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When did Citizen Kane acquire its formidable reputation?
I know it wasn't a big success when first released - so when did it go from being 'that Orson Welles film' to 'the greatest film ever made'?
asked in film, history, rosebud

athenabs13ohe answers:

there is more about the film on last link.

The fresh, sophisticated, and classic masterpiece, Citizen Kane (1941), is probably the world's most famous and highly-rated film, with its many remarkable scenes and performances, cinematic and narrative techniques and experimental innovations (in photography, editing, and sound). Its director, star, and producer were all the same genius individual - Orson Welles (in his film debut at age 25!), who collaborated with Herman J. Mankiewicz on the script (and also with an uncredited John Houseman), and with Gregg Toland as his talented cinematographer. [The amount of each person's contributions to the screenplay has been the subject of great debate over many decades.] Toland's camera work on Karl Freund's expressionistic horror film Mad Love (1935) exerted a profound influence on this film.
The film, budgeted at $800,000, received unanimous critical praise even at the time of its release, although it was not a commercial success (partly due to its limited distribution and delayed release by RKO due to pressure exerted by famous publisher W.R. Hearst) - until it was re-released after World War II, found well-deserved (but delayed) recognition in Europe, and then played on television.
The film engendered controversy (and efforts at suppression in early 1941 and efforts at suppression in early 1941 through intimidation, blackmail, newspaper smears, discrediting and FBI investigations) before it premiered in New York City on May 1, 1941, because it appeared to fictionalize and caricaturize certain events and individuals in the life of William Randolph Hearst - a powerful newspaper magnate and publisher. The film was accused of drawing remarkable, unflattering, and uncomplimentary parallels (especially in regards to the Susan Alexander Kane character) to real-life. The notorious battle was detailed in Thomas Lennon's and Michael Epstein's Oscar-nominated documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996), and it was retold in HBO's cable-TV film RKO 281 (1999) (the film's title refers to the project numbering for the film by the studio, before the film was formally titled):


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nbyward answers:

I think the movie's greatness was recognised by contemporary critics, but it took a while for filmgoers/film schools/pundits etc to catch on.

There are two reasons for the slow build. First, over time (as more Kane-like gargoyles appeared) it gradually became clear that Wells had put across a stunning insight about the nature of both dysfunctional ego - and the huge canvas modern mass media could provide upon which such a childish ego might scrawl all forms of obscenity, hate and invention. (See Murdoch, R., b. Australian)

Second,as Wells himself declined (drifting into obesity and beer commercials) observers using 20:20 hindsight eventually appreciated what a Wunderkind he'd been. It is worth bearing in mind that, before he was 40, Wells had produced,directed and starred in the most influential radio programme of all time (War of the Worlds), the most influential media movie of all time (Citizen Kane)and the first film-noir spy story (The Third Man). In short, the bloke was a genius - and the very opposite of an autistic savant: rather, he was the 20th century's greatest Renaissance Man.

So-called 'opinion' is nearly always behind creative worth. Wells is unique in having been an enfant terrible who became a physical and intellectual shadow of his former self - but whose reputation continues to grow. Look,for example, at the Wells-directed Touch of Evil which - even as late as 1958 - showed him using one very long unedited take at the start of the movie.

He was an innovator through and through. And so - as his 'biggest' film - Citizen Kane grew exponentially as his creative powers declined.
Hope this helps

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