.
  8. During filming, Hearst had allegedly arranged for a naked woman to jump into Welles’s arms outside of his hotel room with a cameraman waiting. This way, the photo could be used as blackmail to keep Kane from being released.  Welles wound up staying elsewhere that evening, and it is still unknown if this was true.
  9. During the film’s production, Welles watched the 1939 Western film Stagecoach a rumoured 40 times.
  10. According to the Hearst biography The Chief,  Hearst responded to Citizen Kane by banning every newspaper and radio he had power over from running reviews of the film.
  11. Welles invented and perfected the “deep focus shot” with the help of cinematographer Gregg Toland in Kane.  The shots gave amazing clarity to both the forefront and background elements of the scene, thus giving off the illusion of depth in the two-dimensional world of the silver screen.
  12. Welles also cut holes into the floors of his sets and the studio in order to get high angle shots, where we look up at Kane.  This sort of angle is also used in order to create a powerful air around Kane, as others looked up to him and he looked down on everyone with his massive rise in the world.
  13. In the scenes where Kane is making his major political speeches, the audience we see is not a real audience.  It is, in fact, a still photograph.  In order to create the illusion of a moving image, holes were poked into the image and light was shown through.  (Take note in case you need to shoot a low-budget film and create a lot of fake people).
  14. In retrospect, Citizen Kane can be considered an autobiographical film for Welles.  It embodies the American dream and explores the rise to power and fame, along with its consequences
  15. Orson Welles wrote, produced, directed and starred in it at the age of 25.  People thought he peaked then; he became a has-been at such a young age, especially only after his first feature.
  16. The entire premise of the film is focused around “Rosebud,” the last words of a man.  However, when he says them, no one within earshot can hear it. MAJOR PLOT HOLE.
  17. While filming the scene where Kane goes on his rampage breaking everything in his room, Welles cuts his left hand but continues filming the scene anyway, despite the excruciating pain.  If you watch closely, you can see him cover his hand at one point and keep it hidden.
  18. The original negatives for this film were lost in a fire in the 1970’s.
  19. Applying makeup on Welles in order to portray an older Kane took several hours.  The process would often start at 2:30 a.m. in order for him to be ready to go on set at 9 a.m.
  20.  The Hays Office and Hays Code passed the film for release, even with Hearst’s powerful agenda-setting eye overseeing everything.
  21. During the San Francisco premiere of Kane, Welles happened to grab the same elevator as none other than William Randolph Hearst.  He kindly invited the Chief to the premiere with him, who didn’t say anything.  When Welles arrived at his stop, he said “Charles Foster Kane would have accepted.”
  22. Welles told the bigwigs at RKO that he was “in rehearsal” in order to keep them from hovering over his work on Kane, even though they were already filming.  It took them about a week to realize Kane was well under way.
  23. Due to the high angle and low angle shots Welles brought into the cinematic world, Kane was the first film to show the ceilings of rooms (as part of the set) on the silver screen.  Instead of an actual ceiling, Welles stretched a cloth over the set’s skeleton in order to let light in.  This was also important since he filmed in black and white, and it’s especially difficult working with lighting there.
  24. In 1982, Steven Spielberg bought the “Rosebud” prop for $60,500 at an auction, which Welles didn’t even think was still around.
  25. Taylor Swift’s music video for “Blank Space” was filmed at the same place Xanadu’s aerial shots were done: Oheka Castle in Long Island, NY.

Facts compiled from

Photo Courtesy of RKO Productions

Photo Courtesy of RKO Productions

Marina Caitlin Watts is a senior studying Communication. In addition to writing for The Cornell Daily Sun, she has also been published on various film websites along with The Daily Beast. She loves Frank Sinatra and hates decaf coffee. If you need her, she is waiting for Godot. Watch Me If You Can appears on alternate Fridays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected].