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Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, publicity photo for RKO

Turner Classic Movies / Archives for Citizen Kane: “Medium publicity shot of Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane wearing a hat”. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Not only is it Orson Welles birthday, but May 1st, 2011 also marks the 70th anniversary of the very first screening of what is still considered one of the greatest movie ever made:

Citizen Kane is 70. Three score years and 10 after its New York premiere in May 1941, it is still everywhere. Not just in its own flesh, as reissue, telecast or DVD, but in the monstrous spell it casts on filmmakers. Long after the critics-turned-directors of the French New Wave first made Orson Welles a demigod – remember the young hero of François Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups dreaming of stealing stills from a cinema showing Citizen Kane? – the figure of the haunted megalomaniac, presiding over the shards of his own life, is inescapable. From Michael Corleone in the Godfather films to Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood, via Robert De Niro’s Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (the pugilist’s Citizen Kane), the examined life is worth living, irresistibly, for an audience nourished on themes of ambition, self-destruction and the war between private and public actions. (Financial Times: “The mark of ‘Kane'” by Nigel Andrews, April 29, 2011)

A wire-service photo of Orson Welles arriving for the New York premiere of Citizen Kane on May 1, 1941
A wire-service photo of Orson Welles arriving for the New York premiere of Citizen Kane on May 1, 1941

Citizen Kane was the very first film of a very young (26 years old) director. It is also interesting to note that it is the very first film released by The Criterion Collection: it was released in 1984 on laserdisc, along with King Kong. One can read the essay wrote by Roger P. Smith about the film for the newly created collection, back in December 1984 : “Citizen Kane”.
More resources online:

  • MUBI published a post for the 70th anniversary of Citizen Kane: “Citizen Kane @ 70” by David Hudson, May 4th, 2011. It is full of interesting links (some of which I’ve used for my own post). Unfortunately, I don’t believe the film is available to watch online: see MUBI’s page for Citizen Kane.
  • Visit PBS website for their documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane (which is included in the Warner Bros, 2-DVD Special Edition released in 2001):
  • Citizen Kane was an American saga about a giant who brings ruin to all, including himself. As fate would have it, it is through this film that both men are remembered today. In telling the tale of these two flawed and fascinating men, The Battle over Citizen Kane also sheds light on the masterpiece over which they fought, the fiction that fuses them both: the enduring film character of Charles Foster Kane.

  • Movie Images, a “collection of actual screenshots, wallpapers, and other images” offers good size stills from the movie (720×540) along with short explanations about some of the cinematic techniques it uses. For example:

    Movie still from Citizen Kane depicting extreme backlighting cinematic technique

    “Example of extreme backlighting to the extent that figures appear as silhouette. Due to this technique, characters remain anonymous.”

  • The Turner Classic Movies archives for Citizen Kane (from which I got the opening picture for this post) offers more material: full credits, full synopsis, a collection of interesting notes about the film, original print info, and some rare behind-the-sceme photos.
  • WellesNet is “is widely regarded by Welles scholars as the leading internet source of information about the life, career and works of Orson Welles” (About). Among other interesting things, one can take a look at all the video release of Citizen Kane, including the Criterion Collection laserdisc: “Citizen Kane on Video”. For the moment, the Warner Bros, 2-DVD Special Edition, remains one of the best transfer available. However, things are about to improve as a Warner Bros. Deluxe Blu Ray release is due in September 2011
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